chapter  4
The Worry Well
Teaching in These Ignominious Times
WithBecky Thompson
Pages 14

In her important essay on multicultural education the literary critic Wahneema Lubiano writes, “The water is being poisoned right here at the epistemological well. It is important that we take a stand right here at the well.” 1 At this epistemological well that we call the academy, we have our work cut out for us, recognizing that we need our minds, bodies and spirits to do this deep well work. In the last two decades we have witnessed rising attention among faculty to the consequences when we carry our minds to one place (to work, the classroom, our desks), our bodies to another (to the gym, yoga studio, our couch), our spirits to another (to the mountains, church, synagogue, mosque), our psychic healing to another (to the couch, the bed, vacations) and our activism to another (to prisons, borders, the streets). Students sense and feel these splits. They are trying to learn amid these splits. Embodied techniques of teaching that allow us to hold in our minds more complexity, paradox and community than previously thought possible requires new bridge work where contemplative practitioners, activists, trauma specialists and feminist teachers listen to each other. The late poet and activist June Jordan once said, “We are not all that is possible. None of us has ever really experienced justice. None of us have known enough tenderness.” 2 Her words reveal a pedagogy of tenderness as essential as we create ways of teaching that move us beyond individualism, consumerism, white supremacy, patriarchy and militarism. 3