The session on Covid pedagogy featured three speakers (from Australia, Canada, and the US) who talked about how they modified their teaching during the Pandemic. All three emphasized the need for more care of students during the past months.
Kate Douglas in “Life Writing and Student Engagement after Covid-19” talked about how she changed her life writing course, which had 160 students, to have more rainbows and unicorns than just narratives about trauma. She stressed the importance of “Getting to know you” activities through exercises such as the “Six Word Memoir,” emoji memoir, found objects, everyday biography and “If contact tracers called you today…” Douglas discussed the ways they let students direct what they wanted to do in class, such as choosing their groups, the activities they liked. Some of the major projects she assigned included: draw my life, biographies of parents and grandparents, graphic biographies, podcast about your racial identity, and others to engage students.
Eva Karpinski in “Pedagogies of Death and Dying: Teaching Thanatographies in the Pandemic” gave some thoughtful questions on teaching a course on death, including what it meant to pay attention to death, how to rethink life writing against ongoing statistics of death, how works could be potentially triggering or healing. She believed that the pandemic enabled more collaborative production, for example, more interest in interviews, in bibliographies. She wanted to highlight the uneven distribution of death, how the pandemic exposed the bio-capitalist structure of inequities, where the aged and the racialized die more, and thought with Butler, about how to mourn mass death.
Lisa Ortiz-Vilarelle in “(Life) Writing to Belong and Teaching Remotely During a Pandemic” talked about teaching five students who were working as public school teachers in Functional Life writing. They began to identify more with the disabled as they learned about distinctions made between the abled and disabled, how the stigma of skin can affect those taking selfies, how schools privileged ableism. Ortiz-Vilarelle noted that teaching online made her more aware of her own chronic health issues, and by sharing it with her students, inspired auto-theoretical approaches to life writing.