When students grade each other (and other peer-assessment challenges)

I’m a big fan of group work in the classroom. Partly, this is because it takes a group to make a piece of theatre, and I teach theatre; partly this is because life is all about working in groups of people, and working in groups of people is astonishingly hard.

Just ask this person:


Or, ask students (including my TA this year, Madison Bettle) if they like group work, and you usually get two kinds of responses:

“it’s ok/I’m fine with it” (translation: other people do the work, so it’s pretty great!/I love doing all the work, so it’s pretty great!),


“I find it difficult” (translation: I do all the work, and I really resent it).

So why do I persist? It’s simple: learning to be a better collaborator is as important to living and working in the world as is learning to breathe. It’s a pity more of us don’t place an emphasis on effective group skills in our teaching, because, man, oh man, do we all need it!

Over the years, I’ve approached the challenge of group dynamics in my theatre studies classrooms in a variety of ways. I’ve asked students to put on scene studies in groups, but not for grades; the students loved this work, but often resented not getting marks for it. (Understandable, if sad and depressing.) I’ve asked students to put on scene studies in groups for grades; the students loved this work, but found it incredibly annoying when a member (or more) of the group slacked off and got the grade anyway. (Friends: call it collateral damage and then call it a day.)

This year, I took a slightly more complicated approach: I asked students to put on scene studies in groups for grades, and then I asked them to contribute to their final marks by grading each other.

This is the story of how that turned out.

Last Thursday, the students in my 20th Century Drama class had just one job: to get into their performance groups, answer a series of questions, and come to a conclusion about what grade(s) the various members of the group deserved for their efforts this year. The student-generated grades (which I would respect, regardless of difficulties) would make up 5/15 marks for the performance component of the class; the performance component of the class would make up 15/100 marks for the class as a whole. (In other words: some pressure, but not a tonne of pressure.)

As Charlotte Bell explained in this space last autumn, students need clear tools to assist with peer grading. This is the task I set to help the students manage the challenge (and it is, of course, a challenge!) of grading themselves and one another:


Part One:

On your own, please respond to the following questions, in writing. You have ten minutes.

  1. What were my greatest strengths as a group member this year? List up to THREE traits, and include details explaining each.
  2. What were my greatest weaknesses as a group member this year? List up to THREE traits, and include details explaining each.
  3. Where did my group excel this year? For example, when and how did we meet our own expectations? Summarize your feelings, and describe one or two key occasions where the group achieved what it set out to do.
  4. Where did my group fall short of its own expectations this year? Summarize, and describe one or two key occasions where you feel the group could have done better.
  5. What grade would I assign my group for our year’s efforts?
  6. What grade would I assign myself, as a group member?

Part Two:

In a pair WITHIN your group, please discuss your responses to Part One, and then respond to the following questions. Remember to be honest, respectful, supportive AND FAIR.

  1. Where did our group excel, and where did it fall short of expectations? Summarize your individual findings (take notes!), and then decide if, on balance,
    1. You excelled much more than you fell short
    2. You excelled a bit more than you fell short
    3. You sometimes excelled, but often also fell short
    4. You largely fell short.
  2. Based on your individual reflections, and also on your comments and choice above, what grade would you assign your group for this year? (Choose a number, based on the letter category that corresponded with your choice above.)
  3. Are there members of your group who went beyond the call of group work duty? If so, choose whether or not to assign them bonus marks.
  4. Are there members of your group who let the group down? If so, choose if and how to penalize them.

Part Three:

As a group, discuss your findings and share your tentative grades.

Negotiate: what final grades will you assign each group member? What comments will you include to support your grade choices?

Type your comments and grades. Note that the comments should be about a paragraph long (no more).

Send your comments and grades to Kim, via email.

When I created this template, I worked hard to take as many differing voices into account as possible, mindful that students would have (potentially) different impressions of how things had gone in their group. What I forgot, I realise now, is that having different impressions of how things have gone is very different from being able (or feeling able securely) to express how things have gone to a group member with whose opinion you might not fully agree. My template seeks to be academic in its objectivity – but, as teachers all know, objectivity is extremely difficult to achieve when assigning anyone, let alone one another, grades for our shared efforts.

The Thursday of our peer assessment exercise arrived, and we did – I thought! – pretty well. The students were lively and cheerful in their group chats in class; most of them emailed me happily with shared or individuated group grades shortly after. I annotated my class notes (this is my habit, to preserve some kind of institutional memory for future years), and called it a win.

