Letter to My Students: Spring 2024 Edition

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Letter to My Students: Spring 2024 Edition

Memory Plaques

Neurodivergent Teaching

Dear Students,

The last full week of spring semester classes began with a sunny day, warm enough for summer. The quad, with its blossoming trees in white and pink, called my heart. I taught the lesson projected on the screen. You wrote for a while. Then we took a walking tour of the memory plaques around our campus. Initially I had scheduled the field trip for our penultimate class meeting, but storms were predicted for that day. We agreed to take advantage of the pleasant weather. 

When my fall semester first-year writing class took this tour, we focused mostly on Mississippi Freedom Summer, 1964, and the three Civil Rights workers murdered by the KKK: James Chaney, Andew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. The clocktower on our campus is named after them. Andrew Goodman was a student at our college who volunteered to take part in Freedom Summer.

There are other memory plaques on our campus that you asked to see, two for 9/11/2001, and one for lives lost in our community to Covid-19. The Covid-19 memory plaque is slate gray with yellow letters framed in yellow rectangles. Under the letters there is a slate gray heart outlined in yellow. 

Covid-19 Memorial Plaque, Queens College, City University of New York Photo by Susan Bernstein, October 17, 2023Covid-19 Memorial Plaque, Queens College, City University of New York Photo by Susan Bernstein, October 17, 2023


I suggested that I would write reflection prompts that would allow you to connect this field trip to the final writing project. Then the clock tower chimed for 12 noon and we offered a moment of silence. Class had run overtime, and soon afterward all of us dispersed in the sunlight.



 As promised, please consider the following prompts for reflection:

  1. What did you learn from our field trip to visit the memory plaques on campus? In your opinion, what do you think is the intended purpose of the memory plaques? Do you think the plaques serve their intended purpose? Why or why not? 
  2. If you were to create your own memory plaque or other remembrance for Spring Semester 2024, what memory would you choose? What would your remembrance look like? Where would your remembrance be located? What shape or space would your remembrance take? Why?
About the Author
Susan Naomi Bernstein (she/they) writes, teaches, and quilts, in Queens, NY. She blogs for Bedford Bits, and her recent publications include “The Body Cannot Sustain an Insurrection” in the Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics and “After Basic Writing” in TETYC. Her book is Teaching Developmental Writing. Other publications include “Theory in Practice: Halloween Write-In,” with Ian James, William F. Martin, and Meghan Kelsey in Basic Writing eJournal 16.1, “An Unconventional Education: Letter to Basic Writing Practicum Students in Journal of Basic Writing 37.1, “Occupy Basic Writing: Pedagogy in the Wake of Austerity,” in Nancy Welch and Tony Scott’s collection Composition in the Age of Austerity. Susan also has published on Louisa May Alcott, and has exhibited her quilts in Phoenix, Arizona and Brooklyn, NY.