thinkING on Risks and Rewards

In Dr. McCoy’s class, we broke down risk and reward in literature as it applies to our own lives. Throughout the semester, I found it difficult to see the big picture, focusing in on small details of each assignment. Such as when we were working with Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild”, I was focused on the storyline rather than the lessons. In “Bloodchild ” there are two species, Terrans or humans, and Tlics an alien race. When Terrans arrive on the Tlic’s land, they are in need of protection, and in order to reproduce, it is essential that Tlics impregnate Terrans with their eggs. Both species are able to survive as long as they help each other. T’Gatoi, the Tlic leader of the Preserve, chooses Gan to host her future children before he is even born. A particular epigraph from  “Bloodchild” states, “If we’re not your animals, if these are adult things, accept the risk. There is risk, Gatoi, in dealing with a partner” (26). Gan says this to T’Gatoi after witnessing another Terran give birth to Tlics. He begins to have second thoughts on the night T’Gatoi must implant her eggs into a Terran. T’Gatoi threatens Gan by giving him an ultimatum. If Gan won’t go through with hosting T’Gatoi’s children, then she will implant her eggs into Gan’s sister. After being taken care of by T’Gatoi for all his life, Gan has developed an affection for T’Gatoi and feels obligated to go through with hosting her offspring. This can be translated to our everyday lives regarding risk and reward in our biases and rule systems. Throughout the duration of my semester in Dr. McCoy’s class, I have learned to slow down and unpack the information in front of you. This is an example of GLOBE (Geneseo Learning Outcomes for Baccalaureate Education), the “framework for building and assessing holistic student experience at Geneseo”(Bulletin 60.12, p. 166). Although you may not fully understand at first glance, reflecting on what you’ve learned takes time. This is all a part of learning the risks and rewards in writing and academic partnership.

Within the epigraph as well as in class, we face many risks and rewards. Since going online and having to learn virtually, our class began with nothing more than deadlines and a syllabus. After giving brief information about the course, the first big point of our class syllabus is the epigraph from “Bloodchild”. This shows it’s significance and relevance to course material. As we began to explore different topics, we came across ideas such as implicit bias and rule systems. By applying these back to “Bloodchild” and connecting our topics of discussion to the novel, we were able to form a through line. When discussing implicit bias, we began with a TED talk from Professor Jerry Kang. Implicit biases are judgements we make without being consciously aware of them ourselves. It’s how our brain sorts and categorizes information in an uncensored fashion. This means that information that is versatile may be placed in a different category than what your conscious mind believes would be logical, making it easy to misread information. This was true for me when reading “Bloodchild”.  In Forum 5: “Velvet”, I engaged in a discussion with a classmate. She had mentioned that she “thought the setting was on earth”. The setting of the novel had confused me as well for a while, as I did not expect for Terrans to take over the Tlic’s planet, but the exact opposite. This is similar to the context of the epigraph, where Gan second guesses carrying T’Gatoi’s offspring. Gan experiences implicit bias when discussing a Terran host giving birth with T’Gatoi. Gan witnesses what he believes is worse than regular birth. All his life he was told that it was a natural and beneficial thing to host the Tlics offspring, but birth can provoke emotions of fear and anxiety. Gan believes that a hosting birth is more gruesome than if Terrans were to reproduce on their own. This reasoning behind him second guessing is due to the implicit bias Gan has towards Tlics. Gan is unaware of this judgment even though all his life he remembers society functioning the same way it does now. 

When T’Gatoi threatens to have Gan’s sister, Xuan Hoa, host her eggs, is when Gan realizes that this is something he needs to do. By risking himself and hosting T’Gatoi’s eggs, Gan is able to reward the rest of the Terrans, ensuring they are protected by the Tlic. However, T’Gatoi’s threat shows her true personality as a leader and a partner. Her threats and actions show her craving for power. In class we discussed rule systems such as Geneseo’s Student Code of Conduct and policies for faculty and administration at the university. What was interesting was how most all rules established for all persons on campus were similar. In fact, several of the rules between students and faculty were written verbatim. This forms a sense of unity between all persons on campus and establishes a fair rule system that more people will be encouraged to follow. The same cannot be said for T’Gatoi’s rule. Tlics established rules meant to benefit themselves while providing the bare minimum to the Terrans. In exchange for protection, the Terrans give up one male from each family that is meant to carry the Tlics offspring. In Forum 9: “Looping Back to ‘Bloodchild’ and yourself”, I stated that these rules are unfair but only hold stability by giving their communities variance of power. Since Terrans need the protection of Tlics, if Terrans were to disobey the rules, their lives lay in the hands of those protecting them. This unhealthy balance of power could lead to tyranny if Terrans find strength in numbers. There is risk to an unfair rule system as people will sooner or later say enough is enough. However, when there is a balance of power and opportunity for voices to be heard, it is rewarding to see more people following the rules to better the community as a whole.

