As an educator, I strive to create an inclusive and secure learning atmosphere, and to understand the strengths, knowledge, and culture that students bring to the classroom. I aim to support students as they empower themselves through learning and developing skills that will positively influence their practice. My teaching philosophy promotes critical positioning and a path of ongoing awareness through self-reflection and analyses of the impact of societal inequities on student learning. I aim to assist students in recognizing how they can contribute and co-construct change in the classroom and their communities. Centered on advancing social justice, the foundation of my teaching is based on four primary tenets: 1) critical awareness of one’s own positions as well as beliefs that maintain oppression and establish barriers to equality, 2) the importance of collaborative learning, including the ability to understand and examine concepts from multiple viewpoints, 3) confronting implicit and explicit biases found in educational policies, practices, and systems, and 4) becoming persistent advocates and voices for social change on behalf of those who are oppressed in our society.
Teaching is a social and political act, and like Paulo Freire, this role comes with the duty to challenge oppressive attitudes and behavior, empower marginalized students, and to support students’ awareness of their status and position. Students have contextual and social understandings that influence how they interact with classroom material, with other students, and their educators. Encouraging a critical perspective in students, I work to promote the use of reflection so that students may critique and grow as they interact with, understand, and experience the social world. The student-centered strategies I use to engage students in the critical learning process include group discussion, self-exploration activities, and authentic dialogue.
Safety, authenticity, and respect are essential to creating an environment conducive to critical learning. As an educator, my intent is to build community in the classroom through collaborative learning. A safe environment creates a sense of community and promotes honesty in discussion. Also, I understand that a sense of respect must be modeled and adopted in the classroom in order to promote inclusivity and diversity. Additionally, I aim to accentuate the importance of respect in the classroom through my own authentic actions and language, sharing my expectations for the class, and providing students the chance to voice their expectations. Students are also supported when engaging in transformative discussion and reflection, centered on an examination of societal strengths and inadequacies through one another’s lens. Through writing reflections and unity circles, students will monitor their reaction to class materials and activities and share their conflicting reflections with peers.
Another exercise I implement in my teaching asks students to complete group service-learning projects in which students’ own understanding of discrimination, oppression, racism, sexism, genderism, etc. will be challenged, with an aim to support students as they become more conscious of their positionality. Students will complete group presentations to explore social problems and define how they can promote and engage in social change.
As a Black woman, educator, and student to Black feminists such as Bell Hooks and Patricia H. Collins, my passion is to advocate for inclusivity and diversity. I continue to develop my teaching to reflect how the core acknowledgement of my own cultural and social suppositions influence my approach and how I interact with others, including students. Therefore, my advocacy for change is further demonstrated by use of different perspectives to explain concepts to students and by assigning article readings that include the voices of scholars from diverse backgrounds. The use of multiple perspectives in classroom literature provides opportunities for students to engage in analytical and productive dialogue with people with opposing viewpoints, and also to successfully generate their own well thought out ideas.
Students bring their own experiences to the classroom, and therefore are experts in their own frame of thought. My objective is to encourage students to question knowledge, how it’s known, including research as well as my ideas, as they articulate and develop their own knowledge in ways that are beneficial to theirs and others’ learning. I also model lifelong as I strive to become increasingly aware. By demonstrating this, I hope that students will obtain a desire to teach but also a desire to continue to learn with me in the classroom.