Creating Space for Learning through Compassionate Practices

April 14, 2023, Alesya Petty, Kirsten Schwartz, and I present at the Interdisciplinary Trauma-Informed Teaching Symposium housed by the University of California, Merced.

Workshop Title: Creating Space for Learning through Compassionate Practices

Overview: in this 90 minute presentation/workshop Alesya Petty, Kirsten Schwartz, and Anne F. Walker will consider Success and Mindfulness in Writing, Leadership and Self Deception, and Memoir and Counter Story-Telling. The three individual sections will open to group discussion in the final half hour. The sessions move from internal, to family, and to community.

Alesya Petty– success and mindfulness in writing

How to help students make connections to their life, studies, and environment? This talk explains how to incorporate mindful journaling practices into any course with a writing component as tools for students’ stress management and self-reflection. Learning how to practice mindfulness through writing can provide many benefits to students (or anyone): it allows students to slow down and be in the present moment, alleviates stress, reboots their mind to allow for more effective learning, and builds thinking and writing habits lasting beyond college. Speaker will explain how to incorporate mindfulness as a course theme or as scaffolded practices and will engage participants in trying out some activities that can be easily adapted to other courses.

Anne F. Walker–memoir and counter story-telling

Students routinely produce clear sharp writing when exploring their own family’s stories in relation to the memoir section of Lucille Clifton’s Good Woman. Memoir is an aspect of counter story-telling. Counter-storytelling deepens how personal story-telling helps students feel safe in the classroom space. It tells them, “you being you is crucial to all of your activities now and future.”  Who we are as people not only defines how we are in school, but what we want and need in relation to architecture, urban planning, gardening, policy, medicine and so forth. All these are in relation to our stories as our narratives help define our needs. Counter story-telling creates inclusivity, helps to support connection/importance to/of ancestors. Counter story-telling works against dominant hegemonic ideals that tell marginalized people to leave their experiences outside the door. That is the background; the session will be largely experiential.

Kirsten Schwartz–Leadership and Self-Deception (Arbinger Group)

Although this book was first introduced in 2020 as a business text, the lessons taught in Leadership and Self-Deception provide a foundation for any human to build relationships with humans rather than objects. Given the isolation that so many have experienced with this recent pandemic, communities can benefit from a refresher in how to interact with other humans as so many of us have forgotten how to interact with others. In a virtual classroom setting students were invited to read, discuss, and practice the concepts explored in this text that showed them that viewing humans as people rather than objects sets the stage for personal growth, community building, and life-long learning of how to be a happier person. Speaker will share her experience in incorporating this book into a college curriculum and discuss the profound healing, growth, and positive mindset that benefitted not only her students, but those around her students as well – the concepts in this text are contagious!


Alesya Petty is an instructional faculty at San Jose State University who has taught a variety of  writing courses and created courses with themes of Happiness, Well-being, Success, and Mindfulness. Alesya’s research interests focus on the writing for various purposes  and the role it plays in connection to mental health, productivity, and lifelong learning.

Kirsten Schwartz serves the San Jose State University community as a lecturer for First Year Writing and Business Writing courses. Having taught in person for the CSU campuses for more than 8 years, Kirsten now lectures solely online from her snowy Park City home and embraces new ways to create thriving and supportive communities in virtual classrooms. 

Most recently Anne F. Walker has been working with a cohort at San Jose State University to engage counter-storytelling as a form of building social justice. Her new collection of poetry, Ink and Ink and Flesh and Length, is forthcoming through the London-based Black Spring Press Group.