Affect Tracking

The Rationale

As little as we sometimes acknowledge it, our emotional experience is fundamental to the work of learning and educating. Anxiety felt when a student goes radio-silent during a pandemic because you think lack of communication might be a sign of crisis, excitement felt when preparing a new course description because you think it will be an important departmental offering, frustration felt when a student seems to plagiarize because you think that behavior serves neither the community nor the student — in each case emotion is a useful signal for expanding our agency. Accordingly, yet another hope of ours for this course is that we make space for the expression of any emotions that come up within the context of our week. By surfacing our joy, excitement, awe, we may gain insight into practices, outlooks, habits of mind to move toward. No less importantly, and perhaps more, by welcoming the expression of fear, anger, worry, hurt, we may through validating, accepting, and seeking to understand, know better what to move away from.

The Activity

That in mind, I invite you to keep a record of how you feel over the course of the week. This can be as simple as jotting down a single word for what you’re feeling whenever seems relevant (we suggest 3-4 times a day). Or/And it can take a more complex form of noting feelings, precipitating events, and the beliefs that combine with the events and undergird the feeling. Here’s an example from former co-facilitator Jakob Gowell’s professional experience working in residential mental healthcare:

I feel annoyed. I feel this way after a client put wood on the fire. I felt this way because I think it’s important to conserve resources, and because I think he put more wood on the fire than was needed.

Jakob Gowell

This example is noteworthy because if either of the beliefs were absent (conservation is important, but no more wood was used than necessary; much more wood was used than necessary, but conservation isn’t important), then the particular feelings aren’t coherent with the alternative set of beliefs. Recognizing the mutual dependencies of beliefs, events, and feelings may widen space for us to practice stewardship of our responses. The Options
In recognition of and support for these possible different comfort levels that may arise in response to this invitation, I suggest a few different ways you might complete this task:

  1. The Digital Option: Create your own version on your own device or make a copy of the template Jakob Gowell created for Digital Pedagogy Lab 2020.
  2. The Analog Option: Track yourself on paper off grid.
  3. Abstaining: If this activity isn’t for you, accepting that conclusion comes from self-awareness.