Collaboration as Personal and Social Growth in Toni Morrison’s Trilogy and All of Our Lives.

            It is no secret that collaboration is a necessary part of life. It’s easy to see this when we look around our school, workplace, or community; all sorts of groups, clubs, and organizations collaborate to accomplish both the tasks we appreciate, like having a well-prepared professor in a classroom to lead a group of interested students in discussion, and those we may take for granted, like having the floors swept or the trash removed every evening. However, often as humans, our pride, or spirit of self-reliance can cause us individually to imagine that we do not need to rely on others, that we can figure things out for ourselves. The most unfortunate result of such an attitude is often that we miss out the richness life offers when we make meaningful connections with others and allow them to influence our thinking and actions. This refusal to let others in is at the heart of most of the suffering we find in the three Toni Morrison novels we read this semester. Whether it was Sethe’s withdrawal from society in Beloved, Joe’s emotional distance from Violet in Jazz, or the division caused by a difference in interpretation of the words on the oven’s lip in Paradise, the inability to collaborate effectively, even if one or both parties have what we might excuse as a “good reason,” is the cause of most chronic problems for the protagonists of each story. What all these works can help us to see is that the mental safety barriers we put up to protect ourselves from disappointment or rejection are often precisely that, barriers, but barriers that prevent the flow of love, good-faith, and healing in both directions and that these need to be overcome if we want to achieve self-actualization.

         While I don’t equate what I’ve had to go through in my life in any way with what a person in Sethe’s situation would have had to endure in terms of “depth of suffering” her character helped me to understand that at times in life, we are presented with an impossible choice that we must make regardless. For Sethe, this was to kill her children rather than to allow them to return to slavery. For me, it was to face shunning by my family and friends rather than live my life professing beliefs that I did not genuinely hold. By leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which my wife and I had spent the first thirty years of our lives as members of, we knew we would be abandoned by nearly everyone we loved. Like Sethe, in the years that followed that traumatic event we withdrew into ourselves, afraid of jugement from the world, not fitting in, or simply just being too broken to care.

         What Morrison seems to suggest, through the arrival of Paul D as a sort of turning point where a bit of light begins to shine again into Sethe’s life after years of darkness, is that we often need someone on the outside of our situation to step into our lives and figuratively pull us, often kicking and screaming, out of our seclusion. The beautiful thing that often ends up happening, as it does in Beloved, is that Paul D receives just as many benefits as the person he is there to help does. It’s also noteworthy that Paul D, does not arrive with any secret information or magical ability to save Sethe. He simply loves her, in all the complicated messiness that that entails. As noted, this does not flip a switch for Sethe and solve all her problems, but is, instead, the beginning of a long, slow, painful process where she decides that trusting others and being a member of a community is worth the risk.

         In my own life, I’ve had more Paul D’s than I can count. People who saw my pain and took the initiative and overcame the discomfort to sit and talk or listen to me scream or cry, not just once or twice, but week after week and month after month. I have two aunts in particular, my father’s sisters who never joined the JW’s, who became the ones who refused to let me give in to the darkness. Their love was at the core, but it was the fact that they took the time to call, send daily texts, take me out for lunch, spoil our kids, and just generally never forget about me that was a huge reason I was able to see that it was worth rebuilding a new life, even if the pain of abandonment would always be there. Like Sethe, I couldn’t change the past, but I could choose to accept what had happened and move forward.

We don’t get a truly happy ending in Beloved, but what we are left with is hope. Hope that Sethe, Paul D. and by extension Denver now have a chance at finding some happiness in a world that, for much of their lives, they could not imagine that happening in. They will always be damaged people with deep, permanent scars, as the tree on Sethe’s back symbolizes, but they have each begun to let the light in. 

Being out of what I call “the cult” for eight years now, I can happily report that this crack of light, for me, has turned into a blinding ray that has illuminated my life in ways I never imagined possible. What Morrison’s work has helped me to recognize is that this is almost entirely the result of allowing new, different, and yet equally or exceedingly beautiful people into my life who have changed the way I think, feel, and interact with the world. Outside of my family, the students and professors at SUNY Geneseo have probably had the largest positive impact on me of anyone along this journey. From the agonizing discomfort I felt as the ONLY near forty-year-old at orientation day, two short years ago, to the elation of sitting in our small group, laughing hysterically with an accepting group of found friends as we worked on our collaborative essays for this class, I have felt, on the deepest level, the value of overcoming fear and choosing collaboration over isolation.

While Beloved, at least for me, seems to focus on the personal side of how collaboration can be healing, in Paradise, Morrison seems more interested in exploring how collaboration within the larger structures of society play a role in either promoting or disrupting harmony at a cultural level. We focused heavily on the disagreement between two groups, cut roughly along generational lines, over what the original inscription on the lip of the was; either “Beware the Furrow of His Brow” or “Be the Furrow of His Brow.” What struck me in this rift, was how each side was certain that their interpretation was correct, but it just so happened that that interpretation aligned with the values that group espoused. The older generation of Ruby residents weren’t convinced by any irrefutable evidence that “Beware the Furrow…” was correct, it was just that such a reading aligned with their more traditional religious values and the importance they attached to living in the fear of God. The younger generation had just as little proof that their reading was correct and instead were motivated by the agnosticism and individualism that pervaded their worldview. In each case, their inability to collaborate or reach a consensus was not motivated by facts, but by a refusal to accept that being right was not as important as maintaining a unified society.

Today, we live in a country where divisions run bone deep as the result of an inability to agree on the interpretation of our nation’s constitution and what its founders intended as the proper way to live in their experimental democracy. Just like the residents of Ruby, we can find ourselves sliding into divisive factions that are often motivated, not by a search for truth, but by the values their members have come to acquire over the course of their lives. Often, the result of such divisions is that organizations that attempt to transcend such discord, accepting everyone despite their differences, are targeted in much the same way that the convent is in Paradise, since they pose a threat to a traditional way of life that opposing groups cannot imagine living without. Some of the recent hateful attacks on LGBTQ+ spaces on campus come to mind where we see the harmful effects of people too afraid of others with different ways of seeing themselves or the world to allow them to exist, even peacefully. In Paradise, Morrison doesn’t offer any simple solutions, but she does provide a warning about what happens when, instead of trying to understand each other, we seek to eliminate those we don’t understand. The gang of men who attack the convent do not walk away triumphant but are as broken and confused by their own actions as the women they assaulted. Though they attempt to wrap themselves in religious authority and imagine they are doing God’s work, freeing their community from idolatry, once their crimes are committed, that lofty purpose rings hollow before the reality of the atrocities they have committed.

The question Morrison leaves us to ponder is how collaboration could have prevented this intolerance that led to such regrettable violence. For me, personally, I have felt the power of collaboration at work and seen its results in my own thinking and outlook. Coming from rural NY, working closely with the agricultural community, which is predominantly conservative, republican, white men, the attitudes they held toward the younger generation of “kids these days” had a powerful effect on my thinking. I was skeptical of many of their views on race, gender, climate change and myriad other political issues. However, after spending two years here at Geneseo I have come to a much more accurate understanding of the truly beautiful foundations of these values. Young people are not clueless, but neither is the older conservative generation evil, as at times the most vocal on each side might lead one to believe. What each side is pushing for comes from a desire for shockingly similar outcomes. Both sides want freedom to unapologetically be themselves, access to safe and vibrant communities, good jobs, and to be surrounded by people trying to make the world a better place. Where things get complicated is in how each side believes we can accomplish this collaboratively. What I take from this going forward, is a personal refusal to see either side as evil and to remain willing to have my preconceived ideas about people or groups almost always changed for the better the more time I spend around them. Good-faith conversations may not be a magical solution, but I see them as the best chance we have to overcome our differences and build the world we want to live in.

Morrison herself reached across centuries to collaborate with the works of Dante when she wrote the trilogy that we have spent the semester in conversation with. The richness that has resulted from making such an effort is evidenced by the countless papers like this that have been, are being, and will be written by students here at Geneseo and throughout the world, where we can pull new insights from Dante, Morrison, and perhaps most importantly, from the conversation that takes place between these two authors that we get to join in. Often the financial value of an English education gets called into question since we English majors pay the same tuition as many other students being trained for specific skills designed to earn them money. However, speaking from personal experience again, I can say that it is impossible to put a value on an experience that changes the way you see the world, from one that is small and afraid, to one that is wide-open, accepting, and always open to attribute to others the best of intentions rather than the worst. That is the work I believe I was “created to do down here in Paradise” and that is my aim moving forward (Morrison, 318).  

Entering the Firmament: Education and Social-Emotional Learning through the Lens of Toni Morrison’s Trilogy

At the beginning of the semester, I worked with a ninth-grade student during a practicum field visit in Rochester who frequently missed school due to chronic illness. We were neck-deep in their research unit, and at this point the kids were writing their final essays; but the one I was working with had fallen behind, and in the middle of March had pulled an all-nighter scrambling to find a topic, sources, take notes, and outline their paper. They were failing, hovering around 30% for the quarter, and the pressure to raise that grade was etched in their face: usually well-groomed hair flew in all directions; plum-colored bags bloomed under their eyes from the lack of sleep; their blood-orange hydro flask with Brooklyn Nine-Nine stickers smothering every free space was exchanged for a can of Monster, the black-etched logo glowering from the snow-white surface of the can. I read their work, and they were more than ready to begin the paper; but it was due tomorrow at midnight, and I imagined another restless night ahead of them, another day in school with blood-shot eyes and heavy eyelids, another day in school fighting to stay awake, fighting to claw ahead of the stacking assignments.