But then, two things happened.

First, I was approached by a group that had run into trouble: one of their members had been perennially absent for meetings and prep, but had always arrived in time to claim the glory. In our peer assessment exercise they had manifested no remorse (or even awareness!), and the rest of the group had felt uncomfortable confronting them. Result? The group had agreed on a shared grade, but now deeply regretted it.

Second, I received what I thought was a truly heartening email from another group featuring a member often absent; by all accounts it sounded like that student had stepped up in peer assessment, owned their mistakes, and agreed on a lesser grade.

I was thrilled that for one failure another success had resulted. I also realized, at that point, that it would be helpful to get the students’ feedback on how the peer assessment exercise had gone, since I had two very different pieces of evidence to account for.

On our last day together, I posed the following question:

How did it go for you and your group? Reflect in writing for ONE minute; aim to indicate something of value, and also to make one suggestion for improvement.

Given the balance of evidence at hand, I expected a fair amount of positivity in the students’ responses. Instead, I got this (incredibly valuable! – But somewhat unexpected) feedback:

  • It was difficult to discuss group issues in a class setting – can we give people the option to find another space to talk?
  • It was difficult because most of our groups became close over the year: we were worried about upsetting the group dynamic;
  • Could we try anonymous grading? People don’t want to address people to their face if they feel others have not done their share;
  • Could you (Kim, the teacher) shield us from the harshest of comments but still express our concerns?
  • Could we try doing group work assessment at the half-point during the year?

Looking at this feedback now, as I write this post, I’m surprised at myself. How did I not realise the difficulties inherent in the peer grading template I’d designed? Of course I’d known it would be hard for students to confront group members who did not pull their weight; what I’d forgotten (hello!) was that I had rather a lot more experience in grading underperforming students than most students do – and thus that I really needed to provide some hard-core emotional and intellectual guidance to the students needing to do this work now.

How do you tell someone you’ve grown to like, and even to love, that they let you down in your shared work? How do you assign them a number?

One of the groups facing challenges chose to let sleeping dogs lie; the other, however, ended up revisiting their assessment and grades. I met with two representatives in my office today to talk through what had happened. One member, felt by the others not to have pulled their weight, had been assigned a lesser grade after the fact by the remaining members of the group; that member felt, correctly, that they had not been given the chance to speak or respond to accusations. The other member represented the majority feeling: that the first member was well liked and respected but had put in far less work, and thus deserved a lesser grade. [That member also explained that the others, who had spent a long time after class talking about how to account for this disparity, did not feel comfortable confronting their peer in class – whether wrongly or rightly, they felt sincerely that their peer would not be willing to fully hear and accept their critique, and they did not want to disrupt their group’s friendly dynamic by pushing the issue.]

Our meeting was fruitful but hard; I know both students worked to be respectful and not to get overly emotional about the stakes involved. (And here I have to say how much I respect the efforts of both in this regard!) I acted as a mediator for this meeting, and I learned two very important things from it.

First (duh!) that I needed to create a safer space for all of my students to share their group feedback. In our debrief of the peer assessment one student suggested we feed back anonymously; rather, I suspect, what needs to happen is that I, as instructor, need to a) create multiple moments of low-pressure feedback throughout the year, culminating in b) a meeting of the group with me in which we decide on shared or individuated grades. My role as mediator is crucial, and it cannot happen in the classroom; it needs to happen in my office, or in another semi-private space where students feel able to speak honestly and openly.

Second, that (hello again!) all group feedback is marked by social privilege, including gender privilege: this was absolutely the case in our meeting, and it brought home to me the lived significance of how these kinds of privilege impact student voices in the classroom, though few students realize it. The way we approach and respond to one another depends on how confident we have become in our own voices and perspectives, be they gendered, raced, or classed. In today’s meeting – which, I want to stress, happened between me and two very mature and thoughtful young adults – I was reminded of this research by Colin Latchem:

Although it is important to avoid gender stereotyping and acknowledge that there can be considerable variations within each gender and particular context, there is a considerable amount of research on psychological gender differences in communications. In general, men are held to construct and maintain an independent self-construal (Cross & Madson, 1997). As a consequence, men tend to be more independent and assertive, use language to establish and maintain status and dominate in relationships, and transmit information and offer advice in order to achieve tangible outcomes. By contrast, women tend to be more expressive, tentative, and polite in conversation, valuing cooperation and using dialogue in order to create and foster intimate bonds with others by talking about issues they communally face (Basow & Rubenfeld, 2003).

