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Growing up in metro Detroit—a place that remains deeply divided along race and class lines—taught me a lot about the subtleties of cultural sensitivity. This awareness informs my teaching philosophy and world view, and makes me a more empathetic person than I may otherwise have been.
My students and I bring our life experiences and cultural histories to class with us; it is my job to create an atmosphere where these unique perspectives become tools for learning. As a proponent of Paulo Freire’s liberatory pedagogy, I work to diminish the inhibitions many students have internalized over the course of their education. I am invested in creating learning environments that foster intellectual growth, cultural literacy, and a stronger sense of agency in the classroom and beyond. Curriculum is designed being mindful of diverse learning styles, including oral presentations, readings, hands-on demonstrations, film screenings, field trips, writing assignments, collaboration, and lots of conversation. I work to create a climate where my students not only feel safe and comfortable sharing their work and opinions, but actually inspired to do so.
Dialogue is paramount to my student-centered approach. Critical consciousness is developed through oral and written discourse, applied skills acquisition, and group analysis of student work. A student-led critique format is frequently used for the evaluation of artwork. Each session is team taught by an individual or group of students and me. By committing to this method, I challenge my students to deeply engage in the material and contribute to the course content in a meaningful way. For each class, we build a blog where students discuss the work they are producing, critique cultural events near and far; and are free to advertise their band’s next gig.
As a subscriber to what conceptual artist Joseph Beuys termed “social sculpture,” or the notion that one’s life and art are essentially indistinguishable, I consider teaching part of my artistic practice and let it evolve as such. Whether teaching students about Dada or how to edit video, I feel equally adept at highlighting the historical and theoretical underpinnings of the assignments I give. Teaching in an increasingly interdisciplinary field is by necessity a fluid and evolving process. As new technologies emerge and others recede, educators must continually negotiate classroom priorities—teaching both traditional academic and studio-based classes has given me insight into doing so. The core elements of my pedagogical approach are rooted in the humanities, with a focus on historical practices, political implications, and the palpable cultural relevance of art-making.
My goal is for students leaving my class to have deepened their knowledge of the material covered, both theoretically and practically; developed confidence in their capabilities, and gained insight into their own creative and intellectual capacities.