I spoke with the head teacher I was working with. We gave them another week; I met with the student to tell them we were going to extend the deadline for their paper, and what they had so far was great work and worthy of granting her a passing grade for the quarter out of good faith that they would turn in their essay after a week. Their tense shoulders relaxed; they breathed a little deeper and took off their glasses: “I can’t remember the last time someone said I’ve done a good thing.”

I felt upset at what they told me. How could anyone see a student trying this hard, digging themselves out of a hole they never wanted to be in in the first place, saw the effort and growth and resilience, and deny them the praise, the chance to rest, a little mercy. At the very least, a compliment. It is frustrating, as someone who wants to be a teacher, to see these flashes of exhaustion from students; but at the end of the course on “Toni Morrison’s Trilogy,” I can see more clearly why it is vital to grant our students these spaces for rest, these opportunities for both learning and safety. Morrison’s writing positions the perplexing and collaborative nature of the both/and as an act of engagement, an act of care; it is through this dynamic that we can experience learning, foster educational spaces of comfort and safety, and generate educational outcomes that go beyond content.

An underrated, or perhaps unspoken, facet of learning lies in the internal journey behind self-definition and self-love. Morrison infuses Beloved with this tension, for she reveals both the danger and tenderness of care, and it almost assaults us with the forcefulness of Sethe’s feelings; and yet, as a character, she feels deficient, and through this we can see the uncomfortable position learning can cause us to experience. Sethe’s excessive love for Beloved caused her to feel deficient, to feel the full weight of her trauma; but Paul D elicits, or guides her towards the self-realization that she is worthy of love. Sethe asserts that Beloved “was [her] best thing.” Paul D, however, in seeing how Beloved has leeched the life out of Sethe—and seeing Sethe open herself to this—both acknowledges their past trauma and motivates them to move forward; “You your best thing, Sethe. You are.” Sethe responds: “Me? Me?” (Beloved 347-348). Morrison forces us to look at the both/and of care, at both the violence of its excessiveness and the tenderness—the panacea—of the support and comfort another person can extend. She has withered away as a result of her love for Beloved, until Paul D gives her the space to realize that she can love herself, that she must love herself. At the heart of this dynamic lies a profound act of learning; Paul D works with her to make her see, to teach her, how to love herself.

For educators, this learning is essential for engaging our learners, for allowing learning to occur, for going beyond curriculum to motivate students on their terms. We teach more than curriculum; we teach how to care for the self, how to empower learners, how to support them and give them the space to find that energy within themselves. Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher elaborate on this point, writing that “We listen and learn from the students we are currently teaching and design instruction that will move them. We start with contagious enthusiasm for both reading and writing. Joy is an intentional stance” (Gallagher and Kittle 5). We do more than teach curriculum and social-emotional benchmarks as separate entities; they are an entangled perspective, an entangled pedagogy. Providing students with spaces to rest, spaces of comfort, spaces where they can exhale the tension from their shoulders, spaces where we can tell them they have done great work and mean it, drives instruction, drives learning. We meet students where they are, and motivate them toward what they can be.

The simple act of praise—something that, to me, was a throwaway form of encouragement and support from a struggling student—meant more than anything to the student I was working with, who saw within themselves both a chance to rest and a beacon of achievement, of pride, that they can latch on to. In that moment, they realized—even briefly—that they were “their best thing.” However, in order to uplift our students, we as educators cannot view our students as wholly other. Yes, we are the more knowledgeable figure in the room from a curricular standpoint, and yes, we are the authoritative and managerial presence in the classroom; but teachers and learners are deeply entangled in a collaborative act of empowerment.

Morrison’s Jazz positions us as the reader specifically within the context of a learner, as we participate in the novel’s progression as both reader and character, entangled with the text as deeply as Joe and Violet are at the book’s conclusion. The novel’s conclusion demands readers to consider the participatory entanglement between reader and text, to refuse the division between the person and object, allowing us to collaborate with the book as it teaches us, educates us, on the lives and loves of its characters. The narrator launches from Joe and Violet’s rekindled acts of care to acknowledge their own needs and desires, reaching out to the reader as a participant in this journey. Morrison—from the narrator’s perspective—writes, “I can’t tell anyone that I have been waiting for this all my life and that being chosen to wait is the reason I can. If I were able I’d say it. Say make me, remake me. You are free to do it and I am free to let you because look, look. Look where your hands are. Now” (Jazz 224-229). This confrontation shocked me when I read it for the first time; Morrison designed a text that speaks for itself, with a voice of its own—the book claims it desires, rather than relies on language to recreate those feelings. It demands to be seen, to be looked at, to be cared for. We look at the book, and it looks back, and because of our engagement with a text, we then free it through our touch, through our interpretation. Text and reader are no longer separate, but entangled agents as we learn from them and they—perhaps in their own way—learn from us as the language embodies new meaning through interpretation.

This practice of guidance, self-discovery, empowerment, and collaboration allows learners to work on their terms, while the teacher facilitates that learning, creates a space of care and engagement, to allow the student to flourish. We must both set high expectations and give them students space to learn, rather than demand the knowledge be immediately built into their schemas. Student choice, then, becomes an act of care and collaboration, where we work with the student to build their critical thinking and literacy by working through their own thinking. Doing so ensures that the work is “real, [is] passionate, [is] chosen…the questions remains whether or not we are harnessing this energy—these interests—in our classrooms (Roberts 123-124). Just as we are both looking at a text and being looked at, just as interpretation is fluid within the reader and within the language, student-centered pedagogy stems from the acknowledgement that students and teachers have distinct roles in the classroom, and yet, are entangled in the process of learning. I can acknowledge a student’s needs and a student’s choices and design my instruction that relinquishes some authority to drive that student’s learning; in return, the student—like the narrator in Jazz—is allowed to be free.

We are both collaborating, coexisting, learning. I meet my student where they are, giving them the space to breath and rest so that they may take back control of their learning, that they may work on their terms in a way that supports them. It is both my classroom and theirs; they are free to learn, and I am free to measure that learning, even if the measurement occurs a week later, for I know the outcome will be better with the student driving the experience. With this collaborative entanglement, we can see deeply the dangers exclusion poses in our classrooms, and the role the teacher has in their unique power to create safe spaces from which the student’s full potential can bloom.

In Paradise, Morrison entrenches us in the dangerous position of refusing to learn, refusing to collaborate; but the Convent as a single entity composed of individual characters—both singular and multiple—ushers us towards noticing the acts of care that go into uplifting and accepting the other and the learning that propagates from that comfort. In the novel, community is both harmful and healing, as Ruby commits acts of collaborative violence, and the Convent dedicates itself to rest and healing. At the center of the Convent’s evocation of paradise, however, lies Connie’s paradoxical stance of both power and submission; Morrison writes, “[w]ith the aristocratic gaze of the blind she sweeps the women’s faces and says, ‘I call myself Consolata Sosa. If you want to be here you do what I say. Eat how I say. Sleep when I say. And I will teach you what you are hungry for.’” As a result, with “Consolata in charge, like a new and revised Reverend Mother, feeding them bloodless food and water alone to quench their thirst, they altered. They had to be reminded of the moving bodies they wear” (Paradise 262-263). Connie embodies the role the teacher takes as an authoritative figure, a role model, by creating the space and conditions conducive to learning, the space that catalyzes self-discovery and self-definition. By being a facilitator of the women’s ability to find their desires and self-love—to find what they yearn and hunger for, find the power within their own moving bodies—Consolata shapes the Convent into Paradise as it blossoms into a safe space conducive to this discovery, a space defined by both the community and the singular individual as one.

In this sense, then, the learner and educator do not inhabit completely hierarchical positions; our goal is to use the authority we hold to elicit deep and careful acts of learning, to create environments where learning can be nurtured. A topical example of this lies in the festering damages to American education seen in book bans; Ashley Hope Perez writes that “when adults attack books that center people with LGBTQ+ or non-white or non-dominant identities, they broadcast the message that stories about “these people” are not fit for school” (Perez). This example displays both the harms of exclusion and the necessity of inclusion. Censorship drives students into shadowy margins, drives them to feel alone, to feel unvalued, to feel unsafe. As educators, we must—like Connie—uplift our students, that they may feel at home in an environment where they can flourish, where they can grow. We may have authority, but that power does not necessitate conformity or complacency; rather, we can mobilize our position to shape spaces of safety and comfort, spaces conducive to learning.

As a result, through Morrison’s trilogy, I have seen the ways in which educators can meet students where they are to offer responsive praise and empowerment, the ways in which the collaborative entanglement between the student and teacher creates learning, the ways in which the necessity of safe spaces that bloom from the authority educators hold, can change a classroom’s culture, redefine the education we design.

A student should not wither away in the performance of their work. A student should not feel so neglected that we forget to give them praise, forget to uplift them. A student should not feel so marginalized, so separated and excluded from their learning, that they feel unvalued. The student I was working with was at this point of collapse, this point where—like Sethe—they could either continue to bear the pressure of their learning or engage in some form of rest, some form of encouragement, some form of healing. In that moment, I wanted to give the student their space, show the student the self-worth within them, show the student that we are working together in their learning and that they can drive their education, that in my classroom they can find comfort in a space conducive to their learning. The alternative was to leave them behind, to let another sleepless night build and build until they snapped, until learning was no longer enriching and mindful, but instead violent and harmful. It is through the collaborative both/and lens of Morrison’s trilogy and the social-emotional designs of educative spaces that we can achieve this empowerment, and shape a pedagogy that uplifts and facilitates learning.

Works Cited

Gallagher, Kelly and Penny Kittle. 180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents. Heinemann, 2018.

Morrison, Toni. Beloved. Vintage, 1987.

—. Jazz. Vintage, 1992.

—. Paradise. Vintage, 1997.