Today’s meeting reminded me that I cannot simply give students space to express their feelings about one another’s work; I need to make space in which those feelings can be safely and effectively expressed regardless of social privilege.

Next year, I plan to invite performance groups to feed back to each other informally a few times over the year, and I plan to take an active role in that feedback in order to help students to understand what they are saying to one another, and how they are saying it. At the end of it all we’ll have a chat, and I’ll be a part of it; I’ll try to mediate group challenges, but I’ll also make an effort to talk about how seemingly invisible power dynamics impact what is said between group members, and how.

Because group work isn’t just about students working in groups; it’s about students learning the very human skills of talking to each other across race, gender, class and other social and ethnic boundaries. They need our help to do this well – and we owe it to them, and to our larger world, to help them do it.



Fight back with your brain!

There’s a point in my favourite episode of Joss Whedon’s Firefly (it’s Objects in Space, connoisseurs) where River Tam, an exceptionally gifted and damaged young woman who, in this particular moment, is kicking the ass of a bounty hunter, says: “And also, I can kill you with my brain”. It’s always made me laugh. Mostly because it’s so true.

OK, maybe our brains don’t kill – not really. But the larger point River makes is absolutely unassailable: hard, directed, careful thinking is powerful stuff. As I noted in my last post, it’s also not stuff that’s all that well respected in our current neoliberal climate: too much thinking from us Plebeians is risky for the corporation-friendly powers that be. They rely on us not thinking too much about, say, why we just bought that book on Amazon given that Amazon is a massive tax avoider and committed small bookstore assassin, or what the production line tethering our iPhones to child soldiers in sub-Saharan Africa might actually look like. They count on the (generally well founded) assumption that we’ll buy their message that consumption is good, taxes are bad, and assume they’ve done the heavy thinking for us, because hey, why wouldn’t they? They’re smarter than us, right? Up there on those podiums? In other words, they hope and pray that we’ll choose not to use our killer brains – because, of course, at any time, we can choose otherwise.

The power of a well trained brain is my business, as a scholar in the humanities and the social sciences. My colleagues and I fret a lot – as you can imagine, since the powers that be are always reminding us how useless we are at training Drones for Good Jobs – about how to quantify what it is we do with and for students, and about how to articulate that doing to a larger public made terribly skeptical by neoliberalism’s anti-intellectual smoke and mirrors games. The default, for a long time, has been to claim that we are building “critical thinkers”; this is another way to say that we are helping students to develop their killer brains. It’s a bit of a tough sell, though; after all, those of us who have never thought of ourselves as especially “critical”, or for whom “critical” just means antagonistic, will likely not appreciate what scholars mean when they say “critical thinking”. Which, of course, is another way to say that, maybe, scholars need a different vocabulary – maybe a more direct, forceful, powerful vocabulary – for saying what it is that we do, and why it actually matters. A lot.

Here’s what I think I do in my classrooms. It’s what I try to do, anyway – because it’s about building a base of skills that is in fact in urgent need.

  • I teach students how to use their brains – their careful, sharp thinking, and clear, direct writing – to fight those who are trying to trick them into accepting less. Less good in the world. Less money and fewer resources for them and their families, and for their communities. Less community, less camaraderie. Less security. Less freedom.
  • I teach students what it means to become committed citizens: of their home towns and regions, of their adopted towns and regions, of their nations, of our shared world. Being a citizen requires a hell of a lot of hard, concentrated, careful thinking and active, courageous speech. And those skills don’t come from nowhere.
  • I teach students to think politically. 
  • I teach students to solve problems creatively.
  • I teach students to question the things I claim to be true, and to ask me to spell out how I know their truth, as practice for questioning all the truthy bullshit they are likely to encounter outside our classroom, on their way to demanding more and better for themselves and others.
  • I teach students to use all the gifts they bring into our classroom to fight better, and smarter, for their own and others’ human rights.

This is what I hope I do when I get up to teach everyday: I hope that I am training politically aware, creative, thoughtful, agile citizens, the future leaders of a much better world than we’re living in right now. I hope I am training killer brains, in the face of their endangerment.

