Addressing Microaggressions in the Classroom: Attuning to Power Dynamics & Nervous Systems


The tension in the remote classroom is heavy. A few students appear to be typing privately amongst themselves in the chat, and one student left the class session abruptly. Three students whose cameras were on before have now turned them off. A student has just made a racial microaggression (a demeaning comment or behaviour that reflects prejudice towards students of colour).

Everyone is looking to you, the instructor, to see how you are going to respond... What do you notice is happening in your body? Where do you feel the tension? How is your breathing? Is your heart racing? And what about the bodies of the racialized students and faculty who are most impacted by the microaggression? Are the students who made the microaggressions aware of what just happened? What might be happening for them, when you or another student calls them out?

You may be familiar with the flight-fight-freeze response, the body’s natural responses to stress, present when microaggressions happen in the classroom. Microaggressions happen so quickly, whether they be racial, gender-based, about sexual orientation, ableism, or another form of cultural oppression. The subsequent impacts of microaggressions disrupt the learning and safety of our classrooms.

This workshop will look at how Theatre of the Oppressed methods can help slow things, helping us educators to increase our awareness of underattended aspects of microaggressions, our nervous systems. All analysis will be explored through the power dynamics of representation, absence and invisibility.

Thank you for your interest, registration is full.

BIO: Jessica Bleuer, MA, M.Ed., Ph.D.(c), she/her pronouns, is a Registered Drama Therapist in private practice and a tenure-track lecturer and supervisor in the MA Drama Therapy Program at Concordia University in Montreal. Latinx and first-language Spanish-speaker from an immigrant family, early and marking experiences of being ‘othered,’ have driven her passion for equity work. A past two-term Diversity Chair for the North American Drama Therapy Association, Jessica's teaching and research focuses on the intersections between individual wellness and larger systemic change. She has been facilitating Theatre of the Oppressed workshops for the past twenty-years and has had many opportunities to use this work in her teaching, therapeutic practice and work as a cultural equity consultant. Her current research focusses on addressing racial and ethnic microaggressions in higher educational classrooms (Cegep and Universities).



McGill University is on land which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst Indigenous peoples, including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabeg nations. We acknowledge and thank the diverse Indigenous people whose footsteps have marked this territory on which peoples of the world now gather.

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