“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”
Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed)
My teaching (and learning) philosophy is holistic and it follows the Lil’wat First Nations learning principles, as articulated by Prof. Dr. Lorna Williams (Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Knowledge and Learning). Broadly the First Nations learning principles are:
- Put the learning of others before your own.
- Create your work so that it will benefit seven generations to follow
- Find your passion to energize and enhance your community.
My classrooms are built within pedagogy of hope ethos where my students and I develop a common energy in order to first take ownership of our own learning and second, take responsibility for educating each other. My teaching is inspired by the work of Lev Vygotsky and Paulo Freire. Therefore, I teach (and learn) for and with my students, valuing their backgrounds and previous experiences.
My teaching practice is not linear. It follows a dialectic methodology: it starts with students’ daily experiences [practice], and then we critically analyze these experiences [theory] so that we can collectively act and react upon such experiences [practice]. In other words, my students first reflect on who they are and where they fit in the world(s) they live in. Later, they reflect on the power relations that perpetuate hegemonic status quo. Such critical thinking helps my students to trouble social norms and oppression in their world(s) with the ultimate goal of promoting learning and social change.
I believe that people learn differently. Therefore, I prepare different opportunities for learning. Ranging from small group discussions to the use of arts–based methodologies, I create different scenarios to engage and challenge my students. My classes are open windows that unleash learners’ creativity and critical thinking.
To support learning, I work with a combination of readings linked to oral presentations, the incorporation of films, music, theatre, poetry, visual arts, guest lectures from scholars associated with specific areas of teaching, arts–based workshops, small group conversations and individual writing and visual and oral reflections.
As a facilitator, I am an active participant in each session helping my students to make links between theory and practice, between known and unknown, the school and the streets, and between the other courses that complete their education program.
Anticipated feelings and emotions my students may experience in my classes: anxiety, fear, shyness, weirdness, “uncomfortableness”. All these feelings and emotions that my students may encounter, especially during their first meetings, are critical to move them out of their comfortable zones with the goal of opening spaces for learning. These feelings and emotions are quickly shifted into joy, happiness, peace, belonging, curiosity, creativity, and empowerment, once my classrooms become safe places for sharing stories, build trust, and first final products are constructed.
Given the interactive and holistic approach to my teaching, my students eagerly attend classes, as no textbook or model can tell us how to critically think. This is stuff we work out together in class as we go along. In this sense, my teachings are more about asking questions than searching for easy and ready answers, formats or standards. While searching for these questions, there are a lot of paper cutting, paint splashing, poetry writing, lesson planning, music singing and bodies moving in order to make sense of the readings and group discussions.
I see each course and each student as a new opportunity to learn and to grow. I learn from my students how to become a better teacher. I also believe in building safe communities where my students can share what they already know, their doubts, dreams, fears, interests, and expectations. Building a classroom community means respecting diversity and individuality, providing a safe yet challenging space within which to learn. My teaching is collaborative rather than competitive, empowering students to become critical thinkers. It is student–centered and based on a non–hierarchical model, taking advantage of each student’s previous knowledge, contributing to the overall classroom learning.