How about you? How do you describe the work you do in your classroom? Please share, so that we can begin building that better, stronger vocabulary. “Critical Thinking” doesn’t really cut it anymore – and we’re about so much more than critical thinking, anyway.


PS: yesterday, the UK lost an exceptional citizen and a deadly sharp brain – polymath and political commentator Simon Hoggart. For this post, and for all it champions, he was an inspiration. Read his excellent Guardian obituary, with links to his writing, here.

Raise the bar; lower the stakes

How’s that for a fine contradiction! Like many teachers, I complain about students not caring enough, not understanding the value of basic things like preparing for class, not necessarily even understanding the importance of showing up for class. So why would I want to lower the stakes, make stuff seem less important? Precisely because high stakes are stressful, and lots of stress isn’t conducive to great teaching and learning.

This is the message I got from reading Tomorrow’s Professor post #1271, “Designing College More Like a Video Game – Motivating Change with High Standards and Low Stakes” by José Antonio Bowen. (The excerpt is from chapter four of Bowen’s 2012 book, Teaching Naked.) Citing evidence from Arum and Roksa (2011) and Bain (2004), Bowen writes:

The best teachers focus on challenging students in a supportive environment where failure is tolerated. The combination is essential; just having high standards is not enough to help students learn. Bain discovers repeatedly that the best teachers expect more of their students yet treat them with genuine caring and give them a sense of control. Students learn best when they believe that the professor wants them to succeed.

There’s more than one key detail here. First, Bowen argues that failure needs to be made part of a classroom’s set of expectations: when we fail we learn (as I’ve argued, anecdotally, before on this blog), but most students (me included!) reach high school or university age conditioned to fear failure rather than to recognize it as an essential component of their learning practice. So working with failure is one key tactic for raising the bar by lowering the stakes. Second, Bowen argues, via Bain, for demanding, challenging classrooms (“high standards”), in which teachers expect a lot from their students – including that trying to meet challenges means inevitable (and essential) failure somewhere along the way. Bowen then makes a bit of a cognitive leap, seemingly equating student failure with teacherly support to produce his last claim, that “students learn best when they believe that the professor wants them to succeed”. I think what he’s actually trying to do here is communicate an equation for the ideal high-bar, low-stakes classroom: challenging students + expecting and supporting students through failure = a better rate of student success, both in real-time learning and in learning how to learn for all time.

I really like Bowen’s argument (and it’s much more extensive than the part I’ve just summarized; check it out in full here). In theory it makes perfect sense: demand a lot, encourage experimentation and risk-taking, and remind students that risk will be rewarded, as long as it is genuinely interrogatory, curiosity- and research-driven, regardless of outcome. This means changing what students understand “success” and “failure” to mean – effectively, shaking these terms loose from their binary relationship. But how to do this in real life? Bowen argues that “Practically, our ability to lower the risk of failure while maintaining high standards means we have to rethink what and how we assess”: that might mean creating more assessments worth fewer marks each, creating do-over opportunities, or building a learning-from-failure component into the marking of an experiment, an essay, or a group performance.

I have favoured the do-over option in the past; for a while now, I’ve been working on different kinds of do-over essay assignments, and my current favourite goes like this: students are given the option of handing work in on a preliminary due date, receiving feedback and a grade from me, and then getting the chance to improve their work and hand in again on another, final deadline. Sometimes peer feedback is built into this loop, but I’m still working on best practices for peer feedback. (I’d love to hear how others work with peer-to-peer support on writing assignments – I find it genuinely tricky because so few students understand, even with some practice, what makes writing good, bad, or great).

The key to my do-over assignment is two-fold: first, students get concrete suggestions from me on how to improve their papers, and if they do those things and hand in again their marks will go up. (If they do what I suggest but the results aren’t that much better, the mark doesn’t rise that much, but it still rises. How to deal better with this relatively common scenario is something else on which I’m still working.) Second, students are guaranteed that if they hand in again their marks won’t go down. Thus, if they take the second chance, the stakes are pretty low, but the potential for success, defined as a good mark, is quite high.

