My role as a teacher-educator is simple: to build interpersonal relationships. Embracing a postmodern approach, I use literature, current research, political perspectives, and knowledge of the class to create culturally relevant pedagogy and teach others do to do the same. I constantly ask students: “What is the focus of today’s assignment? Why are we doing this? How does it relate to your life, your classroom, your future students?” Content, regardless of subject, area or grade level, should be presented to students in ways that help them find personal meaning. This is my job as a teacher educator.
As a former secondary speech communication and English educator, I am fortunate to work with students in ways other teachers may never have a chance to witness. Through the lens of advocacy for self/others, I teach students to understand their own autoethnography before they engage in course writings or projects. This facilitates intrinsic motivation, complemented by peer group collaboration, to dive into a topic thoroughly. Analyzing the public pedagogical sphere of their own words, students learn best from a personal framework where they draw parallels and/or distinctions of their lives to the lives of others they encounter. This is why I teach others to learn about themselves as well as their students.
Learning about self/others in our current diverse, multimedia world requires teachers to explore complex ideas in a multitude of ways. Whether using arts-based methods of inquiry to explore identity issues of future students or exploring advocacy through undergraduate research, I use research-based teaching strategies to engage preservice teachers in various approaches. However, regardless of the mode of inquiry, I encourage students to actively become agents of change as they address ideas, data collected, current events, and theoretical questions that push them to understand curriculum as a continual never-ending racecourse, not an end result. Curriculum, my students understand, is all around us. This is why I push my students to think beyond the walls of a classroom.
Finally, I advocate for social justice. I encourage students to think for themselves, while simultaneously protecting others and their differing perspectives. Each educational participant is a small part of a larger spectrum, and if we do not realize those perspectives and differences, we are doomed to fail. My students learn to make a difference, reach out to others, find injustice in the world, and then do something; for the act of teaching is a political act, whether we intend it or not. This is how I know I have made an impact with preservice teachers: when their words and actions benefit others. This is my calling.