“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
Teachers are couriers tasked with delivering enlightening experiences. Delivering an enlightening experience is possible only when we recognize the consciousness of the recipient of our messages. These full vessels, our students, have an infinite capacity for enlightenment. They bring their perception, ancestral knowledge and traumas, and chosen identities that will prescribe the education delivered to them. As their teacher, I will draw upon those experiences when designing curricula that center them. I gleefully take on the prodigious task of learning as much about my students as possible within the short time we will share. 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 I make space for them to be brave and take risks.
Choreography and improvisation are intrinsically related to the art of effective pedagogy. Before I enter my classroom, I have planned a complete sequence of events or created a score from which I deviate and align. In both cases, I am trussed to the creative process in the very same way I am when I walk into the studio alone to create. As modes of research, choreographic, and improvisatory teaching practices are reliant on a deep interest in my subject matter —in the classroom, my students are my subject matter. I am on a quest to learn from my students concerning how they best learn. The problem I attempt to solve is how to reach each student where they are — in the many manifestations of a raised hand. I can not meet every student in the same way I can not read every book. Nevertheless, I endeavor to engage my students, I endeavor to fail, and I endeavor to learn. Again I find myself aligned with bell hooks, “engaged pedagogy...compels me to be constantly creative in the classroom.”
I scrutinize my practices, behavior, and verbal and nonverbal language. Through constant reflection and analysis of my actions and how my students receive me, I aim to identify areas in my teaching that need further development and refine the areas that have helped my students prosper under my tutelage. A critical part of this reflective process is identifying the implicit biases, contextual understandings, and historical knowledge I may be ignorant of. When the timing of my reflective process becomes misaligned with the harm I may have caused, I accept responsibility for that unintentional violence, apologize, and detail a plan for how those actions will be expiated.
Culturally sustaining teaching practices are the packaging of the education I deliver. Language, as the mediator of meaning, is an apparatus I use to challenge white supremacist norms in academia. Often I use African American English during my lectures to demonstrate how students can use their natural ways of speaking to retain the beauty of their culture while traversing through the grove of the academe. Additionally, I incorporate languages in addition to English to make room for students from cultures that have historically been estranged from the academy in the United States. I have found that this method allows students who may be native speakers of a language in addition to English time to formulate their questions with ease before translating them. To support this, I provide multiple ways to complete assignments and demonstrate their learning. Inherently, this teaching method interrogates graphocentric modes, encourages interdisciplinary efforts, and recognizes the body as a text full of knowledge. My teaching philosophy honors the body, celebrates culture, and works against the canonized violence of erasure indicative of white supremacist teaching praxes.