Last semester I used the above do-over on my students in my Naturalism seminar, and the outcomes were overall very good – as was student feedback on the assignment. Bowen confirms my hunch as to why: “Assessments that promote learning combine low-stakes and high-quality feedback. Both foster change and are highly motivating; it is easier to try something new if the stakes are low and easier to change when you are being encouraged and when you know exactly what change is needed.” I’ve hit an ethical snag, though – one I hadn’t even considered until it was pointed out to me by a colleague whose teaching I greatly respect. This method of assessment may work well for me and my classroom, but it can also create a perception of unfairness when my students are part of a tightly-knit cohort working in a small, close department. Queen Mary Drama has a rule in place (principally to promote fair, equitable practice across the board, while also protecting instructors’ time) that prevents us from reading and commenting on students’ work in advance beyond a very small proportion (about 10% of a paper); this gives us a very clear line to offer students who try to impinge on our time by getting us to, essentially, do their editing and leg-work for them in office hours. Thus, even though my do-over assignment has a basis in sound pedagogical practice, and even though it was built clearly (and equitably, for all students in the class) into my Naturalism syllabus from day one, it skirted a bit close to our departmental red line, as it risked placing unwarranted and unfair expectations on my colleagues.

I understand the issues at stake here, but I remain on the fence about their consequences. Naturally I want to be as fair as possible to my colleagues, but my first responsibility, as a teacher, is always to my students. Every year I see more and more students struggle to write well, and I know that, even though I’m trained to teach theatre, not writing skills, it’s my job to educate the whole student, which includes the student writer – and the student writer needs more help than the vast majority of Arts and Humanities programs currently offer. How to solve this catch-22? I suspect one answer is a curriculum review (luckily, I think Queen Mary has one on the horizon, and next week is our first Teaching and Student Support Committee meeting of the year…). That just might make (sanctioned) space for a few do-overs.


Course outlines: evil time-suck or crucial necessity?

Here we are in the middle of Week One at Queen Mary, and I’ve taught two of my three classes for the first time. In each, I’ve elected to follow the same broad lesson plan: introductions; a tour through the course (module) outline online; an exercise to introduce us to “what the course will be doing” in a direct but low-stakes way. In each, the middle of these three items – aka the most important, aka the most boring – has dominated. I didn’t mean for it to… it just ended up taking more time than I’d hoped. Of course: such it has been my whole teaching life.

I’m starting to wonder if this – introducing the course in detail on day one – is a Bad Thing. Sure, students need to know what’s coming up, and what we’ll be reading, and what the assignments will be, but everything is online now; surely we can read this information on our own time and come back next class with questions, right? Would it be better if I put stuff up on the screen, or handed things out, said “please read this later and come prepared with three questions for the start of next lesson,” then moved on to something more engaging? There is a school of thought that advocates for this less-is-more-inspiring approach, but does it work on the ground?

I’d love to hear from others on this matter. ESPECIALLY if you’re a student right now, and definitely if you’re in one of my classes this semester, please weigh in with thoughts – pros, cons, alternatives, you name it. Do we need the course ground plan in detail in lesson one, or can we do it better, and more efficiently, on our own – with the caveat, of course, that there’s always room in lesson two for questions? I’ve got one more first class to convene this week, on Friday; I’ll change up the plan if you convince me it’s worth trying something different for real.

Hit “comment” now!


Thinking critically about “creation”

I’m currently attending the annual conference of the Canadian Association for Theatre Research (CATR) on the gorgeous UVic campus in Victoria, British Columbia.


This morning we kicked off with a keynote by playwright and performance-maker Marie Clements; Maris is a Metis/Dene artist whose spectacularly magical-realist plays have featured prominently on my Canadian Drama courses over the past few years. She’s also an utterly inspiring speaker. Her topic this morning was “A Creator’s Guide to the Unknown”; she cheekily began by telling us all that she’d duped us – there’s no guide to be had. Sipping her water and settling in at the podium, she then offered up a beguiling riff on the subject of what it takes not just to create art in her/our world right now, but to survive, creatively, this life we share. I took a lot of notes (not something I do much at conferences any more), because the more she spoke the more I heard echoes not only to my current research interests, but especially to my teaching and learning practice. I’d like to share here three of the most valuable insights I pocketed at Marie’s talk this morning.

1. It’s important to bring your baggage to creation.

A few of my colleagues were chatting this morning before breakfast about how powerful students’ anxieties can be. And ours too! We work in a creative industry, and I don’t just mean because we’re all theatre professors and students, driven by the impulse to perform. We are creative when we make performance, to be sure, but we are also creative when we write scholarly papers about performance (or anything else). It’s true: scholarly labour is creative labour, and a scholar’s writer’s block is no less severe than a novelist’s or a playwright’s.

