DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

 

The last time that I updated my teaching philosophy, it was 2018.  That was some time ago.  I won’t call this one an update, because I don’t believe in linear time like that.  Instead… this is the Reeeee-Mix.

 

I always need a story to get myself going. The story here goes way back to the early 1990s for me in what we now call the Golden Age of Hip Hop. Back then, I decided to stamp my curriculum vitae, teaching portfolio, and many other professional documents with a particular icon.  It is a black and white graphic design called “Tito’s Style.”  If you are someone who transacts with Graffiti, you will read my name there: C-A-R-M-E-N.  “Tito’s Style” was taught to me by one of my former ninth grade students at an alternative high school with the Coalition of Essential Schools in the Bronx, New York in the 1990s. During an inquiry unit where one wall of the classroom was transformed into a New York City subway line to display students’ visual-autoethnographic narratives of the Bronx, Tito showed me how to capture one of his styles in order to re-script my writing.  Some have wrongly assumed that my representation of “Tito’s Style” in my professional documents indicates a lack of understanding of the academy’s forms, standards, and expectations.  On the contrary, I know these rules, genres, and elitisms very well--- I simply refuse to replicate the racial and political homogenization these norms impose.  I ground a different set of discourses and cultural politics for my teaching, writing, and researching.  Tito is always part of those processes because he reminds me to always ask how such distinct and sophisticated aesthetic and intellectual identities/histories are continually displaced in the educational theories, pedagogical paradigms, and discursive canons (and thereby, insidership) that are often promoted.  It is not enough to simply numerically recruit, physically enroll, or financially subsidize racially/economically subordinated groups into American universities.  We must question how the academy consistently functions alongside and because of these groups’ exclusion and re-imagine university teaching from a whole different location. On my best teaching days, all the Titos of my world, ancestral and present, are co-creators of the critical questioning, meaning-making, and theorizing that happens in my classrooms.  My pedagogy attempts to honor the cultural and psychic well-being of BIPOC communities.  On any average day of classroom teaching, I’m tryna turn that shot upside down and inside out.  The way I see it: there’s no sense in doing things as they have already been done since those are the mechanisms that have kept students like Tito and me out.

 

I treat every space as culturally and linguistically pluralistic setting where critical/ anti-colonial/intersectional pedagogy and curriculum must a centripetal force in classrooms and not the centuries-old white paternalism we have all inherited.  As a secondary, undergraduate, and graduate educator, I see young people’s own self-designed activism (as opposed to outsider, colonial models) as a way to pedagogically activate racial justice in classrooms. It’s been a long haul, including: founding teacher for one of the Coalition of Essential Schools in Bronx, New York; on-site school consultant and summer institute leader for the New York City Writing Project; curriculum consultant and designer for the African Diaspora Research Institute and Caribbean Cultural Center in New York; instructional coordinator for the Center for Black Literature (CBL) at Medgar Evers College; facilitator for CBL’s Literature-to-Life and arts programs for Brooklyn high schools; instructional coordinator for pre-college workshops and dual enrollment courses at Medgar Evers College aimed at area Brooklyn high school students; curriculum designer and staff developer for a Community Learning Center Grant in Harlem, New York; and more.  I've been blessed to have my own classrooms in Newark, NJ; Brooklyn, Manhattan, Bronx, and Queens/ New York City; South Central Los Angeles; and today, Fort Worth, Texas.  Each of these experiences has situated my work in very different ways and continues to shape my ongoing understandings of pedagogical invention and intervention. 

 

I began teaching in 1993. Now a dirty-thirty years later, I haven’t forgotten “Tito’s Style.”  Today, I teach at the crossroads of some of the most interesting social movements that have occurred in my lifetime. For me, this is one of the most exciting times to be in a classroom. #MeToo.  #TimesUp.  #UnapologeticallyBrown.  #IStillBelieveAnitaHill. #IBelieveChristine. #WithDACA. #ConDACAlogré.  #HereToStay. #BlackLivesMatter.  #BlackTransLivesMatter. #BlackGirlMagic.  #ICantBreathe.  #SayHerName.  #NoDAPL.  #IStandWithAhmed.  #CrimingWhileWhite.  #OscarsSoWhite.  You could trace any one of these hashtags and uncover a range of radical literacy events that are shaping the ways that students are reading and writing their world right now.  My classrooms read and write with them.

 

 

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.