Teaching Vision Statement

How should we teach English today? 

Why do you want to be an English teacher?

What is your credo?

Caminante, no hay puentes, se hace puentes al andar. 

Voyager, there are no bridges, one builds them as one walks. 

- Gloria Anzaldúa

As a teacher of writing, I view communication as a tool not only to interpret the world, but also to change it. Through my teaching, I strive to guide students to learn about and challenge the structures of power and inequality in the(ir) world. In particular, I aim to teach students to be critical of the information they receive from a flawed society, to learn about themselves and their place(s) in that society, and to challenge their predetermined roles in that society through their explorations of themselves, their communities, and their world through critical and creative thought and expression.

I strive to uphold student agency by treating students as complex human beings, fostering their growth as students and as humans, learning their individual reasons for being in class, and connecting these reasons to their broader goals. I then model methods for utilizing written and other forms of communication to achieve these goals by demystifying academic and other systems students may need to navigate to fulfill their goals, fostering critical thought and awareness of the systems with which students may need to engage in order to do so, and providing options and avenues for subversion within these systems. For example, I introduce and model an “or not” option that students can utilize in class; in these cases, instead of, for example, answering structured discussion questions I’ve come up with, students are welcome to pose different questions or engage with the content meaningfully in ways other than what I may have expected. Further, I structure assignments like an “alternative research project” to accompany a formal “research paper” wherein students can approach their topic from different perspectives, apply it to broader community contexts, and share their learning in multimodal and genre-bending mediums.

 

As a decolonial and transnational feminist pedagogue, I also value nuanced critique and space for different, disparate voices and perspectives in the classroom, making sure that, as bell hooks writes, “no student remains invisible in the classroom.” In particular, in line with a translingual orientation, I believe it is crucial to advocate for and meaningfully integrate epistemologies, languages, and linguistic resources other than “standard academic English” into the classroom, so as to align better with students’ own existing knowledge repertoires and counter the experiences of shame, alienation, isolation, and insecurity that can and do occur when students do not see their own languages and epistemologies represented and valued in the classroom. This translingual approach is embodied in my classrooms through incorporating translingual texts and facilitating spaces wherein students are encouraged to draw on their own diverse linguistic repertoires and in class discussions, activities, and assignments.

 

Returning to the words of Gloria Anzaldúa in the epigraph, I ultimately seek not only to build bridges over the chasms violently carved into our world, but also to teach students how to effectively build such bridges on their own, both individually and collectively, in order to transform our broken world into a more just and equitable one.

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© 2019 by Megan Heise.
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