Education is important to me because it was a place where I found my identity and the ability to express myself. Before I entered the first grade, I was diagnosed with learning disabilities, and many doubted I would graduate high school. From first to twelfth grade, I was in special education classes; from fifth grade onward, I was in private schools for students with mental and learning disabilities/differences. It is for this reason that, as a teacher and professor, I focus on developing and reflecting my pedagogy and educational practices. I am a critical and disability pedagogue grounded in inclusive, equitable, social justice education. Whether teaching a middle school social studies class or a graduate-level conflict studies course, my classroom practices are interactive and cater to the diverse learning styles of students. Students do not learn in the same ways, so I vary homework assignments and class activities to respect those differing capabilities. For visual learners, I incorporate PowerPoint presentations, film, YouTube videos, infographs, and diagrams. For those with artistic inclinations, I allow collages in place of a few of the course writing assignments. I also let students to create blogs and Facebook fan pages on which they write their own posts and post others’ articles and images relating to a particular reading. For those who enjoy creating videos of themselves, I have at least one assignment in all of my courses allowing students to create a two to four minute YouTube video relating to a class theme.
Students and I take ownership of the class by taking turns facilitating. I commonly have students facilitate part of the class for twenty to thirty minutes, depending on the length of the class. The student facilitation project has three parts a traditional presentation on the topic with a PowerPoint, a small group breakout discussion, and a visual component such as a short video clip. Within small groups, I encourage students to use boards or chart paper to discuss theories and topics. These smaller groupings often help quieter students open up. Other interactive activities I regularly use in my classes include Pictionary, Concentric Circles, Jeopardy, Bingo, and Charades. I strive to be creative by using traditional games from popular culture as methods of learning and teaching. This strategy often results in more participation and comprehension by students.
Being an effective educator also means breaking down the wall between the community and the educational institution. My interdisciplinary scholarship and pedagogy can be narrowed down to my respect of theory and practice; theory informs my practice in the classroom and community and my practice in return informs (and often reforms) my theory. I strongly adhere to John Dewey’s statement: “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” With this idea as a foundation, my scholarship and pedagogy are based on education and peace, justice, and conflict studies. For this reason, I regularly invite guest speakers such as politicians, fellow professors, community leaders, formerly incarcerated youth and adults, survivors of domestic violence, and advocates for different social causes such as disability rights and child protection into my classes. To complete the commitment to community engagement, at least once per course, we visit a community organization, government agency, or historical monument, and follow up with writing a reflective response. For example, my students have volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club, Habitat for Humanity, a homeless shelter, and at a youth detention facility. My students have also co-organized town hall meetings about gun violence, music benefits for incarcerated youth, bake sales to support homeless shelters, and academic conference.
In conclusion, I believe that teachers and professors have a duty to uplift and challenge students while establishing a safe, holistic, transformative, fun, inclusive, and equitable learning environment. All educators have the responsibility to foster leaders and citizens who will impact the world in positive ways that promote peace and justice. Teachers must encourage students to challenge and share their knowledge and experiences in their assignments and during classroom discussions. Finally, I believe that honesty, trust, hope, and love are needed ingredients in one’s educational journey. On this journey, I serve as a mentor and guide, who conducts himself as a positive role model to my students and others.
TEACHING GOAL TO MY STUDENTS
I plan for our journey in this class to be a transformative and empowering experience, designed specifically for you the students in the class. My syllabus is not written in stone; it can and will be shaped to meet the needs of you the students rather than the students fitting the syllabus. We are not cogs in a machine and school is not a factory. My belief is that each student opinion is as valuable as the teacher and that the teacher. I hope to break down the teacher-student domination relationship, where both are teachers and both are students, but I will need your help in achieving this. Not only do you need to check in with me, but I need to check in with you to see if I am holding up to your expectation as an excellent teacher and meeting all of your needs and wants. I facilitate classes rather than teach or lecture at. I am a professor and thus I profess and am subjective like all people. As a critical pedagogue my courses are to be community engaging, participatory, experiential, critical, promote praxis, and collaboration. I am here to provide you the tools to enter into your community as peacemakers.
Pedagogy is the philosophy of educating others. I strive to be a (1) critical pedagogue, (2) transformative pedagogue, (3) collaborative pedagogue, (4) disability pedagogue, (5) feminist pedagogue, and (6) Hip Hop pedagogue, which I ground in a holistic liberatory experience.
1. Make you an outstanding scholar and practioner through fostering praxis through critical pedagogy, which stresses meeting people where they are and providing education that is useful to the student.
2. To challenge the students and to allow all including the professor to question, heal, change and learn through transformative pedagogy.
3. Build community through collaborative pedagogy is a richer method to achieve knowledge than competition or individualism.
4. To be inclusive of all and teach to the individual rather than the mass. To promote equity and difference, while holding to high standards through disability pedagogy.
5. Have self-worth through sharing one’s experience and story in education through feminist pedagogy.
6. To promote creativity, ability to promote social justice, racial justice, economic justice, and to be able to do a lot with a little by adopting Hip Hop pedagogy.
Grades even with rubrics, standards, formats, rules, directions, frameworks, steps, methods, procedures, policies, and guidelines, are subjective (based on one’s opinion) and a tool to create order, control, and normalcy. While I am critical of grading and the concept of grades, I must as that is part of academia. Therefore, I grade on if the student completed and went beyond what was asked of the assignment and the effort and participation of the student. Moreover, I believe that each student should be able to be graded not in comparison to fellow students, but to that particular student’s ability.