My earliest pedagogical memory is having “B-A-B-Y that spells ‘BABY’” sang in staccato by my caretaker in a rich alto voice as the method to teach me to spell my first word – “baby.” This particular community literacy practice represents my community’s Black epistemologies and ontologies. This has led me to practice an engaged pedagogy that recognizes and promotes the connection between community and academic literacies and values students’ ways of knowing and being in the multicultural world. This philosophy opens up possibility for free expression and a liberatory liberal arts education.
I emphasize rhetorical approaches in my teaching, including the first-year writing series, business communications, English as a Second Language, and the survey course on the Short Story as Genre. In these classes, students learn to compose in different genres and for different audiences: their peers, the larger academic community, and the public. When teaching first-year writing, my goal is to create a scholarly community in the classroom. Critical reading and writing is encouraged through recursive practices of multiple readings and stages of composing, including pre-writing, drafting, and revising. I present relevant and timely materials and questions in class that are timely and relevant to students’ lives to spark the students’ desire to develop their own academic projects and compose from a place of authority. My most recent example of this is my Fall 2016 inquiry “whose lives matter?”
Digital writing and multimodal texts are built into the structure of my courses, i.e. micro-blogging or blogging reading responses on a course blog or closed Facebook group. One example of multimodal composition is the digital trailer translation project. Students turn their final argument essay into a “digital trailer” by presenting their argument in the form of an iMovie, PowerPoint, or Prezi. The trailers serve as stand-alone texts that reflect their primary and secondary research in addition to the other affordances of their chosen media. I also use Storify as a tool for an argument essay assignment. By using digital media, students will experiment with rhetorical appeals organically by selecting appropriate examples and sources to support their claims, establishing their credibility as writers, and finding creative ways to persuade their audience(s).
I agree with bell hooks that the classroom is the most radical space of possibility in the academy. This space is vital amidst debates about whose lives matter and who has agency in our society (Geisler 2003, Foss, Foss and Trapp 2001) and in the university (Kynard 2010). My pedagogy and course design provide opportunities for students to express their full selves including their social identities. Welcoming the whole student is oftentimes a transformative experience, especially for underrepresented students. This is seen when a Haitian freshman incorporates creole into her writing, or a student disproves stereotypes of homophobia among student athletes through primary research on campus. I use my pedagogy to help students realize their agency in the classroom and the world.