Perez, Ashley Hope. “DEFEATING THE CENSOR WITHIN: How to Hold Your Stand for Youth Access to Literature in the Face of School Book Bans.” Knowledge Quest, vol. 50, no. 5, 2022, p. 34–.

Roberts, Nora. A Novel Approach: Whole Class Novels, Student Centered Learning, and Choice. Heinemann, 2018.

The Both/And of Collaboration Through the Eyes of Toni Morrison

The practice of collaboration is one that far exceeds the classroom setting. Whether it is coming together to solve a workplace problem or simply sharing the load of a particularly difficult task, collaboration is a technique that will be with us far past the Bailey classroom that holds English 431. In class, collaboration focuses around the in-class essays that groups would equally work on, consulting one another and contributing ideas. In a perfect world, the share of the work would be equally distributed. Toni Morrison’s trilogy, BelovedJazz, and Paradise, were the primary focus of each essay. With such a heavy focus on Morrison’s work, it makes sense to look towards the wise author for an analysis on the both/and of collaboration. 

            It is important to first look at the collaboration process itself and the expectations surrounding working on a reflective essay in a group before dissecting how such a collaboration could be seen in a both/and context. In the guide, Reflective Writing, authors Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams, and Jane Spiro discuss the importance of finding your voice in reflective writing; they state: “since the focus of reflective writing is you, your thoughts and development, your readers want to hear your ‘voice’” (Williams, Woolliams, and Spiro, 27). I originally believed that working in a collaborative environment would make it difficult for me to share my voice and ideas to the extent that I wanted to. I believed my voice would be hidden in an essay with six to seven other writers. I am the type of writer that likes to sit down and allow all my words to flow out, sometimes in one big rush, and other times in slow spurts here and there. Since elementary school, I was taught that writing was individual. I became comfortable writing alone, sometimes consulting a professor for edits, but besides that, only trusting myself in finding what I wanted to say. In my mind, if there were multiple voices, my voice would be nonexistent. However, I was shocked by how once we reached the third collaborative essay, our voices began to flow and I felt heard and empowered by my group members. We discovered that it worked better to divide up paragraphs. We remained in discussion with each other in the process, making sure one paragraph would flow into the next. I felt heard and in sync with my peers. However, this is not exempt from the both/and way of looking at this process. While I felt heard, and believed that my other peers were working in good faith, the workload did not feel equally distributed among everyone. Members frequently missed group meetings and while I was nervous about hearing my voice in the paper, they did not seem to attempt to share their voice. I did not want to feel as if my voice was being pushed to the side and ignored, but I also did not want to only hear my voice in discussion with two or three peers. In a collaborative essay, all of our voices should have come together in harmony, at equal volumes, to create a work of art instead of being too concentrated by some. While this was frustrating, the majority of my group members contributed so many wonderful ideas and paragraphs, that we created an essay that was a product of multiple voices distributed evenly among those who wished to contribute. There is no right way or wrong way of collaboration. There is no good and bad. These ideas are evident in Toni Morrison’s work which highlights that not everything can be black or white, that there is no correct way to do one thing, and that minds are meant to be changed.

Each of Morrison’s works in her trilogy work to reveal that no one incident can be seen as truly good or truly bad and that sometimes the acts that we view as inherently evil, may not result in the justice we see fit. There is no one correct way that justice can be enacted either, as everyone has a different definition of what justice is. Toni Morrison’s stance of the idea of both/and is truly highlighted in her The New York Times discussion of her novel, Beloved, in which she states that Sethe’s murder of her infant daughter “‘was absolutely the right thing to do,… but she had no right to do it’” (Rothstein). While Sethe performed a heinous act, as a mother, she believed it was the only way to protect her child from a bleak, painful future that Sethe herself had. A murder as an act of selfless love on paper sounds like a contradiction, but Morrison shapes the character of Sethe without judgment, and traces this one act, and its consequences, across the entirety of Beloved. This act can both be terrible, cruel, and incomprehensible, and at the same time, be an act of love that puts Beloved’s life into consideration. In Sethe’s own words, speaking on the act of killing Beloved, Sethe reflects: “She had to be safe and I put her where she would be. But my love was tough and she back now” (Morrison 236). In Sethe’s mind, there was only one way to keep Beloved safe, and while it is an act that is traditionally unforgivable, it did not stem from aggression or violence. Sethe had experienced years of trauma inflicted by Schoolteacher and was put through pain and torture. In her mind, the death of Beloved was an act of love in order to protect her child from the torture she herself had to endure. Sethe’s actions cannot be judged out of context. She is not simply a mother who killed her baby girl. Sethe performed what she believed was a selfless act out of love. This scenario is Toni Morrison’s most significant case of both/and. Yes, Sethe is a murderer, but she is also a protector. She killed and she saved. Sethe is not a good mother or a bad mother, she is simply a mother.

Death seems to act as a quiet throughline through Morrison’s trilogy. In Jazz, a focal point of the novel is the murder of a young girl, Dorcas, by her older lover. At first glance, it is easy to assume that the lover, Joe, is deserving of a justice that entails imprisonment, suffering, any sort of pain that could equate to the loss of a young life and the effects of that act on her family. Somehow though, at the end of the novel, Joe living a happy life with his wife, Violet, seems deserved. Morrison artfully crafts Joe to also be seen as the victim of his love affair that had such an unfortunate, painful end. In the first few lines introducing Joe, Morrison explains how Dorcas’ aunt “found out that the man who killed her niece cried all day and for him and for Violet that is as bad as jail” (Morrison 4). Dorcas’ aunt is able to consider Joe’s suffering as punishment enough for the death of her niece. While Joe was the one who inflicted the pain upon Dorcas’ family, he was also caused to suffer. Joe’s impulse to kill Dorcas was rooted in his own pain, his own jealousy that Dorcas was no longer interested in him. Morrison does not make excuses for Joe, but she does give enough explanation of his background and his feelings to make the reader second guess their initial hatred and judgment towards the character. While it is easy to hate Joe for his actions, it becomes easier to also understand his motives and sympathize with his pain as well. Joe is not evil, but he is also not innocent. Morrison allows these two claims to live in harmony as she constructs Joe, not as a good man, but not as a bad one either. Through artfully crafting the character of Joe, as she did Sethe in Beloved, Morrison continues to show readers that not everything is black and white.

Collaboration is another practice that leaves no place for quick assumptions or judgment, as it offers an environment that allows for open discussion and the practice of good faith efforts. This analysis of the both/and of the collaboration process can be transferable to collaboration in the future in life outside of Geneseo. Working with others is unavoidable, but also allows for personal growth and is something that should be embraced, not shied away from. Collaboration was the overarching theme of this class and guided the workings of forming some of the most important thoughts of the Morrison novels. It was in discussion with peers that I was able to form a deeper understanding of the novels and foster my own ideas and opinions on the writing. As I now approach graduation, my work in this class has equipped me with the tools of working with others and has shown me the wonders of group work. When I look back at my years in college, I do not know if I will remember the words of Dante or the exact scenes crafted by Morrion, but I will remember coming together with my classmates in English 431, working together to create something beautiful that I could be proud of. 

The Importance of Collaboration

In the past, group work or projects have always been stressful and greatly dreaded for me. I have a hard time with any social interaction of this kind, and group assignments or collaborations have always made me very anxious. Much of the time in the past I would end up having to do lots of the work, which would not be fair to me or my peers. When first hearing about the collaborative essays for this class, I was very apprehensive and nervous about how they would go. Although I know that I am capable of collaborating with my peers, I have never been the best at it and had never done something like this specific group work before. During these collaborations, I often had the fear that I was not contributing enough to both the writing and the conversations, leaving most of the work to the other group members. I was nervous going into the collaborations, but after doing them I felt more confident in both my abilities as a writer and as a peer to my group members. I think that both reading Morrison’s work and collaborating in this class have taught me a lot about the ins and outs of working collaboratively with others.   

Beloved, Jazz and Paradise all show different yet similar versions of the both/and of collaboration. In each novel, there are characters who do something “bad” because they see it as morally justified, or the “right” thing to do. The reason behind each of these actions is very different, yet the reactions of those around them are somewhat similar. For many people, there is no justifiable reason behind taking someone else’s life, yet these characters all feel that they did the right thing, the necessary thing. Even if they feel guilty about it, they still think that they did what they needed to do. In Beloved, Sethe killed her baby in order to free it from the awful life she knew would have been ahead of it, and she does not feel any shame or guilt for her actions despite those around her thinking she should. In Jazz, Joe killed Dorcas because of how much he “loves” her, and although he feels guilty about his actions, he never expresses that he regrets them. In Paradise, the men of Ruby attack and kill the women from the Convent because of their perceived notion of justice, and while some of them seem to feel guilty, many of them just go on about their lives as if nothing happened. They all feel the good and the bad of their actions all at once. Sethe and Joe both loved so deeply that the only answer they saw was to kill said loved one. The men of Ruby loved their town and community so much that they felt attacking the Convent was the only answer. Yes, their reasons were still completely different, but the basis of it all was love, and how love being such a strong emotion can be both good and bad. 

With these examples, it seems as if Morrison is also trying to get into a deeper collaboration, the one between our head and our heart. Sometimes we act with our heart, and we end up doing something “bad” or something that we end up regretting. Many of these characters acted in the heat of the moment, not fully thinking about what they were going to do and what it would mean in the future. While many of them do not regret what they did, it does not mean that they possibly would not have done it if they were thinking with a clearer head. Our heart and our head are always working together, but sometimes one gets lost or overshadowed by the other and things get messy. Our emotions can easily cloud our judgment, and Morrison’s trilogy is a cautionary tale of this fact. Acting or thinking with our heart is not inherently a bad thing, however if we do it excessively it can lead to our own downfall. I think that this is all a very important lesson to learn, in every aspect of life. If we act or speak without truly thinking about what we are doing, we could be hurting not only ourselves but also those around us. Many people hurt the ones they love because of spur of the moment decisions, saying something they don’t mean or doing something that they didn’t fully think through. If we can learn to not let our heart act first all of the time, we can try and avoid problems like this in our lives. Learning to collaborate our heads and hearts when making decisions is something that will be important throughout our whole lives. 

