This semester I have been working on a primary source video project. I have been using Camtasia to create videos introducing primary sources. The toughest part of this is getting the audio just right and knowing when to show a picture versus display text on a screen. I am sometimes unsure of how much needs to be written on the screen versus only said aloud. I have been trying to keep accessibility issues in mind while creating it as well. Right now, I’m working on the second draft of my first video and then creating a short video on paratext. I am looking forward to diving in to the primary source databases and creating videos on those next. I enjoy the video software, and it has definitely been a learning experience to get comfortable with the recording booths on campus.
One of the biggest hurdles to developing my identity as a teacher has been the implicit view of the classroom as a politically neutral space. While I cannot think of an instance in the past where someone has taught me that the classroom is a neutral space, it is nonetheless a primary assumption about what the classroom is and how it is supposed to function. But from my own experiences both as a teacher and a student, I have found the classroom is a space that prioritizes whiteness, maleness, straightness, and ableness. There are many token attempts at inclusivity that manifest themselves as pedagogy fads, such as the disastrous implementation of Prezi for differently-abled students or teachers outing their students and putting them in dangerous circumstances. Enacting specific programs or actions that target racism, ableism or homophobia continue to operate with the assumption of neutrality and adopt a solution to issues of marginalization by trying to deal with the issue in a single instance and then move on from it, as if merely addressing the problem is sufficient praxis to undo generations of oppression and marginalization. This problem is why the role of theory inevitably becomes so essential for individual teachers looking to enact anti-ableist, anti-racist, and anti-homophobic praxis in the classroom. As I continue working on my approach to teaching, I am thinking more and more about what it means to move theory to practice, as hooks calls it. The classroom is treated as a neutral space by students and teachers alike, but that view of the classroom is actively harmful. Instead, we must adopt a holistic praxis rooted in theory and rooted in radical empathy.
As I begin to think more about library instruction and the role of an instructor in the classroom, I find that Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed to be an excellent guide into how I consider the dynamic between students and myself as an instructor. In Chapter 4 specifically, Freire discusses how cultural invasion functions as a type of violence between the individual possessing power within a given dynamic and the individuals (in this case, students) who are expected to function within that dynamic while lacking the same amount of agency. While Freire doesn’t seem to be suggesting that pedagogy should abolish the student-teacher dynamic, he does suggest that teachers should prioritize a cooperation within the classroom between students and teachers. The responsibility for this kind of cooperation and removing the elements of cultural invasion is placed entirely on the teacher in this instance. Freire’s words have made me consider how I myself have prioritized the view of myself as a teacher as a kind of provider of information over what should be a prioritization of liberating my students from the subjugation that much of the academic system is constructed around. The view of students as blank slates needing to be “written” upon by proper teaching is a toxic one which does not acknowledge the value that students bring with them to the classroom. As a library instructor specifically, I want to become more focused on how I approach my students and how I can seek to raise up their own thoughts through involvement in the subject matter while also being careful not to impose myself and my own cultural biases or prejudices onto the students. I am further interested in finding more information on how to equitably moderate the classroom with a Freireian approach to classroom management, especially for classes where the culture and individual personalities and cultures are largely unknown to me.
Critical theory has often been criticized for being passive consideration of oppressive systems without actually working as a liberating force for the oppressed through praxis. In many circles, theory and praxis are discussed as separate forces with no connection other than praxis being a separate principled implementation of theory. But bell hooks challenges this in her chapter titled “Theory as Liberatory Practice.” Although hooks does admit this disparity between theory and praxis in many circles, with terms such as “theory” and “feminism” being used as tokens, she goes deeper into this distinction between theory and praxis as being one between individuals who adopt a system of practice rooted in theory. As an instructor, it is important to continue considering the systems of white supremacy and oppression which established the modern academy and actively choose words, activities, and assignments which work against those structures. Inviting students to learn in a space that is designed to help support students regardless of background while also validating the experiences of oppressed individuals. Theory acts as a basis for thought about systems of oppression, but a practice of theory in the classroom involves a concerted effort to implement theory in a way that brings attention to how the system was designed to maintain hierarchies of dominance.
We have turned from reading Paulo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed to bell hook’s Teaching to Transgress. In her book, hooks reflects on her journey through academia as a black feminist teacher. She discusses how some people in the academia, particularly white women, can be resistant to bring race issues into feminism. In the same vein, she says that black men and women are sometimes resistant to feminist issues as well. She talks about her relationship with Friere, who she says has someone issues of sexism in his earlier writings. Even so, she is inspired by his idea of conscientization. I am currently in chapter seven, and I am interested to read her next chapter on the feminist classroom. These are complex issues to tackle, and I have enjoyed reading about hooks’ strategy in her classrooms.
Last week, I taught four library instruction sections of a EN101 Shakespeare themed course. I used the Online Shakespeare Bibligraphy and the Proquest Newspapers database in the first sessions to help the students find resources for their papers which were required to be on an adaptation of a Shakespeare play. They used Bubble, a mind-mapping software, to write about their play, and then dived into the databases. I believe that the newspaper database was potentially more useful for them than the more scholarly Shakespeare database because many of them were writing on less known movies and episodes of TV shows. In the second section, we talked about analyzing reviews. I broke the class into groups of 3-4 and they each received an example review from me. They then had to research the review to determine if it was a high enough quality to use in their paper. For the second half of class, we looked at movie review databases.
Overall, both classes went well. We had some technical difficulties accessing the work sheet, and I have learned that it is probably better to get the professor to post the work sheet before class rather than have students attempt to access a live link. We also had technical difficulties with the computers not connecting to the internet at one point, and that made the first class start off to a rocky start. However, I have learned from these experiences and I feel more prepared to teach the next class on November 7th.
In Chapter 2 of her book, bell hooks considers several different factors of racial inequality and how it manifests itself within a school setting. Hooks discusses her experience with a high school reunion and the illusion of inclusivity is insightful, as well as her analysis of her own perceived radicalism that only manifested itself as retaining the status quo. This second portion especially speaks to me as an educator. Hooks discusses the phenomenon of white individuals treating their relationships with black individuals (and by extension all people of color) as a means of gaining points in the “see-I’m-not-racist” game. This chapter especially made me consider more deeply my own complicity in perpetuating physical or intellectual segregation in the classroom and reminds me on some level of Freire’s own idea of cultural invasion. Ensuring that the classroom is not only an equitable space but one which actively works against the system of segregation that is inherent in the education system.
This week I am teaching two EN101 classes. The classes are Shakespeare themed. On Monday, I am planning on showing them how to use Bubble, an online mind mapping software that can be used to brainstorm for assignments. In addition, I will show them the World Shakespeare Bibliography database so that they can find reviews for their assignment. I plan on having people share their mind maps a little over half way through the class, and then I will switch to helping them navigate the online databases and internet to find reviews and resources for the Shakespeare adaptations they are researching. This is the first time that I will teach one hour and fifteen minute classes, so I am hoping that I manage my time well. I sometimes have trouble visualizing how long things will take in real time. I’ve been planning this lesson plan with my time chunked out into increments, and I am hopeful that the class goes smoothly.