Saturday, June 25, 2016

Ubuntu, Individuality, & Playing with Words

The leaders of our Summer Learning Institute divided us conference attendees into several groups (the SLI is a professional development program for educators interested in increasing the success of African and African American college students).

Each group lined up single file, all of us remaining in the conference space together. The leaders subtly urged each group to repeat the words, "I am because we are," an English translation of the Bantu term for "unity."  

"I am because we are. I am because we are."

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Engaging Minds, Hearts, & Bodies - UMOJA Summer Learning Institute

One of the most important criteria I have for professional development programs is whether or not the facilitators actually practice the sort of pedagogy/andragogy they promote. Many of us teachers have attended (been subjected to?) professional development where the leaders simply lecture or present a PowerPoint. I wish I could say I was exaggerating. I'm not.  

I don't need anyone to read me a lecture or recite from slides, regardless how brilliant the ideas. I want to experience the ways successful teachers create classroom climate. I want to observe their philosophies in action and to experience the sort of lessons the experts advocate (Note to self: I need to live up to this standard, too!).

If today, the first day of the UMOJA Summer Learning Institute (SLI), is any indication of what to expect, I will be heartily pleased. Today's program manifested deliberate intention on the part of the organizers to demonstrate the sort of classroom culture and pedagogy/andragogy they expect us to create and deliver next semester.

I wrote yesterday about the two texts we were to read in advance of the SLI: bell hook's Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom and Joy DeGruy's Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. The opening activities did not directly refer to particular pages or passages of either book. The program did, however, hit the same content, but from a different angle. More importantly, the organizers created the conditions for us to experience the kind of teaching practices they want us to learn from our readings. 

A significant section of DeGruy's book outlines the devastating experience and ongoing effects of the African Holocaust. Her words provide an competent outline of the historical facts, a solid primer on the legacy of American-style slavery and the abuse suffered by kidnapped Africans. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Reading to Get Ready: UMOJA Summer Learning Institute

This summer, tomorrow, in fact, I am attending the UMOJA Summer Learning Institute, a five-day training session for professors who teach in in the UMOJA Community, a statewide initiative for community colleges to help increase graduation and transfer rates of African and African American students. 

Working with a teachers from all over California, our team from Southwestern College (the counselor/coordinator and myself, the English teacher) will develop curriculum and receive training that aligns our program with the statewide UMOJA program. Those of you who know me know I am passionate about professional development, so I am happy for the opportunity to make my teaching more effective. And, like a student super excited before the first day of school, I'm full of anticipatory anxiety. Can't sleep. So, lemme practice what I preach in class and do a little writing about what I'm learning - to warm up for the Summer Learning institute!