Happy February! Did you know that the word February comes from the Latin “februa” which means to cleanse? The month was named after the Roman festival of Februalia which was a month of atonement and purification. I have always found this interesting since we in the United States do not view February in this fashion. We tend to focus on Valentine’s Day and all that holiday represents in current society. As I learned about the actual history of the day, the connections began to make more sense. (Check history.com for information). How do these two views of the month reconcile? Some experts think the emphasis on love is an attempt to Christianize the pagan festival which had overtones of fertility. I do not think we will ever know, and I think that having time dedicated to love is sorely needed in today’s world. Throughout the year, I will be having guest columnists since I do want to “invite everyone in” (my Presidential theme).
This month, Dr. Stephanie Afful, from Lindenwood University, is sharing her thoughts. She is currently the Secretary for STP. She does an amazing job of taking minutes and keeping the Executive Committee on track with to-do lists and past votes. I have known Stephanie for a long time since she served as the first Chair for the Early Career Psychologists Committee which was started during my tenure as VP for Membership. I have always been awed by her dedication to teaching and by her energy. I know you will enjoy her ideas and I am sure she will welcome comments and discussion.
The Month of Love
Dr. Stephanie Afful
February is the month of love, the month where we can celebrate our love of football, of boxed chocolates, of Galantines, and maybe even our love of teaching! One of the reasons I love teaching is that the classroom (both physical and virtual) is a sacred space where we can practice social justice, one in which we can lean into difficult discussions, widen our perspectives, gain empathy and awareness. bell hooks (1994) said of transformational pedagogy "the classroom remains the most radical space of possibility in the academy" (p. 12). And as discussion of Black history should last all year (not just for these 28 days), we might think about how to introduce, continue, or even reignite our passion for social justice and its pedagogical implications.
There are many opportunities to model activism and advocacy in your courses. In my social psychology course, each semester the students pick a non-profit organization for which we fundraise using different compliance strategies (modeled after this Action Teaching award winner). It has been wildly successful in terms of not only funds raised but also in the agency instilled in the students. If you have not checked out this website on Action Teaching, treat yo self (also wondering how many Parks and Rec references I can work into this newsletter).
My colleague, Dr. Sara Bagley, designed a service-learning project where students engaged with aging adults in the community as part of her Learning and Memory course (see examples here). The LU Memory Makers project had students develop events with engaging activities for mental stimulation and opportunities for intergenerational socialization throughout the semester. Not only did the events bring smiles to faces (like decorating gingerbread houses), but it allowed students’ knowledge enhancement through community connections and the community members the opportunity to interact in different ways.
If you are wondering how your courses may fit into this, I have the answer! STP recently published an e-book on Empowering students as change agents (Forner & Katzarska-Miller, 2022). This book details how to build skills with your students as they engage in community partnerships and practice advocacy. And we still have much to learn from each other. You may also consider sharing an activity from your courses in the new proposed e-book Applying Psychology Beyond the Classroom: Social Justice Activities for Intro and Upper-Level Courses.
I hope you take a few moments this month to savor your love for teaching, to also give yourself grace and self-compassion, and to think about ways to integrate advocacy in your courses—so that we may be engaged and critically conscious in the spaces we occupy.
Fortner, M., & Katzarska-Miller, I. (Eds.). (2022). Empowering students as change agents in psychology courses. Society for the Teaching of Psychology. https://teachpsych.org/ebooks/empoweringstudents
hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. Taylor & Francis.