What it Means to Take Risks in a Partnership

In Bloodchild, Octavia Butler wrote, “If we’re not your animals, if these are adult things, accept the risk. There is risk, Gatoi, in dealing with a partner.” (Butler 26). This is in context to the character Gan holding a gun and telling T’Gatoi that she needs to trust him with it. This is a nerve-wracking task to put on someone; to accept the known dangers, in this case a loaded gun, and to choose to ignore the risk and continue moving forward; to trust. Bloodchild is all about accepting risks and trusting a partner. Not only with T’Gatoi and the gun, but Gan accepts a risk of his own when he agrees to have T’Gatoi’s offspring, even though it’s a dangerous task that can sometimes lead to death. Both T’Gatoi and Gan had to accept risks and trust one another in order to move forward with their partnership.

 The lessons in Bloodchild can go far beyond the pages of Octavia Butler’s stories, and into our own class. As a college freshman in my first semester, I am taking a big risk. A risk much scarier and intimidating than high school. I am terrified that I will fail, or make mistakes, but that’s all part of the learning process; that’s all part of the risk. I myself am in a partnership by taking Beth McCoys Writing Seminar course, and as her partner I need to trust that Beth knows what’s best for me. As the course has gone on, Beth has become less and less involved in the thought process behind my work. As scary as it is to receive less and less feedback and reassurance during the writing process, I have to trust that I am capable of doing well on my assignments and trust that Beth won’t set me up for failure. Like T’Gatoi has to trust Gan with a loaded gun, we as students in Beth’s writing seminar have to trust that Beth won’t let us fail and knows we are capable of excelling in this course.

Looping back to Bloodchild, just like Beth and her students, T’Gatoi and Gan took many risks, some happening even before their partnership came to be. T’Gatoi had to take risks in order to get to Gan in the first place. T’Gatoi had to risk her friendship with Gan’s mother, knowing that when T’Gatoi returned, Gan’s mother would only see T’Gatoi as coming back to retrieve her “just reward for her hard work.” (Butler 8). Coming back for Gan was hard for both T’Gatoi and the mother to deal with, yet it was a necessary step in order to make the partnership a reality. It was a risk that had to be made in order for T’Gatoi to get the reward of Gan, similar to  how T’Gatoi risked allowing Gan to keep the rifle in reward of getting him to have her offspring. 

T’Gatoi and Gan’s risks continued when they were together. Like I continuously reference, T’Gatoi had to trust Gan with a gun, even though T’Gatoi was scared and “it was clearly hard for her to let go of the rifle.” (Butler 26). Gan made a hard decision himself, after watching a birth go wrong, Gan was very scared to be implanted with T’Gatoi’s offspring, in fear that the same thing would happen to him. However, he knew he had to go through with it, because if he didn’t his sister Xuan Hoa would have to be implanted. Gan took the risk of going through with the implantation in order to avoid his sister getting hurt. 

As students in our partnership with Beth, we take risks and have to trust. I trusted Beth that as she stepped back and observed my work rather than helping me write it, I would be okay and do well. Beth in return had to trust me as a student to self assess my work and grade myself honestly. “I will offer feedback on your work, but you will assess that work, a process that depends on trust, transparency, accountability, care, and acknowledging the possibility of harm.” (McCoy). Beth could grade us herself if she wanted, but instead she took the risk of allowing us to do it, so that we could learn and grow from the experience of self assessing and reflecting. “This process entails substantial risk on my part. I believe the possibilities for thinkING and learning are worth the risk.” (McCoy). We gain so much knowledge and growth from assessing ourselves. I’ve tried my hardest to do my best work and think my best thoughts, because at the end of the day I am doing this for me. The risks truly redeem themselves with the rewards of trust, knowledge, and growth. We as students were given a loaded gun, and Beth is trusting us not to shoot it.

