I have a guest post today over at the GradHacker blog. It talks about the benefits I’ve experienced from building up a small copy editing gig and why I think grad students would benefit from spinning their academic work into a paying freelance job.
I’m doing some research on Hughes’ trip to West Africa, which is often considered a formative moment for Hughes’ politics and understanding of race. As a visual thinker, I was having trouble keeping track of exactly where Hughes went while employed as a mess boy on the West Hesseltine, a cargo and passenger ship. Using the ports and dates that Arnold Rampersand gives in his biography of Hughes, I plotted out the points on Google maps. The green lines show the voyage out, and the red lines show the return trip. The pin colors show the imperial power that controlled the ports he passed through. Portuguese territories are marked with blue pins, Spanish with green, French with red, British with yellow, and Belgian with black. I may have made an error here or there, but I thought it was interesting and worth sharing.
Looking at this map, one thing that stands out to me is the impressive cross section of colonialism that Hughes encountered. He passed through the colonial territories of no fewer than five empires–British, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Belgian–an experience that opened his eyes to the violence and exploitation of colonialism. Describing his first impressions of Africa in his autobiography, Hughes recalls “A long, sandy coast-line, gleaming in the sun. Palm trees sky-tall. Rivers darkening the sea’s edge with the loam of their deltas. People, black and beautiful as the night. The bare, pointed breasts of women in the market places. The rippling muscles of men loading palm oil and cocoa beans and mahogany on ships from the white man’s world, for that was why our ship was there–to carry away the treasures of Africa. We brought machinery and tools, canned goods, and Hollywood films. We took away riches out of the earth, loaded by human hands” (101-102).
The core of Do-Nothing Teaching, as Kevin explained it, is the idea that, sometimes, doing nothing is the best thing a teacher can do to encourage students to learn. As I understand it, in this context “nothing” doesn’t mean showing up to teach with no lesson plan. It is not double-talk for “lazy teaching.” Instead, it means something more like continually reflecting on your teaching practice in order to remove anything from your classroom practice that is hindering student learning. You can read more about the foundations of DNT here and read Kevin’s recent thoughts at his blog.
DNT resonates with me on a couple of levels. Teaching is often thought about in additive terms, which means that our conceptions of both teaching and learning are shot through with the language of accumulation. Teachers give knowledge, feedback, grades, and students acquire skills, insight, and grades. Now, I happen to think that this process works pretty well, overall. Teachers do have a lot to give, and students do benefit from the accumulation of knowledge and skills they gain in college.