I have been absolutely defeated by writer’s block in the past. When it comes upon me, it stems from the fear that I will never be able to get down on paper in any kind of coherent fashion the ideas swirling chaotically in my brain. And I know I’m not alone in this fear and in my encounters with its attendant inertia. (Did I mention I’ve been writing this great book about contemporary realist performance for, oh, about four years now?) One way to get over this stuff is, as Marie notes, to bring your baggage along: not to ignore it, or to try to forget about it, or to hope it goes away – but to reckon with it. Talk with  peers, friends, teachers and mentors about it. Acknowledge that what we are doing is hard, intellectual, creative labour, and requires us, sometimes, to dig deeply into our own selves in order to make critical connections and face painful ghosts. I might not be writing about those ghosts, but do not think they aren’t bugging me while I’m sitting there not writing. Do not try to pretend the bags away – that has never worked. Zip them open.

2. The most important thing is to keep the pace.

Marie told us that she tells her young mentees to write for three hours a day. Or, if that’s not possible, to sit in front of the computer/paper/desk/whatever for that period of time, and just try. Write something. Write crap if it’s crap you think you’re writing; something may or may not be salvaged, but the act of writing itself is never, ever a loss.

I’ve only recently come to recognise this advice as wisdom; I always thought that I was one of those people who wrote best in blitz form, after the crucial research was done. But, hey, did I mention that book I’m writing? Right now the blitz just isn’t working; I’ve taken, as those of you who read my summer strategies post back in April know, to doing 60-90 minutes a day, outside term time, of core work on stuff that scares me. So far so good; in fact, so much so that I know this is advice – in slightly modified form, of course – that I’ll be passing on to undergraduates in the autumn. Got four papers due in the next three weeks? That’s ok; work on each for half an hour a day. You’ll get there. Just keep the pace.

3. A huge part of surviving is knowing what not to be afraid of.

Fear can keep us from doing a lot of stuff: we all know this, right? This morning, Marie reminded us how important it is to embrace fear. Getting used to fear – what it feels like, what it can do, what it can’t do – is part of living, she told us; instead of trying to control fear, why not train ourselves to live with it, to experience it “as a tool” that will help us get what we need? The only way to know what is not worth my fear is to allow myself to feel fear when needed, and to be ok with it.

This is superb advice for any teacher – for example, I need to allow myself to be afraid in the moment just before I walk into my classroom, so that I can experience the care, the concern for my students, that fear signifies, and so that I can not be afraid when I’m actually standing in front of them – but it’s also ideal advice for anyone engaged in a process of active learning. I’ve written in this space already about the value of sitting in the presence of failure, feeling it and observing it rather than trying to control it and make it go away. I think Marie’s advice to feel fear, embrace it, and then use that fear-feeling as a tool to move forward productively is of a piece with my thinking about failure as a valuable feature of any teaching and learning experience.

What does it mean to use fear as a tool of learning? I suspect it’s about understanding proactively how much power resides in fear, and about knowing that fear can make you do useful, mindful things as well as lousy ones. Marie’s examples this morning tended toward her family’s experience of working in the natural world: when you are hunting animals, for example, or working on the land you need to know what things – storms, predators, certain plants – warrant your fear, so that you can know where safely to step, where to take shelter, how to protect yourself. Fear, embraced and accepted, provides a clear path forward: step here but not here; take this action instead of that action. In my role as a teacher, feeling fear in a mindful way can help me to make a good classroom plan, and to execute it knowing that I’m doing something to help myself out of stress’s way. Feeling fear mindfully may help me to develop systems for being more adaptable in the classroom, so that when I’m shaken I can stand up again, acknowledge the shakiness, and keep going. In my role as a researcher, feeling fear in a mindful way may help me to try out new strategies for curbing the anxiety that a big block of writing labour produces in my imagination. It may help me to give myself a break when one strategy doesn’t work, knowing there’s another yet to be attempted. Or perhaps it may help me simply to be kinder to myself, to remind myself that many of my colleagues and peers feel this same fear, and that we all, every day, survive it anyway.

Not being mindful of fear may prompt the opposite actions, and those actions may become ruts, roadblocks, perhaps even catastrophes. I want to avoid those – and I want my students to avoid them, too. Here, then, is to unzipping that baggage, embracing that fear, and keeping the pace. Advice for teachers and students young and old, from a tremendous artist and a gifted human being.

With gratitude,