Week 11, or A Classroom Should Be…

The high from last week spilled over into this one: I started out enthusiastic from putting on another successful Lemon Porch Talk, getting my article from the Junto republished on HASTAC.org, and finding out that I would be a HASTAC scholar for the next two years. Despite the feelings of excitement from gaining new Twitter followers and relief from actually finishing all my readings for once, I ended the week on a contemplative note.

I’ve been thinking about classrooms– how they are both sacred and contested, places of refuge but not life rafts. And while it was at first difficult to think of what exactly the magic of a classroom is, I could very quickly discern what it was not. It is not a place where participants interrupt each other, disagree aggressively or otherwise check out all together. It is not a place where hesitant attempts to contribute in discussion are met with snickers or side bar comments. It is not a place where you may take a pejorative or patronizing tone when explaining something that everyone else might not know. While these dynamics are understandable to a degree– excitement causes interruptions and the need to whisper your thought so as not to interrupt the person speaking can be understood– explaining away the problem does not negate the facts.

These dynamics are not conducive to a fruitful classroom environment.

If this is what I do not want my classroom to be, then what do I want it to be?

A Classroom Should Be…

  • A Safe Space; but that does not mean it is always comfortable. As an undergraduate at UVA, one of the first things I learned was that I loved my classrooms. I felt free to learn, make mistakes, and grow. As I took more classes, I realized that even though I loved growing intellectually, it was often uncomfortable. Professor Harold challenged me constantly, Professor Woolfork told me I wasn’t always right, Professor McGrady encouraged me to do the hardest thing I could imagine– because even if I failed, I could say I’d been courageous enough to try. I used to think those professors hated me, but they loved me. They loved me enough to force me out of my comfortable patterns of thought and actions so I would grow. It was tough love, but love nonetheless.
  • Conducive to learning. In order to learn, there is a certain amount of vulnerability one must have, and I believe we must respect and protect students in their moments of vulnerability. We need to make our students feel empowered and encouraged to share, because fear of being wrong is hard enough as it is.
  • A Workspace. In a classroom, learning is a communal process. A good class is one where I not only develop a rapport with the professor but my classmates as well. They become your teammates. One of the best classes I’ve ever taken was Interracialism my first semester in grad school, and the five of us fed off of each other, built off of each other, learned from each other, encouraged each other. It was beautiful, and I wouldn’t have learned as much without my team.
  • A Space for Mistakes. I have made my fair share of mistakes and misinterpretations in the years and years in which I have been a student. I have indeed failed a quiz or two in my lifetime. There have been moments in which I have read every page of an assigned book and got absolutely nothing out of it. (Seriously, it happened just last week.) You won’t understand everything, you won’t ace everything, and you will occasionally follow a train of thought so far in the wrong direction that there’s no coming back. But part of the process is feeling free to go in the wrong direction and fall down a few times.

For a classroom to feel like this, it requires certain degrees of trust and respect that sometimes, admittedly just aren’t there.

Classrooms are hard spaces to “get right” and there’s no formula for it. Particularly since every classroom has a different purpose, a different professor, a different space, and most importantly, a different combination of students. Just one minute difference will change the tone of an entire class. As a scholar whose duty lies in the classroom just as much as it does in my research, I’m making a point now to think through power dynamics of the classroom and decide what I can do to create the kind of environment I would want to learn in.

Week 10, or 15 Minutes of Fame and Other Victories

This week was a haze of victories.

This semester, in spite of the never ending feelings of exhaustion and stress, has been a haze of victories, too. It’s hard for me to see the stars for the trees sometimes, which is why I’m so grateful to have this blog. I have no shortage of falls and failures to write about but it gives me such great pleasure to recap successes. In this semester alone: I finished writing my Master’s Thesis; I successfully defended it; I attended two amazing conferences back to back; I went to Comicon for the first time; I ran my first (packed audience) Lemon Project Porch Talk; I joined a club; and I met some amazing scholars.

But this week was nothing short of amazing.

The whole thing started with the amazing feedback I got about my BGDGS post I wrote about the Race, Memory and the Digital Humanities Conference last week. (Sidenote: Moya Bailey made a storify of it. Check it out!) The conference participants circulated the review, getting some retweets by my own professor, and the director of Conferences and Communications at Omohundro even plugged my review. I was thrilled by the new wave of traffic I was getting on the blog.