At the beginning of the semester, I had no idea the relevance “Bloodchild” would hold throughout this curriculum. Despite its reference in the syllabus, I wasn’t convinced of its significance until halfway through the semester. After dedicating time, thought (“thinkING” ), and feedback as a class, I realized that there was a bigger picture. It was similar to a puzzle, when you begin you are unsure of what the end goal looks like. However, once you have put a portion of the puzzle together, you can work with the end in mind. That portion of the puzzle is GLOBE. Although you may not understand everything you learn at that moment, time can help clarify and solidify your thoughts. Even once you understand a concept, time can help you find and reflect on new perspectives of the same information. In furthering students’ education, GLOBE provides a basis that students can build off of, making it extremely rewarding.

The Risks and Rewards of Virtual Learning

The United States today is dealing with debatably the worst ongoing health crisis it has ever faced. As a student, my summer “vacation” consisted of sitting at home refreshing my school email every few hours waiting for updates. Will they be using my old dorm room to house positive cases? Will I be going back in the fall? Even if we can go back, should I return to campus or stay home and work? Will I be able to afford college this year? These were only some of the thoughts running through my mind regarding going virtual this year. As I write this, the future is still uncertain, and some of these questions remain. Determining my plans this academic year was based on weighing the pros and cons of my options. One course, in particular, a writing seminar of risks and rewards with Dr. Beth McCoy highlights the risks and rewards to her college course. Just as in Octavia Butler’s short story “Bloodchild”, there is risk and reward to living on the preserve.

In a course designed around risk and reward, opportunities and restrictions are prevalent amongst the expectations for this course. Dr. McCoy’s writing seminar provides students with trust and an opportunity to be mindful of the growth of not only themselves but their peers. This is to center the focus of this class to be based more on learning than trying to get by with a sufficient grade. Dr. McCoy also incorporated a Care policy. This involves care for accountability, your own growth, and your peers’ growth. For example, the Tlics and Terrans in “Bloodchild”. They live amongst each other with rules set in place allowing them to live in peace. Tlics must protect Terrans, and in return, Terrans provide Tlics with one male from each family to host Tlic eggs. Tlics and Terrans have their own version of Dr. McCoy’s Care policy. They must rely on each other for survival. By providing students the opportunity to focus on the quality of their work over a number in the grade book provides a safe space to share their writing and knowledge to peers without fear of judgment. Being able to share your ideas freely is extremely rewarding. To allow students the opportunity to focus on their growth over grade will also show success and be rewarding to all students that take this course.

From the syllabus, the main learning outcomes from the writing seminar are as follows. “The ability to read significant texts carefully and critically, recognizing and responding to argumentative positions. The ability to write and revise sustained, coherent and persuasive arguments on significant issues that arise from the content at hand. The ability to write clearly, following the conventions of Standard English. The ability to incorporate information gleaned through library research into written arguments.” The class is meant to provide basic reading and writing proficiency for higher-level college courses. In order to find success in this course, we must slow down and take the time to read, understand, and respond to readings with a persuasive argument. At the beginning of June, I was given a choice. To return to campus, or stay at home and continue doing online classes as I did for the majority of the spring semester and the summer term. I chose to return to campus, as I was diagnosed with asthma, and my parents were worried about my safety. Geneseo is a much smaller town than where I am from and would provide me the isolation and quarantine duration I would need if deemed necessary. 

At the same time, academic dishonesty is a serious issue SUNY Geneseo takes very seriously. Students in all classes run the risk of being academically dishonest. Especially while the majority of classes are being held virtually and online. In spite of the current situation our country is facing, we as students are in turn responsible to maintain time management, and a consistent work ethic. As a current sophomore, last year was very stressful managing time with friends, classes, and workload. Now with the global pandemic, we face an extra challenge of health safety. The uncertainty can have lasting mental health effects on all of us, especially as students. When faced with stress and a lack scheduling, it is easy for students to search for a shortcut in any way they can. Luckily, maintaining my coursework for several classes thus far, even under the pressures of health safety in the Geneseo community has been manageable. 

According to the fight or flight theory, when faced with a stressful situation, you have two options. Some may try to flee or avoid the scene at all costs, but it is those who push through headfirst that will find success first. I am very lucky to have supportive friends and family that want to see me grow as a student. They have helped me to see the bigger picture when I am distracted by what the future holds and how it will affect me. Although the next few years are uncertain as to what the pandemic has in store for our country, we have to focus on the rewards and push through the risks.