There is both good and bad in collaboration, where working together can either be a huge aid or it can be a detriment. There are many times when we feel as if we could just do something on our own it would be better or easier, but there are also times that we are grateful for the help and ideas of others. In this trilogy, Morrison gives us many characters on both sides, some who do well interacting with those around them and some who do not. In Paradise, the basic idea of collaboration is a major theme that the story is essentially based around, and many of the characters are involved in some version of collaboration at some point. The older and younger generations fighting about the phrase on the Oven, most of them unwilling to even hear the other side of the argument. The women of the Convent, though seemingly united from the outside, are often at odds with each other. The original founders of the town, figuring out the rules and customs of their society, collaborating and compromising on what is best for their new little town. With all of these examples from Paradise, Morrison demonstrates both the good and bad things that can result from collaboration. Not everyone who is part of a group actually wants to be there and collaborate, and sometimes there is nothing you can really do to change that. I think that this is something important to remember when collaborating or working with others, as well as to try not to expect too much—or too little—from each other. If we set our expectations very high, we will just end up getting disappointed or frustrated that it was not what we thought it was going to be. If we refuse to listen to one another or to see another perspective, we will never be able to collaborate and we will just end up making things harder for ourselves and others. Refusing to collaborate also inhibits us from growing. If we never even attempt to look at things from someone else’s point of view, we will never be able to grow and change as people, which will greatly hurt us in the long run. Morrison shows us how great collaboration can be if done right, but also how disastrous it can be if not. Collaboration is extremely important, not only in our professional/academic lives but also in our personal ones, and it not going well can be much more important than we think. 

We are able to collaborate with something or someone even if we do not fully like or agree with them. Collaboration does not always mean agreement—it is simply the act of working together, which I think is something that Morrison frequently demonstrates in her writing, as well as in how she essentially collaborated with Dante when writing this trilogy. For example, throughout Paradise, the people of Ruby cannot decide on what to put on the Oven. No one in town can agree, and no one is willing to compromise. By the end of the novel, someone has put a phrase on it different from either that were previously argued, and everyone else in the town seemingly is fine with it. There was no specific collaboration on this phrase, however all of the residents of Ruby essentially collaborated by compromising their previous opinions, agreeing by not arguing or saying that they disagree with the new phrase. There is no definitive conclusion or collaboration, and yet they have still technically collaborated because someone made a decision and everyone else seems fine with it. Not necessarily agreement, but compromise. While this example is not exactly how collaboration should be done in most situations, it still demonstrates an important idea. That compromise is essential to collaboration, but agreement is not. We do not always need to agree on everything that our peers say and do; as long as we are willing to listen and possibly compromise, we can still work together and create something. While it can be important to be headstrong in our opinions and ideas, it is also important to not be so connected to them that we feel we are right about everything, becoming unwilling to compromise. These are skills that I think are very important to learn because working with others is something that we will almost certainly have to do at some point in our lives. While working with other people can be very difficult and stressful at times, these ideas can make it a little easier by helping us understand that it isn’t always about us and what we want or think is right. Sometimes the ability to listen and be open are the best skills to know. I have no idea where I will be in five plus years, what type of job that I will be working, what my life will be like. However, I know that these skills will almost certainly be relevant and important to have in order for me to do the best that I can. 

I have absolutely no clue what the path unfolding before me looks like, where it will lead me to, how my life will turn out. What I do know is that collaboration will be present in almost every aspect of my life, and learning the best ways to go about it is extremely important. With this trilogy, Morrison is trying to show us all of the both/ands of collaboration: the “rights” and “wrongs,” the good and bad, the relationship between logic and emotion, the importance of compromise and of openness. While some may be harder to apply or remember than others, they are all equally important skills that everyone should learn at some point in their lives. The ability to collaborate is one that will be important our entire lives, and Morrison shows us just how essential it is to understand the act of collaborating and to be able to do it well so that we can get the best possible results. 

Am I Atlas Or The Firmament?

A firmament is a material force, the touching of the sky, or, in Morrison and Dante’s works, the heavens to the ground below. This is, naturally, a terrifying concept for me. As a nineteen year old college student, it seems that we are consistently denied a place in building and forming the firmament. Politicians tell us we are too young to make decisions and speak out. We as students are seen as children incapable of acting with dignity, but still are expected to be productive adults to the system we are within. Frankly, I’m quite sick of this particular both/and pushed upon myself and my peers. For a tangible future where the sky will not rest on someone’s shoulders alone, like Atlas in Greek mythology, we must turn to one another for collaboration, for strength in numbers and the diverse ideas each person holds. Morrison proposes time and time again in her works that a collaborative both/and, where those with diverse ideas are allowed to speak and be heard in difficult conversations, is the best form of this. Her examination of justice in particular epitomizes the need to look outside of our own ideas.

In my time in this class, I have come to fully appreciate the value of collaborative work. Frankly, at the beginning of the semester, I was petrified by the idea of a group essay. I envisioned a process in which we would all argue about every word, appointing one person as a scribe and moving tediously through each section. However, this was not the case. I was relieved to find we had a more standard approach of dividing work, while also then bringing in a peer review process that enabled more views to be shared. My first essay with my first group didn’t go very smoothly, however.. For example, I thought it was important for our Beloved piece to write a detailed piece on Dante’s ideas of punishment in contextualization of his own guilt. Rather than making a case for this as Morrison’s baseline for her judgment of this system, I wrote another, focusing on the idea of punishment. However, while in retrospect I can see how this was better for the paper itself, I wish that the group as a whole had allowed for more conversations.  I am not innocent in this, as I also advocated for cutting certain parts to cut down the paper. We cut several sections of this paper rather than critically examining people’s ideas, such as shortening the piece on the contemporary criminal justice system. Therefore, it can both be beneficial to engage in these critical group assignments, and acknowledging that it isn’t always the ideal solution. In this, I learned to ask for what I need in order to flourish with projects like this. When Professor McCoy asked for honest feedback on the group work, I answered rather guilty that I thought it might be beneficial for me to see how other groups worked with one another and gain a broader understanding on the project. With this new advancement, I found that I was able to flourish within another group. I believe that the key to making sure these projects can work is carefully selecting people who will work well together. Of course this also requires trial and error, and I discovered that I work better in a more discussion based group. 

Within the text of Morrison’s trilogy itself, the idea of the both/and is emblematic of the themes of the work. For example, one topic we touched on briefly in class and much more in small group discussions is the idea of justice. Most people, in the padlet responses and onward, were firm in their definitions of justice, myself included. For Beloved, many believed that Paul D should have not been allowed to just get away with his sexual relationship with Beloved. But what is the alternative? This is the conundrum we were confronted with as readers in the case of Joe Trace. While we like to believe we could serve as judge, jury, and perhaps executioner in these cases, we are inherently shaped by our own internal biases. While we can struggle and insist upon justice being delivered in these works, it is clear that no form of it would have been possible. Looking back, Professor McCoy was attempting to hint at this with the feedback from our first group project, where she wrote “I am inviting each and every one of you to put a pin in this line, and leave it where you can remember to find it when we get to Paradise: ‘Morrison seems to suggest that there is no such thing as Divine Justice, and this idea is just that: a literary device”. Morrison is the master of the both/and, particularly in literary criticism. While we as readers may yearn for justice, or ask ourselves why, justice simply cannot be fairly distributed and served. The so-called justice system today is incredibly corrupt and biased against minorities, particularly people of color. Everyone’s responses to the idea of justice within the initial padlet called for either ostracization or imprisonment of Joe Trace. However, the context the majority of us failed to take into account initially is that Joe Trace is a Black man in 1920s Manhattan. An officially condoned enforcement of justice would inherently harm him. Who can say that the police, perceiving a Black man who murdered a young white-passing girl, wouldn’t simply murder him upon finding him? Where would this leave Violet, a Black woman whose only source of income is sporadic hairdressing sessions? It is made clear within Jazz itself that the community will not support Violet, both for her husband’s actions and her manic attack of Dorcas’ body. If Joe was arrested, she would have no financial or social support from her community. This is the same issue with the banishment option. If Joe leaves town, he either has to bring his grieving wife with him, trapping her further within a social setting where no one, not even Alice, will offer her relief from his company, or leave her behind. Neither can live without some form of support, whether it be from each other, their family, or society. Either way, this does not bring justice to Dorcas or Violet. The both/and has never been clearer; Joe simultaneously deserves to be brought to justice, but a fair punishment is impossible. Morrison’s examination of justice exhibits her control of the both/and within her writing itself.

