This is a bit different than a normal blog post, less academic and more reflective.
“Any classroom that employs a holistic model of learning will also be a place where teachers grow, and are empowered by the process. … 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.”
It’s Spring semester of 2022. There’s an oppressive stillness in the air. The news had come last night, that Roe v Wade is likely to be overturned. I didn’t know how to get out of bed, I didn’t know how to take in the information. It was an expected turn of events, but even as a political scientist, I felt in shock. I couldn’t process it.
I go to my class on autopilot. It’s class of 20 women and a professor who identifies as a woman. None of us say anything. How do we process a loss like this? My professor begins the class, opening up space to talk about the news. No one speaks. I’m not sure if there’s anything to say.
Then, my professor begins to cry. I’ve been in a lot of classrooms—I even got kicked out once for crying while watching Trump being inaugurated. But I’ve never had a professor cry in front of a class before. It was a moment of vulnerability, one that I think about a lot when I try to imagine the type of professor I want to be.
bell hooks’ words reminded me of this moment and the empowerment I felt as a woman in that moment. I felt seen and heard, an expression of emotion that I was feeling but couldn’t put into words. I saw in those moments what bell hooks means by ‘the classroom is a place where teachers grow’ – to share an emotion with a class is an act of strength empowering not only the professor, but those who attended class that day.
None of the students said anything, but the moment bridged the divide between teacher and student—humanizing both of us in our collective pain. bell hooks is right in that a teacher must be willing to take risks that she expects of her students and I felt that that day. As a classroom, that vulnerability was acknowledged and cherished.
The engaged pedagogy that bell hooks described is a way to create a classroom that moves both of us (teacher and student) towards liberation, learning from each other, and in some cases, leaning on each other for support. I didn’t know a name for it until reading this excerpt, but I have a feeling that as I get my own classroom, bell hooks words will not leave me and that moment last spring will not leave me either.