Human geographers engage students in learning about a world characterised by environmental and social disarray. It follows that our students are exposed to deeply confronting topics: climate change, global inequality, food insecurity, and racism, to name a few. Prompted by research on the painful emotions elicited by climate change communication, we asked human geography students at the University of Wollongong about their experiences of our teaching. We invited them to consider which emotions ‘belong’ in our classrooms and how difficult emotions might be managed to minimise harm. Students explained that they expect to feel distress while studying human geography and found being confronted a productive experience. They considered the responsibility for managing difficult course-related emotions to be distributed, and identified a range of strategies to prevent painful emotions from corroding their wellbeing. Some of these strategies, particularly making room for difficult emotions – by acknowledging, holding onto, and working through them in our classrooms – will be challenging as more universities turn to online teaching during the pandemic and beyond.
Associate Professor Natascha Klocker works at the School of Geography and Sustainable Communities; and the Australian Centre for Culture, Environment, Society and Space (ACCESS), University of Wollongong. She is a critical social geographer with a research and teaching focus on discrimination, marginalisation and belonging. Her current research explores the environmental and agricultural knowledge and capacities of migrants, and the rural and regional settlement of former refugees.
*This seminar is based on an article co-authored by Dr Charles Gillon, Dr Leah Gibbs, Dr Jennifer Atchison and Professor Gordon Waitt.
Klocker, N., Gillon, C., Gibbs, L., Atchison, J., Waitt, G. (2021), ‘Hope and grief in the human geography classroom’, Journal of Geography in Higher Education https://doi.org/10.1080/03098265.2021.1977915