A Syllabus of Care

This workshop invites participants to imagine their syllabi as acts of caretaking—for their students, for themselves, and for the communities they will build together. Our work together begins from Johanna Hedva’s “Sick Woman Theory”. There, Hedva argues that our tendency to think of “wellness as the default, as the standard mode of existence,” lets us pretend that illness is a temporary condition and an exception to the rules. The problem with this way of thinking, Hedva writes, is that “it allows us to conceive of care and support in the same way.” “When sickness is temporary,” Hedva writes, “care is not normal.”

Following Hedva’s example, we will use this workshop to ask what it would mean to treat sickness, disability, and other forms of human frailty as a default mode for the learners and teachers who people our classrooms. Together, we will learn from the lived experiences of disabled and sick students and scholars (drawing on sources such as Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice and #WhyDisabledPeopleDropOut), paying attention to the wisdom these students and scholars possess about their bodies, their needs, and the forms of care that enable their learning and growth. Then, we’ll imagine how we can modify our courses to make caretaking for ourselves and our students the norm. Questions we may ask:

What kinds of policies should govern a space where sickness and disability are normal facets of learners’ and teachers’ lives?
What class structures make space for students and teachers to have variations in energy, attention, or ability to engage?
How can we arrange our assignments and deadlines so they work against the boom-and-bust cycles of overwork, exhaustion, and collapse that govern so many academic calendars?
And how might we ensure that the care work we do to make our classrooms accessible and inclusive for our students makes them livable and nourishing for teachers as well?
We’ll work together to generate possible answers to these questions.

Workshop Leader

Toni Wall Jaudon
Toni Wall Jaudon is an associate professor of English at Hendrix College.
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