The earlier portion of this piece was the easiest, as I struggle with self reflection most of the time. I tend to lean more towards condemnation on skills I must continue working on rather than those I’ve learned throughout the semester and my life. To complete this, I turned back to and reread the Reflecting Writing resource given. I learn best when analyzing people’s written feedback, so I went back through the comment history of the Jazz/Purgatory collaboration. As expected, my immediate reaction was to be apologetically mortified in response to constructive criticism. I find that this sensation is muted, however, when it is in writing. Somehow it feels less defensive if someone simply suggests something in text rather than having to look at someone. This is, admittedly, not the healthiest coping skill for my writing progress, but I’m working on it. For example, with the Paradise/Paradiso piece, when I was out for the day, I was worried I was falling behind. So when we came back the following Friday, I asked what in the sections I’d already written could be improved on and how I could further help. Asking for someone to proofread my piece is horrifying, but ultimately makes my writing more cohesive and comprehensible. I don’t have to work by myself, holding the firmament up by myself. I am also now more comfortable giving feedback. For our Jazz essay, we initially had a section that suggested that Joe Trace purposely set out with the intention to purge Dorcas’ sin from his body by murdering her. Upon rereading the book, however, I realized that Joe didn’t obviously set out to kill Dorcas, but rather to get her back as an affair partner. Following this revelation, I nervously pointed this out in the comment section of the paper. To my surprise, this was immediately accepted by the others once they reread the pertinent sections, and they even thanked me for noticing this. 

The both/and epitomized by Morrison’s writing has finally become clear to me with these projects. While I still am apprehensive about giving and receiving feedback, I recognize that this is necessary to actually improve. If everyone was too focused on their own insecurities with their writing, then we wouldn’t be able to help point out areas of improvement for others. No one can stand alone in any process, let alone with writing. Morrison, in showcasing the value of not relying entirely on one piece or another, whether it be ideas of justice or in writing, is a valuable resource for examining our own internal biases and anxieties. When we allow for other people to share their thoughts on the world at large and our own work, we can become part of the firmament. The sky does not stand alone, but rather we all must hold it up together, gradually melding into it. Once we accept that we cannot hold it alone, we can join the others there, becoming the firmament itself.

“All you have to do is heed the design—the way it’s laid out for you, considerate, mindful of where you want to go and what you might need tomorrow”: Morrison Firmament Essay

As I sit and type this essay and consider what I have learned, who I have become, what Morrison’s work has taught me, and how I will move forward, I have been faced with the realization that my journey of academe for my undergraduate degree is coming to an end, as is my time sitting in a classroom. It is a startling revelation that I am, once again, at the threshold of something new and thrilling, but something I ask myself… am I prepared for? The path before me is one I always anticipated, but I was never quite sure how to face the apprehension that precursed it. I am graduating in seventeen days, as I write this, and I will become a member of the workforce, I will begin graduate school, and in the next year, I will more than likely become a full-time teacher and become the one who guides students through the beauties, complexities, and inspiring world of literature. In these last two years I have spent at the State University of New York at Geneseo, I look back and feel gratitude for the knowledge and experience that I have gathered from mentors, peers, and experiences, and it is then I think on Morrison’s work, the both/and present within it, and the collaboration I have been a part of in the study of her work and all that it has granted me as I stand at the threshold of the rest of my life as an educator, a writer, a student, a thinker – a human being. In this collaboration and the both/and present in it, I have found appreciation for the craft of writing, admiration in being a part of a team, and kindness in my work. I have also found the both/and of Beloved, Jazz, and Paradise’s alignment with Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy and the various emotions and ideas present within it – using this both/and as a guide in my own future.

The first day of collaboration for the essay on Morrison’s Beloved was one that has remained in the spaces in between memories of fondness and knowledge in my mind. Having worked in groups before for academic assignments, I found that it was always accompanied by a feeling of dread that either I would not feel united with the group or my work would not be level with the group’s standards or expectations. Being a part of this collaboration was quite the opposite. Morrison’s work had a way of uniting the group with literary analysis, conversations in attempting to figure out certain meanings, or asking for guidance in writing on the findings. 

Morrison’s work has a brilliant complexity to it that always keeps one on their toes. The entirety of her writing is a pelago of text, so it was therefore essential to be consistently thinkING and to consider the both/and. With Morrison’s work, there was the both/and of both growth and pain, both horror and light, both wisdom and confusion, both isolation and collaboration. It is writing that at times has left me stranded and other times has been the rescue ship to an island of comprehension. In these collaborations, there was also the both/and of Dante and the relationships between texts. An example of this is in the collaborative essay of Morrison’s Paradise and Dante’s depiction of justice and the eagle’s brow. When the Eagle states, “Now who are you to sit upon the bench, / to judge events a thousand miles away, / when your own vision spans so brief a space?” (Par. 19.79-81), it is the question of divine justice and the lack of capability of humans to handle this matter, which connects to the both/and of the conflict around the Oven in Morrison’s Paradise and the both/and of interpretation and collaboration of its meaning. Similarly, in the collaborative essay regarding Morrison’s Jazz, it was the both/and of the seven terraces holding the three types of failed love – misdirected, deficient, or excessive – that directly connect to the both/and of Jazz’s Joe, Violet, and Dorcus and their intricate love triangle. It was the both/and of suffering and lust, pain and love, and forgiveness and hate. This coexistence, this both/and of emotions serves as “a sickness in the house—everywhere and nowhere” (Morrison 28) but still allows Joe and Violet to find their way back to one another. There is also the both/and of Beloved in Paul D’s imprisonment, which serves to emphasize Morrison’s examination of the contrapasso in Dante’s Inferno. In Paul D’s imprisonment chapter, Morrison parallels the imagery of Canto XVIII, using the both/and, and reverses the rationale behind the punishments administered in the Malebolge. In Dante’s Inferno, Dante implies that one is justly punished for the sins one committed in life, while in Morrison’s Beloved, it is argued that enslaved people are subjected to an undeserved, though similar torture. Through Paul D’s imprisonment, Morrison uses the both/and of exposing the institution of whiteness as they use their power to unjustly punish those they deem as inferior – which was discussed in the collaborative group I was a part of. There was both/and in all of Morrison’s work, and there was both/and that was present throughout the collaborative process.

In the question of what Morrison’s work has told me about the both/and of collaboration, it lies in one core idea: you must figure it out before you figure it out – using Morrison’s words. There is always something that you must understand and form connections with in order to connect it to something else – an idea, a thought, a discovery. Collaboration is bonded by understanding, growth, and patience. It is something that simply cannot be accomplished without standing at the threshold of something much larger.

I found Morrison’s work to be a doorway with an unknown destination waiting on the other side. The both/and of her work is the understanding and acceptance that part of that both/and will not be fully understanding. Prior to this class, I felt that I needed to understand. Not understanding, not having answers, and not knowing what was truly the ‘correct’ interpretation plagued my mind and abandoned me with helplessness and frustration. After reading Morrison’s work, it has granted me the gift of being content in not knowing – in not understanding. Perhaps the ‘thing I needed to figure out before I figured it out’ was simply the idea that a part of that both/and is fully comprehending what a text is trying to convey while simultaneously not understanding at all, at least not at first. Morrison’s work has thrown me into the unknown and kept me comfortable there. I think of Morrison’s words in Jazz as I think about what I have learned on the both/and collaboration of Morrison’s work, as she wrote “All you have to do is heed the design—the way it’s laid out for you, considerate, mindful of where you want to go and what you might need tomorrow” (Morrison 9). These words sit with me as I consider all that Morrison’s work has taught me and all that I have learned in the collaborative process regarding her work with my peers in the class. As a group, on three separate occasions, the collaboration I was a part of regarding Beloved, Jazz, and Paradise has solidified my understanding of the both/and, and I have found that both/and within myself. 

As my own graduation with my Bachelor’s Degree approaches, I am once again standing at the threshold – this time, it is something so substantial, so terrifying, that I find myself hesitating before I inevitably walk through. I think of Morrison’s work as I am about to walk through, though, and find myself holding onto the insight I have gathered that I will bring with me in what lies ahead. In the upcoming years, I will continue to be a student until my graduation with my Master’s. I will be an English teacher. I will be a wife. I will be an artist. I will be a poet. I will be whatever else I find myself capable of. But with these titles, I carry with me several skills of the both/and. Firstly, both patience and forgiveness. Morrison’s work and the pelago that it is have taught me to have the both/and of commitment to understanding what I can and patience in not understanding what I cannot. Even in the group collaboration, there was a consistent, unspoken understanding that not knowing is precisely the power of the novel at hand and the reason the collaboration was happening in the first place. I have applied this patience and forgiveness to myself as a student in the last semester and will continue to apply it as I become the one to teach students. It was not until recently that I knew what it meant to have forgiveness with myself over work I did not understand – work that perhaps the whole point of it was to not understand – and I will be sure to inform my students of this same idea. It is okay not to know, as long as the both/and of kindness to oneself and allowing the not understanding is present. Collaboration will be a key component of my classroom, too, as I will aim to have the same style of group work that was present in ENGL 431 and encourage the same both/and of kindness, encouragement, and understanding in each group. There were countless moments in the collaborative essay-based classes of this class when I felt content with navigating work that felt foreign to me, as I had others alongside me who felt much the same way. There was unspoken guidance between us, amongst us, that I would love to carry with me as I navigate academe in a different environment.

Morrison wrote, “What’s the world for you if you can’t make it up the way you want it?” and I think of this and the both/and I have learned from the collaboration of this class. I hold onto the both/and of fear and excitement for what the future holds as I hold Morrison’s words at my side. At the beginning of this class, for the Thresholds essay, I wrote of Virgil’s words in Dante’s Inferno: “I think it best you follow me / for your own good, and I shall be your guide / and lead you out through an eternal place” (Dante 112-114) and I find it was Morrison and those in this classroom with me that served as the ‘guide’ through both/and Morrison’s works and this last semester of college. Collaboration has offered me the both/and of my own confidence in my writing, my understanding, and of myself. Why not “climb up this blissful mountain here” (Dante 76-77) and take the both/and of collaboration and apply it to all aspects of life thereafter? Why not be my own “special thing”?

