Dr. Bernice Olivas teaches writing and rhetoric at Salt Lake City Community College. She is a First-Generation, Indigenous Mexican American scholar who began her academic career as a high school dropout with a GED. In 2007, Bernice joined the McNair Scholars Program. In 2010, she completed her B.A. in English from Boise State University with a creative writing emphasis and continued on to complete her MA (2012) in the teaching of English and her PhD (2016) in Composition and Rhetoric at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“Teaching the Whole Student in Digital Space or Let Them Write Protest”
Ten years from now we will have favorite 2020 stories to share at gatherings of more than ten. We will all have a few hard memories of lessons hard taught—soul scars. We will look back and wonder how we managed, how we held on, how we continued to serve education while living in such strange, uncertain, e times. But today, education is in flux, many of us exist in liminal digital spaces, and all of us are wondering how to find our center in the time of COVID. Dr. Olivas suggests that we must step back to move forward. She argues that the most important thing we can study in this time is our own humanity. She maintains that we give ourselves permission to teach our students to conceptualize writing as a process in which the writer engages in analysis that inspects both what the writer knows and how the writer has come to know. Dr. Olivas shows that, while framing Identity as a site of inquiry may run contrary to ideologies of neutrality and objectivity and may seem like a strange approach to vigorous intellectual pedagogy, it is not new. Many of us already frame identity as lived experiences contextualized by relationships with communities, institutions, and governing bodies. Many of us already “do discourse” (Banks 2015) in ways that ask our students to analyze their own identities. Many of us already ask our students to “do discourse” (Banks 2015) in ways that promote empathy, compassion, and solidarity. Now, when our physical is distanced, may just be the right time to remember that:
Personal discourse, the narrative, the auto/biography, helps in that effort, is a necessary adjunct to the academic. [That] Looking back, we look ahead, and giving ourselves up to the looking back and the looking ahead, knowing the self, and, critically, knowing the self in relation to others, maybe we can be an instrument whereby students can hear the call. (Villanueva 19)