In this event, presentations will focus on four short extracts from bell hooks’ writing.
Just as I evaluated my students in each class I taught, I evaluated myself. Continual self-evaluation was the experience that made my burnout more apparent and intense. Just as students whose grades shift from an A to a C feel bad, I felt bad when I felt that my teaching was not consistently A+. When I first began to feel the need for a time-out, I shared my concerns with my beloved students who persuaded me for a time that my teaching on a “bad” day was still far more productive than most of their classes. They knew that many job-related issues causing me stress were not classroom related. Working with an educational system wherein the faculty was 90 percent white and the student body 90 percent non-white, a system wherein both the banking system of education and racially biased notions of brilliance and genius prevailed, I felt alienated from colleagues. Many of my colleagues were well meaning liberals who worked overtime at their teaching tasks and were simply unenlightened when it came to issues of race. Although well meaning, they unknowingly often perpetuated racist stereotypes, claiming that the presence of so many non-white students, a great many of them foreigners, had lowered standards. Concurrently, they believed they had to lower their standards to teach these “backward students”.
hooks b. (2003). Teaching Community. A Pedagogy of Hope. New York: Routledge. pp 17.
To bring a spirit of study to learning that takes place both in and beyond the classroom settings, learning must be understood as an experience that enriches life in its entirety. Quoting from T.H. White’s The One and Future King, Parker Palmer celebrates the wisdom that Merlin the magician offers when he declares: “The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails… Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you.” Parker adds to this declaration his own vital understanding that: “education at its best – this profound human transaction called teaching and learning – is not just about getting information or getting a job. Education is about healing and wholeness. It is about empowerment, liberation, transcendence, about renewing the vitality of life. It is about finding and claiming ourselves and our place in the world.” Since our place in the world is constantly changing, we must be constantly learning to be fully present in the now. If we are not fully engaged in the present we get stuck in the past and our capacity to learn is diminished.
hooks b. (2003). Teaching Community. A Pedagogy of Hope. New York: Routledge. pp 42-43.
In my classrooms, I do not expect students to take any risks that I would not take, to share in any way that I would not share. When professors bring narratives of their experiences into classroom discussions it eliminates the possibility that we can function as all-knowing, silent interrogators. It is often productive if professors take the first risk, linking confessional narratives to academic discussions so as to show how experience can illuminate and enhance our understanding of academic material. But most professors must practice being vulnerable in the classroom, being wholly present in mind, body, and spirit.
hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress. New York: Routledge. p.21
We cannot be easily discouraged. We cannot despair when there is conflict. Our solidarity must be affirmed by shared belief in a spirit of intellectual openness that celebrates diversity, welcomes dissent, and rejoices in collective dedication to truth.
hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress. New York: Routledge. p. 33