The Dichotomy of Me

Collaboration is a process meant to bring together different individuals for the purpose of producing work that transcends the abilities of one, singular person. That being said, many collaborations can fail to do this, the process being a double-edged sword. Where a positive, successful collaboration can allow each individual to shine, giving them the opportunity to highlight the thing they do best when propped up by the best of someone else, a negative collaboration will relegate some, if not most, collaborators to the shadows. When Morrison introduces new characters in each book of her trilogy, there is always someone who is caught in the throes of toxic collaboration. In Beloved, there is Denver; In Jazz, Felice; In Paradise, Mavis. At the start of each of their journeys, every one of these women are forced to silence their voices and quietly long for a peaceful existence that appears constantly out of reach. While these women embarked on their own quests of self-discovery, I went through my own metamorphosis, learning to thrive alongside them. I embraced the tenacity of Denver, the persistence of Mavis, and the independence of Felice. Most of all, I saw myself in the way Morrison brought these characters into the light as they learned to assert themselves and embrace the concept of positive collaboration, eventually using these tools to confront the wider world with their hearts on their sleeves.

The first of the characters the reader encounters is Denver. Denver is the daughter of Sethe, and is the only one of her children to not have died or abandoned her. Prior to the present day of Beloved, Sethe entered a self-imposed exile as punishment for killing the baby Beloved. Since Sethe is in exile, Denver is as well, leaving this quiet girl in a stifling environment where she cannot learn the power of collaboration. For so much of her life, she has been stuck with only her mother for company, and while she sticks by her out of a sense of love and duty, there is no room for fresh perspectives to blossom. This is how I thought my first collaboration would go: me, following a group blindly, voice snuffed out in favor of those who had multiple semesters to forge relationships with each other.  Additionally, once someone hits their mid-twenties, “the brain’s plasticity solidifies… this can mean it’s tougher to learn new skills” (Virtanen 2022). As a recently turned twenty-year old, this means that my capacity to break out of a toxic mindset and learn to collaborate is on the clock; in other words, if I do not rectify my mistakes now, like Denver, I will be cemented in the firmament as one who perpetuates a toxic collaborative mindset. It is at this moment that Dante can be turned to, shedding a light on the fate of both Denver and myself. In the early Cantos of the Divine Comedy, Dante and his guide Virgil prepare to cross the River Acheron, truly kicking off the pilgrim’s voyage from the depths of Hell to the doorways of Paradise. As Dante looks on the impending journey with fear, Virgil says, “… they want to cross the river, they are eager; it is Divine Justice that spurs them on, turning the fear they have into desire” (Canto III, lines 124-126). The main idea of this quote is that in order to overcome the toxicity of one’s mindset, they must desire change more than they fear it. In fact, wading through a river of pain and coming out on the other side can go as far as being rejuvenating. This is certainly true for Denver, who braves the outside world for the first time since she shut herself in for the sake of saving her family. Now, I must turn that question inwards: is my desire to participate in a positive collaboration stronger than my self-doubt? It should be said that stepping out of one’s comfort zone is the most daunting aspect of collaboration, but as demonstrated by Denver, sometimes it is necessary to achieve one’s goals. After all, knowing when to speak up and exercise one’s own judgment is just as important as sitting back and listening. In the end, Denver comes to the conclusion that she needed to leave the toxic collaborative cycle within her household for her own sake. By doing this, Denver has taken charge over her own destiny and sense of self, armed with the knowledge of how to put herself out into the world and find the pieces to create a positive collective in the future. Through her, I can learn to do the same. 

While Denver gets the opportunity to choose positive collaboration for herself, others such as Felice are forced to learn via life’s circumstances. I certainly know what this is like, having to adjust my personal concepts of collaboration as I’ve progressed through time. If there is one thing I have come to know, it is that flexibility is key; that is why I can relate to Felice, who represents another facet of a toxic collaboration: complacency. When Morrison introduces Felice, it is in the context of a grieving best friend. Initially, this is par for the course, however as the plot moves along, it is revealed that Dorcas had the tendency to steamroll Felice. Whereas in Beloved, all characters played a role in the collaboration, regardless of how healthy it was, in Jazz, Dorcas is in the driver’s seat, and it is not until her death when Felice’s true feelings become known. This makes sense, as Felice was a lonely girl, and when one is lonely they tend to gobble up any scraps of relationship they can get, as it is better than solitude. While Felice had suspicions about the true colors of Dorcas for a while, she chose to remain compliant in favor of maintaining the short term remedy of companionship. There is something to be said about someone who realizes when it is time to leave a toxic collaboration and is resigned to loneliness, however I, like most humans in this situation, am a masochist. Caught in an unbalanced friendship until the day of Dorcas’ death, Felice felt nothing but anger. Dorcas never took her ideas, thoughts, and opinions seriously, so why should she care that she died? One might say she got what she deserved. By holding onto this anger, Felice bottled up her emotions, effectively closing herself off to the possibility of rediscovering the joys of collaboration in the future. It is not until her final conversation with Joe, where he encourages her to forge her own path, that she regains direction that she previously lost. Collaboration is all about the balance between taking center stage and fading into the background. Felice has been in the background for too long, and now that she has met the likes of Joe and Violet, who will not ignore her strengths, she finally has the chance to shine. As Felice begins a new chapter focused on her own wants and needs, Dante can be turned to once again. While Felice is an independent figure, Dante says “the other three, who see more deeply, will instruct her sight.” (Canto XXXI, lines 109-110). Even though Felice deserves to focus on herself, going through life without anyone to lean on can be a burden. As this quote reminds the audience, it is important to recognize that through collaboration, we achieve self-betterment through seeing another’s point of view. It can be hard to change if you deliberately surround yourself with people who will stifle your voice. I, like Felice, have learned the hard way that it is necessary to find those that will prop you up. Without that mutual respect between collaborators, it is impossible for any meaningful collaboration to take place. 

The last character to be released from the clutches of a toxic collaboration was Mavis in Paradise. Much like Felice before her, Mavis was a passive participant in the collaborative process. Similar to Denver, she realized the harm of the collaborative cycle whilst she was entrenched in it. The thing that sets her apart from these two is that while the aforementioned girls were able to make amends with people who contributed to the unhealthy environment, Mavis realized that in order to flourish, she must remove herself from the situation entirely. Once again, this is extremely brave, as knowing when to remove oneself from a mentally debilitating situation is hard. I know firsthand that in a toxic collaboration, seeds of paranoia will be planted in your brain and continue to grow until you reach your breaking point. Mavis certainly reached this breaking point, knowingly remaining in her abusive marriage, the guilt of her past sins haunting her, ensuring that she would never break this cycle. Because of that, it is not until she reaches the Convent when she is able to reassess her life and approach to collaboration. Over the course of her time at the Convent, Mavis gradually lets go of her rigid nature and cautious approach to collaboration, letting loose and discovering who she really is. In the section Divine, following one of her many spats with Gigi, Mavis sits in the bathroom, thinking idly about her daily errands and arguments with the other girl. Through this moment of self-reflection, Mavis realizes she has grown so much, “that the old Mavis was dead” (Paradise 171). To quote a prominent figure from the twenty-first century who echoes this sentiment, “the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now/ “Why? Oh, ‘cause she’s dead!” (Swift 2017). Seeing as both these modern lyrics and Morrison’s sentiments from 1997 carry the same message, it shows how the idea of reinvention through collaboration is transcendent. It is one thing to know when one is caught in a toxic collaboration, but it is another thing to use that knowledge as motivation to become a better version of oneself. Mavis is able to do it, going from a passive participant to an outspoken contributor. In fact, the lesson Mavis learned is perhaps the most profound: collaboration can be as simple as surrounding oneself with people who will bring out the best in them. If these characters can do it, why can’t I? 

As I learn from these characters, observing their trials and triumphs, I have to remember to look inward. I can relate to the independence, persistence, and tenacity of these characters all I want, but it is not until I apply these tools to my own collaborations that any meaningful work can be done. It does not matter if I see myself one way, in the shadows, if I do not actively work to bring that side of me into the light. I can confidently say that if I succeeded at nothing else in this class, I have succeeded at that. Self-doubt may be the most toxic inhibitor to collaboration of all. However, with each group collaboration, that inner voice was silenced. I know this essay will not be the most technically brilliant, nor will it contain revolutionary ideas that change how we perceive the texts covered in this class. This essay will not even be the one most littered with flowery metaphors. That is okay. I know who I am, and I know the writer I want to be. I am aware of what I bring to the table, and I know how those thoughts can help my fellow collaborators reach inside the well of creation to make an imperfect masterpiece. I have the power of my own self worth, and that knowledge is the most powerful tool of all. 

Works Cited 

Dante. “Canto III.” Inferno , edited by Mark Musa, Penguin Books/Penguin Group, New York, NY, 2003, pp. 89–96. 

Dante. “Canto XXXI.” Purgatorio  , edited by Mark Musa, Penguin Books/Penguin Group, New York, NY, 2003, pp. 330–342. 

Morrison, Toni. Beloved. Vintage Books, 1987. 

Morrison, Toni. Jazz. Vintage Books, 1992. 

Morrison, Toni. Paradise . Vintage Books , 1997. 

Swift, Taylor. “Taylor Swift – Look What You Made Me Do (Lyric Video).” YouTube, 24 Aug. 2017, 

Virtanen, Aurora. “The Magic of Brain Plasticity: Why It’s Never Too Late to Learn!” Growth Engineering, 23 Nov. 2022,’s%20strongly%20believed%20that%20once,tougher%20to%20learn%20new%20skills. 