It didn’t stop there, though. By Tuesday, I had already written, edited and submitted an entirely different and more professional review of the conference to the Junto, a blog on Early America. A scholar I follow (and greatly admire) on Twitter solicited a review for them, so I happily obliged, always willing to get a little more exposure for my work. I woke up Wednesday morning to even more traffic on my blog, as people were following the link from the Junto article to my site. People were really reading!

By 9 AM Wednesday morning, I’d already launched another winner: my cousin Leah’s new guest column, “She Got Game,” went up on the site. Leah’s article was also bringing in traffic, but beyond the stats, it’s exciting to have a new permanent writer on the site. Every time we talk, we’re bubbling with enthusiasm about what our next expansion move is going to be. (Obviously, stay tuned, we have projects in the works!)

My Junto piece was performing so well that on Thursday the director of HASTAC asked me if they could republish my piece on their site. With 15,000 followers, who was going to say no to that kind of exposure? It hasn’t gone up yet, but I can’t wait to see my piece circulate on yet another site. Then, I found out that article had racked up about 2,700 views, which is probably the most views I’ve ever gotten on a piece. (Some of my Black Girl Nerds content might’ve picked up some views, but I never found out.)

I think the best part of the week was just the amazing responses to my work that I got on Twitter:

(Making my professor proud! #EqualityLabFellows!)

(When you might be a resource for other grad students! My, oh my. Thanks, SMU Grad History!)

(Getting a shout out from my old stomping grounds…)

And my personal favorite, a shout out from Karin Wulf herself:

So many things were happening in this exchange that I had via Twitter with the Director of the Omohundro Institute (aka my former “Big Boss” as an apprentice). She not only linked to my Junto piece, but also to my personal blog, while calling me a “Scholar to Watch” and pointing to some of my earliest pieces on BGDGS about apprentice life. That means she reads my blog, y’all. She read my Omohundro pieces from last year. Wow.

I know not every week is going to be like this. I know that most weeks are not going to be like this. Still, I thought it was well worth documenting what a really nice week felt like, so I can always come back to it when I’m feeling run down.

Looking to the future, there are only a few weeks left in the semester (5 if you count Thanksgiving Break, 4 if you don’t) so it’s getting to be every grad student’s favorite time of year: Finals Season. Fortunately, I’ve got some fun final projects to look forward to that I definitely will share at the end of the semester. Let’s hope by the time the next post drops, I’ll have actually made some progress on my finals. And if not… all’s well that ends well.

Leah 1 – Grad School 0

When I graduated from Towson University in spring 2016, I had no intention of going to Grad School. I was the friend that thought I would go start my dream career fresh out of college. Boy, was I wrong!

See, I have dreams of helping to run my family’s production company. My mother, brother and I have always wanted to open our own business. My mom introduced us to the entertainment industry at a young age and both my brother and I have been fully amazed ever since. My mom and I are usually responsible for coordinating/planning family events so we felt it was only right that we go into business together.

So. Here we are. Present day. I’m halfway through my first graduate school course and I am so happy I made this decision. I attend University of Maryland University College online and I am getting my Master’s in Business Administration. (Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, I work full time, as an event manager at a national park). I started classes early this month and let me tell you, it has not been easy. Getting back into the swing of things after not doing any school work for over a year was challenging. My first paper, which was the second assignment, really had me rethinking my decision of going back to school. I was pretty nervous about this paper, which is a first for me. As a communications major in undergrad, writing papers was pretty much second nature for me. I wrote papers almost weekly. But this one five-page paper in grad school shook my nerves. I sent this paper to three people to edit and get their feedback. To my surprise, all of them unanimously said they liked the paper and the content was interesting. This gave me a positive reality check but once I hit submit, I was so regretting seeing my grade.

A few days later, I got the notification that my professor submitted her grades for the paper. I waited until I got home from work to check the results. To my surprise, I received “Exceeds Performance Requirements” (which is an A but we don’t get grades since it’s a foundation course). I was extremely excited! I realized that all the stressing and pressure I put on myself was probably not necessary because I know the skills are already there. *toots on horn*

This first month of grad school gave me a reality check and restored my academic confidence. Despite taking classes online, I am doing a kick ass job if I do say so myself. I happily jumped back into the school spirit, because the journey is only beginning… The Game Ain’t Over Yet!


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I am the fabulous Leah Franklin. I’m a Spring 2016 Towson graduate and am currently working on my MBA online at University of Maryland University College. I love planning events, so I much that I do it full time. When I’m not planning, I’m at the beach, in the mall or quoting ‘Love & Basketball.’ My hobbies include adult coloring, dancing and cooking.

My attempt at joining the Academy