“To educate as the practice of freedom is a way of teaching that anyone can learn. That learning process comes easiest to those of us who teach who also believe that there is an aspect of our vocation that is sacred; who believe that our work is not merely to share information but to share in the intellectual spiritual growth of our students.”
bell hooks (13)
This quote by bell hooks in Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (1994) has been a focal and foundational point in how I view the practice of teaching. Our collective responsibility to our students as educators is to recognize teaching as transformative. My belief is that striving for equitable education is paramount to the practice of teaching.
It is important to identify that teaching is indeed a practice. Teaching is a constantly evolving field that needs to be responsive to the environment and present-time in which it is being realized. There is a profound responsibility in the way in which we as educators design substantive learning opportunities for our students that are accessible, engaging, meaningful and generative. Different learning opportunities provide students with ways to critically participate with curriculum and further provides the tools to do so outside of the classroom. Our individual experiences in all aspects of life inform our perspectives and how we bring critical inquiry into spaces of learning as well as how we, as teachers and students, engage with one another. Under this light of personal narrative enabling our abilities to connect, learn and understand, I take on a narrative-based approach to teaching. Teaching and learning are both embedded in lived experiences. Curriculum development and execution has a responsibility to align with those experiences of students, and educators alike in the sense of representation, and reflecting the diversity of present-day society and communities we find ourselves a part of. Everyone has a right to see themselves in the world around them and the learnings they engage with. As a Punjabi Sikh identifying woman, having experienced the lack of representation, accountability and inequity within my educational experiences, working towards equity and inclusivity is of utmost importance in my teaching practice. I am committed to challenging hegemonic systems and engaging in methods of decolonization within the institution, its classrooms and outside of it. This is why narrative-based perspective and practice of educating is at the core of my teaching pedagogy.
INTERDISCIPLINARY PRACTICE + THEORIES
As an interdisciplinary artist, I am committed to taking an approach in teaching and education that encompasses perspectives and critical knowledges from an array of theories, artists, and writers. In defining my artistic practice as interdisciplinary, I recognize that there are a multitude of intersections of theory, method, and process in the making and conceptualization of my work. In my art and educational practice, I continually engage with critical feminist theory, Critical Race Theory, radicality of imaginative futures, story-telling and methods of decolonization. These commitments informed and were shaped by my previous experiences as a Teaching Assistant.
As a Teaching Assistant for Foundations Course 164: Visual Arts Studio, I was able to plan and lead a project lesson on story-telling and narrative photography from my own knowledge in how I have used story-telling as a vessel to creativity in my art. This also provided me space to research other artists from
diverse backgrounds and present the varying possibilities of applying a method of story-telling through photography for this particular project. Throughout this process, engagement and collaborative thinking
with the students was of great importance. To be able to foster a space of critical thinking and dialogue among the students was paramount for not only my understanding of how they were able to brainstorm and process their own ideation of the project, but also their own understanding of it in all of its possibilities. Teaching is contextual, it is a practice of fluidity and adaptation to students needs and experiences. To have the ability to shift and diversify approaches to distinct subjects is to also be able to recognize the diverse learning methods that students have.
The emphasis of collaborative learning, or social constructivism learning, is another core value I bring into the practice of teaching. Collaborative learning is immersed in community focused teaching and this is achieved by having varying methods of knowledge-sharing and receiving built on the foundation of respect and empathy. Through thoughtful engagement with different artists and their ways of making, articulating research-based methods of learning and art-making is realized. Community focused learning also paves space for active participation by means of critical reflections and dialogue between students and the instructor. I am committed to encompassing diverse perspectives, practices, and ways of knowing and learning in my approaches to teaching.
hooks, bell. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York, Routledge, 1994.