Both Happy it is Done, And Sad to be Moving Forward

As past-Meghan crossed the threshold into this course, she was filled with passion, intrigue, and an endless list of questions, wondering where the road laid out in front of her would lead. As I stand here today, looking out into the vast openness of the future, I long to be back where I was in January; and that is not to say I would like to lose what I have learned and gained, but to be wrapped in the safe and comforting arms of a fresh start. With only a few months of summer separating me from my final semester of college (before graduate school, which is a whole other story), I feel that both/and is probably the most accurate way to sum up this mass of unmanageable emotions swirling in my mind. I find myself feeling both happy to be done, and sad to be moving forward. This contradictory statement would not be something I normally admit so openly, but based on what I have learned thus far, I find that this statement actually brings me comfort, and I can relate to those that have experienced this similar feeling before me.

New to me this semester, among many things, was this concept of both/and. Intended to make room for multiple people’s experiences, both/and does not promote wallowing, but instead creates breathing room to work through these experiences. Toni Morrison explores this concept of both/and through her trilogy including Beloved, Jazz, and Paradise, while applying the both/and in alignment with Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. As a reader of literature, I am constantly looking for connections where there might not be, and in the case of Morrison and Dante, while I may have previously doubted the connection, I now can see that Morrison was able to both build off of, and add to, Dante’s famed work. This creates an element of collaboration between Morrison and Dante, and makes me think of my own experiences with collaboration, where you both guide yourself and let yourself be guided by others.

The collective idea of collaboration is universal, intended to bring together unlikely allies and create a culmination of unique ideas. This practice is at the heart of Morrison’s work, and similarly, my own. My success this semester is a result of my collaborative experiences, and the appreciation that I have gained for a shared effort like this is immeasurable. Not only have I experienced successful collaboration first-hand, I have read about it in the works of Morrison herself. Even in fiction collaborations remain tried and true. For the collaborative essay regarding Beloved, my favorite text of this semester, my group members and I took a deep dive into the story of Paul D; one of the text’s main characters who, at one point in the novel, was imprisoned and faced a great deal of suffering before escaping with his fellow prisoners. Finding a guide in fellow prisoner Hi-Man, the men take their opportunity amidst a rainstorm, relying only on each other to escape the brutality of their imprisonment, “Some lost direction and their neighbors, feeling the confused pull of the chain, snatched them around. For one lost, all lost. The chain that held them would save all or none, and Hi Man was the Delivery” (Morrison 130). As Paul D. and the others put their faith in each other, they were able to do the unthinkable; guiding one another away from the horrors they were enduring and taking their lives into their own hands. Reliance is something that does not come easy to a lot of people, especially in a collaborative effort where the purpose is to rely not just on yourself, but on others to lead the movement towards success.

As we progressed through the semester, and onto our next collaborative essays, I found myself in a much better headspace, feeling significantly more willing to place my trust in other people and our abilities as a group. We entered into the world of Jazz, my other favorite text of the course. Jazz was not easy, however, for encountering a story without justice for a powerless young woman is a painful story to explore in depth. As we approached this text in alignment with Dante the Poet’s Purgatorio, we ventured into a whole new realm of collaboration. While not so much a collaboration, more of a shared experience which is at the heart of the both/and concept; husband and wife, Violet and Joe Trace are haunted by the presence of Dorcas, Joe’s young lover who he murdered, “And a dead girl’s face has become a necessary thing for their nights. They each take turns to … tiptoe over cold linoleum into the parlor to gaze at what seems like the only living presence in the house: the photograph of a bold, unsmiling girl staring from the mantlepiece” (Morrison 34). As we explored this text and the harrowing story of a young girl taken advantage of, we explored how the couple felt both trapped and in a sense freed by this lingering presence hanging over their marriage, which brought them to a new stage in their lives. The idea of modern day justice has made me think aggressively towards Joe Trace, the arguable villain of this text, while relatives of Dorcas like her Aunt Alice are merely satisfied by the physical atonement and lamentation of Joe’s tears and so-called sadness over his crime, symbolizing her willingness to not wallow in this moment. It is rather interesting how one can be both relieved that something is over, and sad that it has happened, is it not?

Transitioning from Jazz to Morrison’s final in the trilogy Paradise, was something that I was rather quite looking forward to, but is now something I look back on with disdain. The hardest text for me to read and comprehend, Paradise brought forward a brand new form of collaboration, not just in the text, but in my real life experience as well. In this novel, it is conflict that breeds collaboration, and the townsfolk in Ruby were not able to come together to unite in collaboration until there was violent conflict. For my group, meeting for the final time, we were riding the low of our Jazz collaborative experience, where I fear we spent too much time flailing around in the weeds. It felt as if we were starting completely anew, much like the younger generation of Ruby who had to create a new platform for the people to stand on, moving away from the outdated experiences of the older, “‘It’s our history too, sir. Not just yours”’ (Morrison 86). Concerned for the progress of the town, the younger generation took great care in determining their place in the community. In a similar way, my group was hoping to use the experience of previous collaborations to come together for a final time, strengthened by our received feedback and optimism for what we could create. Unfortunately for the townspeople, it took an aggressive pursuit of the estranged Convent women for them to realize the error of their ways. This pursuit was a darker representation of successful collaboration as the older generation became united in their anger and took it out on these innocent women. Following this, there is a semblance of collaboration as they realize the error of their ways and intend to maintain the Oven as a representation of their community, “The graffiti on the hood of the Oven now was ‘We are the furrow of His brow’” (Morrison 361). The collective “we” speaks to a future of unity, and when I speak of “we” in regards to my collaborative experiences, I am drawn to the power of eight minds coming together as one.

With the semester coming to a close, I prepare to leave another collection of completed classes in my rearview. I think back on all this class has taught me about myself as a student, a future teacher, and a reader of literature. These parts of my identity are integral to my future in all realms, providing me with the strength I need to succeed. As these elements were confronted with the task of a collaborative essay I felt feelings of both nervousness and excitement as this is something I had yet to experience in my time as a student. In my education classes, there is much time spent in collaborative groups, but at the end of the day, when I become a teacher it is just me in front of 30 young children who expect me to know what to do day-to-day for 10 months. I am not used to relying on others, especially in regards to exploring such texts as Morrison has written. As seen in these texts, the act of collaborating appears in many different ways and contributes to the difficult task of committing oneself to multiple other people in order to achieve a common goal. I cannot speak for Morrison herself, I can only take what her texts have shared with me, which is that collaboration can be embedded in the most unique of stories and experiences. It is intended to both create new paths, and alter the ones that have already been laid out.

As current-Meghan prepares to cross the threshold into the future she continues to be filled with passion, intrigue, and an endless list of new questions. However, I am armed now with a whole new set of experiences that have provided me with an extremely full toolbox of skills regarding my ability to be a contributing member of a variety of collaborative experiences. As someone who regards herself as quite an introvert, struggling to accept the power I hold, I look back with pride on my experiences in this course, feeling that what I leave behind are productive moments and essential contributions. I remain feeling both happy to be done with this semester, and sad to be moving forward, unsure of what waits for me in the coming months and years, but feeling that with these newly developed skills regarding collaboration, I will be facing none of this unknown by myself.

Firmament Essay

In all three of Morrison’s works that we read for this class, there was an element of both/and that taught me something about collaboration. The first work that we read and collaborated on was a both/and of doing the right thing. The second work we collaborated on taught me about the both/and of love and finding yourself. The final work we collaborated on taught me about the both/and of justice and seeing what others see.

Morrison’s first work that we discussed in class was Beloved, which was centered around an act that the right thing to do was not the character’s right. The collaboration around this work helped me to understand the both/and that Morrison had set up, as well as teaching me that both/and. The right thing to do in the book was for the children to die, even if it was not the main character’s right to kill the children. The right thing to do in this collaboration was to let others tell me how they view the book, even if it is not the same way I see it.

Throughout this collaboration, my mind was changed on how I see Paul D, a main character in the first book. I saw him at first as a cold and violent figure that had no business in 124. To me, he was a man with excuses for how he treats others and how he sees the world. Once this collaboration started and I began talking to peers about Paul D more in depth, I began to understand Paul D a little more. “These dehumanizing acts led to the version of Paul D seen in 124 that is often violent and cold, and depicts the world around him as Hell” (Beloved collaboration). As the collaboration progressed and we really had to settle into how we as a group were going to talk about Paul D, I began to understand that he was both a victim and a human. Paul D is cold and violent because that was the way his world was for a very long time, he is a victim of his environment. He is also only human, even if he is a fictional character created by Morrison. She was able to show his humanity through the cold acts, because he thought he was doing the right thing by keeping people away from himself. The both/and of this collaboration helped me to understand that people will always see the world differently from me, but I should hear all sides before deciding. 

The second work that we collaborated on was Jazz and to me this work focused on love and what love is not. Both Morrison and Dante focused on the types of love and feelings that come with being human. Love cannot be mapped out and planned like traveling to and from work, even though we were able to map the stories on to each other. Love and feelings are a both/and of being human, you have to love both the people you want to love and you have to love yourself. Just as Joe moves through the story to find his forgiveness and love for himself, I moved through the story to find my own feelings and to understand the feelings of others. 

Through the story, I often could relate to Joe as he found himself working through the stages of changing. I have changed many times throughout my life, each time taught me something both new and old about myself. “A lack of a father figure was a significant source of envy for Joe as a child and young man, and having someone in that role purges Joe of his envy, directly mapping to the progression of the terraces of Mount Purgatory.” (Jazz Collaboration page 3). In my life I have had to separate from my family to better myself, similarly to how Joe had to find a family. The change in my life from being surrounded by a toxic family to having the family I chose was significant to my understanding that Joe found his own family and therefore found himself. 

Throughout the collaborative process, I found out that many of my group members also felt that Joe was depicting how it feels to be human and be in love. Joe was holding on to the love that was lost with Violet, just as he was letting go of the lust he felt with Dorcas. We have all felt the pain of losing a love you thought you could keep, it is about growing into yourself and finding who you are. Being human is about accepting who you are along with the faults you have. 