Being in charge of a loaded gun is a very scary thing, just like how being around someone with a loaded gun is scary. It involves having  a lot of trust in your partner and knowing that they will not hurt you. Like T’Gatoi trusts Gan and Beth trusts us (and vice versa),  a partnership is built off of having faith in one another. It means being able to take risks and trusting that your partner won’t let you down. It’s giving your partner a gun and knowing they could shoot you, but they won’t. It’s putting your life (or grades) in the hands of another person. It’s a scary, risky thing to do, but it’s what has to be done in order to reap the rewards of a healthy partnership where offspring, or in our classes case, a growth mindset and knowledge can come out of it. 

The Risk of Self Assessment, and The Rewards That Follow

College courses are in a whole different ballpark than that of a high school class. In high school, classes were designed to help students pass the big A.P test or final exam at the end of the year. College classes do much more than that. They teach skills and lessons that spark growth and help students develop into open minded individuals. Dr. Beth McCoy’s writing seminar for the risks and rewards of academic partnership helps guide students on their journey of self growth, both academically and mentally, while maintaining a safe environment to do so. In using a self assessment grading technique, students are faced with the challenge of balancing their freedom of self reflection, while staying within the limits of a class mandated rubric. 

Dr. McCoy allows students to grade their own assignments by following the three pillars of, “care for course accountability, care for growth, and care for peers growth” which can be found in the class syllabus. Holding yourself accountable to your work comes with the added responsibility of depicting “trust, transparency, accountability, care, and acknowledging the possibility of harm” (McCoy). Students are expected to grade their work honestly and be forthright about the actions they took in preparation for the class, and what grade is deserved because of it. 

Being able to grade your own work is a huge reward! You learn important skills such as trust and accountability, you learn how to look at yourself and your work objectively, and you have the ability to reevaluate your priorities and abilities. However, there is an equally big risk that comes along with this privilege. You risk the possibility of failing to accurately determine your grade, either overselling or underselling yourself, and you can break your professor and peers’ trust in the process. 

Even though the risks sound scary and severe, they are necessary in order to receive a reward as influential as this one is. The lessons you can learn from being able to look at your work and determine how well you have done is something that severely outweighs the possibility of failure. In fact, these risks can serve as motivation to try your best and put your best work forward. And even with the possibility of failure, McCoy will help point you in the right direction by offering insightful feedback that you can take into consideration, as well as setting limits, which unlike popular belief, are more beneficial than restraining.

McCoy’s limits are set in place to help you avoid crashing and burning. There is a class rubric which serves as guidelines to follow when grading your assignments. Some examples from the rubric are, “I participate frequently and thoughtfully because doing so helps my peers and me grow” and, “I frequently review our course concepts and get to thinkING about how they apply in my conversations, writing, and reading. I bring the course concepts outside the course and into my conversations with others, including those outside of the course”. Though these may seem as limitations for the work that needs to be done and behavior that has to be exhibited, the rubric is actually a helpful tool that will guarantee success. 

The successes that come from these rewards will take you far in life. For example, I plan on using my new skill of transparency to further continue along my journey of becoming an open minded human who is open to changing and growing. Something I struggle with is accepting criticism, so by learning how to judge myself and my own work, I am hoping to be more open to other peoples constructive comments. My goal is to achieve having a growth mindset, and this course is a great opportunity to strengthen the skills needed to make this dream a reality. These limits are nothing but a guideline to help me on my journey and keep me in check along the way. Having a guideline is a reminder that I’m not in this alone, and that there are people and resources available to help me along the way. All things considered, this course will help each student grow exponentially in a well guided way. Though there are risks that you will encounter in order to succeed, they are worth the lifelong reward of being able to equitably look at yourself and the things you do. McCoy’s set up for this course allows a lot of freedom which may be intimidating, but by being in a supportive class setting such as this one, with a rubric intended to keep us in check and not to hold us back,  it will all turn out for the best. The lessons you learn will stick with you for the rest of your life, both inside and outside of the classroom.