After understanding that I needed the qualities I have observed about me to exist outside of me, I wrote to my former students asking them to give me their thoughts on the good, and the bad of being my student, being in my class, and Human Centred Design. Following is a compilation of the answers.
To summarise key points from the testimonials, there is a repetition of attributes the students responded to in how I delivered my content, the content itself, things I said about personal lives, things I said in a professional sense, how I gave criticism, how I dress and look, my words, my physical behaviour, humour, and how I see the world.
One of the key points were that I broke the student/lecturer barrier with in my interactions. It is interesting that the majority of them mention how strict I was, how brutally honest I was in my feedback, or the amount of work I expected of them, but I was still able to be a 'friend' rather than an 'authority figure'. I think I could include how I look and behave in here; I come to teach in the similar clothing I wear to CSM now: black leggings, black t shirt, trainers, pink sparkly bag, colourful hair, and piercings. I talk about gaming, BTS, TV series, TikTok, movies, and books. There's a line that says 'if you are the smartest person in the room, then you're in the wrong room'. I guess, I make sure that I could always learn something from the 'people in my room' so that I'm always in the right room.
Second point I would like to focus on is that my classes were 'fun' and 'informative'. When they mentioned memories, while some of them mentioned how I was there for them on a personal level, many of them mentioned how I related the work to their times. For example, I ask them to convert Perfect by Ed Sheeran into academic writing to understand their own capabilities. I gave this to them as they would have more fun doing this on something they know rather than a boring passage they do not care about. I saw this in the SciFi session Zuleika Lebow had in the MA programme when we were all a bit excited to have something to relate to. When she showed Spike from Buffy and said it was especially for me, I felt seen and to be honest... a bit loved. 'Kill your darlings' is one of the first things I tell the students, and even though it doesn't make sense to them on the first day, it starts applying later on in the term and as evident, it's something most of them take with them to rest of their lives.
The safe environment they speak of here part of HCD and part of my behaviour. The discussions we have within the class are quite sensitive and private. Therefore, we ask everyone to respect that privacy. By treating these in my 'neutral' state, it stopped becoming a big deal that they need to hide. The neutral state is something I purposely do by making sure my facial expressions don't react to their news. I control my words, tone, and facial expressions.
They also mentioned that I don't judge, and my past plays a huge role here. I did a lot of things as a late adolescent that impacted the trajectory of my life. I faced a lot of judgement and no guidance. I did not have an 'adult' that could advice me on how I should do the things that everyone is telling me to do. I told myself that I would become that person to others so that they don't feel as confused and helpless as I felt. This is another level of understanding that's happening as I analyse these feedback. My passion for the late adolescents, and my need to make the world a bit more bearable comes from the place that I didn't have it. Instead of being a victim of my circumstances, I told myself to be better than my younger self, but also understand that I made those decisions with limited observations and guesswork. Whoa.
Getting back to the point of this post, the bad things that were mentioned was that perhaps there were some students left out 'being my friend'. I didn't choose students, whoever spoke to me, I spoke to them. I didn't seek them out. However, it was always mentioned that I did not have any favourites and was fair in how I treated everyone.
In conclusion, the feedback shows that there are characteristics of me that create this safe space, and it is obvious in many of the entries that those characteristics contributed to building emotional resilience in how they took the lessons of the class beyond the classroom. It is a combination of who I am (Chaotic Good), how I treat them (Kindness), content of HCD, and my method of delivery (Games/Interaction).