The third and final work that we collaborated on was Paradise which taught me to be who I am and stand my ground against others. The both/and of this work was to both stand up for what is right and to understand that not everyone will see eye to eye on everything. The parts that stood out to me from the actual work were the parts around belief and what scripture means. The citizens of this town are divided on the meaning of a line of scripture from long ago days, oh so similarly to the real life divide of religion. I grew up in a religiously divided family, I can relate to that societal pressure of how words are written versus how they are translated. “Oven shifts its purpose after the rebuilding, a symbolic gesture of the origins of the Convent, yet the rebuilding of the Oven signifies something much larger than a simple plaque with the motto of the community” (Paradise Collaboration page 2). As I grew up and grew into my own beliefs, I started to understand the divide, every side wanting to be correct and the older generations wanting to preserve what they understand. I grew into myself and my religious views; as I read the book, I felt myself remembering the times when I was unsure and following what I felt was right. 

The collaboration for this work taught me how to see what others see without taking it to heart. I understand that collaboration is about working together and blending multiple ideas and views; but at times it is important to believe what you do and not let others influence you. I can hear out the many different explanations for what happens and why, but I am allowed to understand it and interpret it in the way I want to. That is why collaboration is important, it can change you, solidify your thoughts or any combination of things. 

All of these collaborations taught me that both being present and listening to my peers is the best way to learn and to teach. In becoming a teacher throughout my time as a college student, I have learned that communication is one of the most important tools you will ever need. Discussing the works in this class changed my perspective on being right, giving and receiving love and seeing what others see. When I am a teacher in the fall, I will remember that collaboration changes people’s perspective on even the smallest things. You do not always have the right to do the right thing, sometimes you have to leave it up to others to do it right. Showing how you love comes in many ways, as well as learning about who you are through that love. Finally, you do not always have to see the same things the same way as everyone else, but do respect how they see things and listen to them. I can not wait to take these lessons with me through my teaching career and see what unfolds before me through these lessons I can now teach my students.

Pensively Collaborating

I have come to realize that I don’t hate group assignments, but rather, I have this recurring fear of either doing too much work or too little work. Every time a group assignment is announced, I can feel my heart sink to my stomach because yet again I am placed in this predicament of working with other people. I think it stems from people not working in good faith, or maybe it is the stigma that a vast majority of students share. One thing I would like to point out is that in Professor McCoy’s classes, regardless of it being the Toni Morrison class or the Black Apocalyptic Fiction one, she never (at least I don’t think so) refers to our group essays as that. She has constructed the term collaborative essays, which doesn’t have the negative connotations associated with group essays. 

Speaking of the two classes I have taken with Professor McCoy, it is important to note that before I can get to thinking about collaborations, I must first express that collaboration looks different depending on the people in your group. The collaboration I practiced in McCoy’s Black Apocalyptic Fiction course during the fall of 2022 focused heavily on the people in my small grouping typing the ideas as the rest of us formulated sentences. While we had split up into groups to work on the different moves, nobody could take credit for writing a specific paragraph because all of our voices were interconnected and threaded through the assignment, even though there was one person typing everything up. In that Welles classroom, collaborative writing took on a more bridged tone, but even then, there was the fear of not doing enough in the back of my mind, especially when I thought I wasn’t contributing enough ideas to the typer. McCoy’s collaborations took on a different form when I entered her Toni Morrison course this semester. Though we were still working together in small groups, it felt more independent. We found ourselves breaking off into groups based on the moves we wanted to work on, and even in those groups, I found that we all worked on portions of the move separately, then came together to make sure everything flowed. It felt like I was working on an independent project. As someone who enjoys putting headphones in and just typing away, I thoroughly enjoyed this form of collaboration. Even though it may seem as if we were working on different parts of a team, the collaborative efforts were still visible when we brainstormed at the beginning of the assignment, when we came together to write the last move (the conclusion), and when we revised the entirety of the paper––taking things out and fixing sentence structures––before submission. In this class, the collaboration felt both independent and linked to each of us in the group, alleviating any fears that arose about my work ethic.

Within our efforts to interpret Toni Morrison’s work, the practice of collaboration is evident through her characters. In Beloved, Paul D is imprisoned in Alfred, Georgia. He is chained to the other Black men that are also imprisoned there and they face inhumane treatment throughout their sentence. When a storm hits, they are locked back in their underground boxes and left there, but after several days, the rain and mud loosen their confinements, making escape possible. Since they are still chain-linked, each man must rely on one another, working collaboratively to escape. By pulling on their chains to let each other know where they are going, everyone is able to follow Hi Man’s lead. Morrison uses this representation of teamwork to demonstrate how those men escaped their unfortunate confinement and found their way toward freedom. When they finally break out of the prison, they continue on their way together and eventually run into Native Americans who help them break the restraints. Even then, the men don’t separate right away. Some stay longer than others but they do remain in each other’s presence for a little bit before moving on. One can interpret this form of good-faith collaboration to have had an effect on those men’s lives, allowing them to make it out of the storm. They put their trust in each other and do their part so that escape is effective and successful. From this, I have learned that when members of a collaborative effort trust one another and put their faith in each other, the end result can be liberating. 

As mentioned before, collaboration doesn’t have a clear format, rather, it takes on many different formations. In Morrison’s Paradise, readers are introduced to another form of collaboration. The older generation of men in Ruby and KD come together, congregating around the Oven to discuss the women in the Convent. They go around, putting in their ideologies and beliefs about the women that live there and the women’s role in the events taking place in Ruby. Collectively, these men decide that they have to stage a coup because if they don’t the Convent women’s influence will continue to affect Ruby poorly. As a group, they carry guns to the Convent and attack the women there. In my opinion, this was a form of bad-faith collaboration. While they did come together and talk over their actions before proceeding, they didn’t really listen to the voices of other people in the town prior to that meeting. They ignored the younger generations’ pleas and actions toward autonomy and self-reliance. They ignored Reverend Misner pushing them for reform in Ruby. They even ignore the friendship between Connie and Soane, and all of the good Connie has done for the town. They listen to their twisted words and decide that killing these women would be more conducive to the survival of Ruby than anything else they may have come up with. For all of these reasons, though they took their own opinions and ideas into account, they refused to see the other side of things, making this collaboration rash and futile. 

Working with others in most respects is collaboration, but as one can see through Morrison’s writing, not all collaborative efforts are in good faith. From reading Morrison’s trilogy––Beloved, Jazz, and Paradise––to working in our small groups, I have come to understand the importance of collaboration. One thing I would like to point out is that without collaboration, my ideas would never have been flushed out. I enjoyed taking the first day of collaborations to brainstorm different ideas and pick out quotes from the materials we were using. I remember that for the Purgatorio/Jazz collaboration, I didn’t have a lot to say, especially since we were discussing the structure of Manhattan during the Harlem Renaissance and its connection to Dante’s layout of Purgatory. However, as we continued to bounce ideas off of one another, Genesis brought us back to the idea that during the day, Black people in this novel (and during the Harlem Renaissance) would make their way down Manhattan to work for White people and then back up at night; she also said that the White people would make their way up toward Harlem for entertainment. This spurred our group to think about how mobility both within the City and to the City was possible for the characters in Jazz, which differed from the people in Dante’s Divine Comedy, who weren’t able to enter purgatory from hell and begin repentance through upward mobility. Collaborating with one another also made it possible to organize ideas. I think that when writing without an outline, it can sometimes be difficult for me because I am not sure what to include and what not to include. However, working in the different groups pertaining to each move, I was able to discuss with the other two people what our portion should focus on. It also gave me the chance to fact-check any ideas before writing them down. I remember turning to Izzy during the second collaboration and asking her a series of questions about where Joe and Violet had lived before coming to the City because I didn’t want anything to be imprecise. Izzy then referred back to the book and gave me specific page numbers to use, which was extremely helpful. Working with the same people for three collaborative essays allowed me to get comfortable with expressing my opinions and made the process of writing our last essay much easier since we had perfected our process through the other two collaborations.

Moving away from the topic of collaboration in this class, I think that as I continue on my journey here at Geneseo, I have to take all of the good-faith practices learned with me into my final year here while leaving behind this fear of group work. It is easy to fall into the habit of working alone, but as I am involved in many aspects of campus life, I find that working with others isn’t only prevalent in the classroom, but also outside of it. I have a job apart of Student Life, where I work with two other Student Involvement Mentors (SIMs) to ensure that organizations and clubs at Geneseo can function properly. This position demands a lot of collaboration, with my fellow co-workers, with our supervisor, and with the e-boards of these organizations. In doing so, I have to be able to communicate concisely and clearly. I have to be understanding of other people’s perspectives. And I have to make space and take space while in staff meetings. If I did not have good practice collaborative skills, working in this job wouldn’t be possible because my co-workers and I work closely together, answering emails, registering clubs, and petitioning for pictures to be placed in the Union. We have discovered a great balance in letting each other know when our part is done, while also not stepping on anyone’s toes. We are also very specific about letting each other know when we need something done and what we need.  

By working on this dynamic team, I am preparing for my future career goal. While school psychology may seem like an independent field, especially since most schools only have one, it is my job to speak with parents, teachers, and other faculty members at schools so that students are accessing all of the educational opportunities allotted to them. As I continue to pursue my dreams in this field, I hope to keep everything I have learned from this class, Morrison, and Professor McCoy circulating in the back of my mind so that I can maintain the good-faith practice of collaboration; contribute to the larger community of people in this field––and supporting fields––to better serve the population I choose to work with in the future.