teaching philosophy

My teaching philosophy centers on critical pedagogy and dialogic education. In the classroom, I use the air between the students and myself for the exchange of ideas. As we inflate the room with discourse, like “cloud sharing,” we engage with each other and plug-in to what’s been said and done, in kinship to those living and departed. What hangs in the air is our participation   ̶   everyone is needed. So I listen closely for, and respond to, marginalized voices. Hence, there is an interdependency of collective structures and individual decision-making.

I am inspired by writings such as the holistic tradition of Black African philosophers and religious scholars, bel hooks, Pablo Friere and directly by my instructor Craig Owens, post-modernist art critic, gay activist, feminist, and Senior Editor of Art in America. As Owens brought our class into his theorizing and we shared our ideas and work, I realized I was a part of the art community, not simply a student taking a class. This was particularly prescient for me during the classes where he reformulated the question of “What art is?” to “What art does? I felt like I got inside the art world, beyond the gloss and veneer and into the inner workings, toying with the gears and machinery. This critical performative shift and my lived experience of acceptance inform how I engage with students.

My course content is designed so students learn how to individualize theory and practice by (1) formulating better questions, (2) locating resources, (3) plugging into the art world, and (4) giving ideas formation and form. Ideally, processing information so art comes out like sweat. So, as a teacher, whenever students ask my opinion about class content or what I think about and how I value their work, I position my response in terms of critical thinking and performative questions. The initial basic forms are: “How are you reading this artwork; how do feel about what the artist expressed?" and “What do you want your art to do; what practices make this aim possible?” 

I listen to students, I am influenced by their views, I adjust my perspective, and make changes to our educational environment. Just recently, a student asked in passing, “where's my name, where’s the project list?” I realized that I was maintaining a mental list instead of a physical list, and in doing so, had snatched the student’s and his classmates’ agency, access and visibility. In response, I created a signup sheet with his and his classmates’ names for others to see and use. When he saw it, he smiled and said, “good, that’s the way to do it.”

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