Feminist poet and scholar Audre Lorde stated, “The learning process is something you can incite, literally incite, like a riot.” This quote inspires my teaching philosophy as I envision the classroom as a space for fostering community, promoting learning, and inciting change. My pedagogical goals are simple: I want learners to be able to think critically, challenge their beliefs and politics through the engagement of comparable and opposing sources of information, confidently defend their positions, and to practically apply the knowledge attained in other disciplines or life experiences.
My teacher training began behind the walls of the Queensboro Correctional Facility within the New York Department of Correctional Services. I facilitated re-entry classes for cohorts of men preparing for release, family reunification, and the transition to society. Although this introduction to the classroom was not the traditional academic space, it allowed me to engage with and learn from one of the most underserved populations in the country. Knowing first-hand the history and experiences of incarcerated students, I transitioned to the formal classroom at LaGuardia Community College to train the next generation of criminal justice providers.
Audre Lorde also said, “when we speak, we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So, it is better to speak.” I believe it is essential to create comfortable learning spaces for students. I have always facilitated class discussion. I think the students learn more by engaging in meaningful dialogue, giving thoughtful consideration to the perspectives of their colleagues, and collaborative work and exchange are essential to building collegial relationships. I also like the practice of assigning discussion leaders for readings. It holds students accountable for coursework, creates opportunities for critical thinking, and public speaking/leadership training. These comfortable spaces also enable me to foster mentoring relationships with students, and I can either cultivate a more profound interest in the course material, help non-majors to see how to utilize the skill set in their disciplines, and to identify and provide additional resources to all students for further inquiry.