“My commitment to engaged pedagogy is an expression of political activism... that choice is one that is not politically neutral.”
bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress
Bodies are political. Divorcing students from their political spheres is impossible, and divorcing myself from my political sphere is impossible. When we consider this, education is less of an enlightening experience and more of an empowering one that equips students to transgress beyond oppressive circumstances.
I am Black.
My Blackness is not apolitical.
Because of my lived experiences and knowledge of my historical trauma, I am acutely aware of how I interface with all students. I am gentle and warm, and make space for them to be brave and take risks.
Teachers are hermeneuts tasked with delivering education that contributes to enlightening experiences that aid in learning. These full vessels, our students, have an infinite capacity for enlightenment. They bring with them their perception, their ancestral knowledge and traumas, and their own chosen and assigned identities that will enhance the education delivered to them. I, the dance educator, then have the prodigious task of learning as much about my students as I can within the small amount of time we have together. In my teaching practice, I am a perpetual student, and my students are my teachers.
Culturally sustaining teaching practices are the packaging of the education I deliver. As a model to my students, I use African American English to demonstrate modes they can use to retain the beauty of their culture while simultaneously traversing through the grove of the academe. In doing so, I have found this method of communicating with students has increased their contributions and highlighted the many ways of knowing prevalent in the people of the learning community. To support this, I provide multiple ways to complete assignments and demonstrate their learning. Inherently, this method of teaching interrogates graphocentric modes, encourages interdisciplinary efforts, and recognizes the body as a text full of knowledge. My teaching philosophy honors the body and works against the violence of erasure.
Student growth and achievement are of high importance in my classroom. In order for growth and achievement to come to fruition, the environment must be safe for the student to inquire, take risks, and reflect. In my classroom, we spend time learning about each person and the ways they best learn. We recognize that we are a community of learners, and as a community, we establish community agreements that will contribute to a safe space founded on mutual respect and understanding. Consistently referencing our community agreement, we build a class that supports a network of learning that spans beyond the classroom.