The Return of a Sociopolitical Identity
This morning I was reminded of the significance I once (and now will again) placed on my sociopolitical identity; my feminist-, lesbian-self was once the cornerstone of my pedagogy. My MA work at Clemson University centered on a feminist rhetoric of argumentative writing where I asked if students investigated how they came to have their beliefs about a selected controversial issue rather than simply arguing a position that they then would move past the dualist stage into a stage where they would think critically. In grad school at GWU, I investigated the connections between constructivist and feminist pedagogies and concluded that feminism opened the way for social constructivist and learner-centered pedagogies. I argued that the ideas of de-centering authority in learner-centered classrooms, fostering collaborative opportunities, and prioritizing experiential learning are ideas stemming from feminist pedagogy.
And now I am thinking about how current ideas of teaching and learning can also find their roots in feminist pedagogy. The Vanderbilt Center for Teaching’s “A Guide to Feminist Pedagogy” reminds us that curriculum design and instruction that is rooted in feminist theory is also learner-centered and constructivist. For feminist pedagogy presumes that:
- “students and teachers ideally learn with and from one another, co-constructing knowledge–both communal and contingent–together.”
- Do we not use this same reasoning when promoting learner-centered classrooms? In the work that advocates for such learning, researchers/theorists/promoters seem to ignore this connection. I wonder if they are hesitant to wade into the politics inherent in feminism
- “Personal experience . . . is recognized as a valid and valued form of knowing. It doesn’t stand on its own as complete knowledge, but it’s also not seen as irrelevant or inferior. Instead, it works in conjunction with other forms of knowing.”
- Is this not the same assumption we hold when we suggest that Inquiry-Based Learning and its sibling, Project-Based Learning, is authentic, effectual pedagogical practices? Again, the connection (if not kinship) to feminism is seemingly ignored. Politics? or sexism?
So we come back to the ideas that gender and sex are fundamental to ideas of education. And for me, our ideas about teaching and learning are structurally political.
Now, how will I use this to build my resiliency and to help others build theirs? How will I avoid the chip-on-my-shoulder attitude when I acknowledge my own self-awareness of my sociopolitical identity. For it is this self-awareness (and thus this blog post) that will allow me to
- recognize and understand why I am triggered
- use my strengths to avoid reacting to triggers
- identify how my identity can be leveraged for building relationships.
This self-awareness is empowering as a source of strength, an anchor, and connection with others. By understanding my sociopolitical identity I can boost my resilience (and help others boost theirs) by:
- strengthening my trust with others
- uncovering and understanding my unconscious bias
- forming deeper and more nourishing connections with students, colleagues, and supervisors.
I need to come from a place of collaboration and not pedantism.
Onward — the beginning.
Today I started reading Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Teachers, and I started avoiding the inevitable introspective work absolutely foundational to building resilience. In fact, I started writing this blog entry two hours ago, and I am now just finishing the third sentence. In between the sentences, I’ve washed dishes, made the bed, and put away clothes. And now I feel ready to write about what I’ve learned about myself.
While none of the knowledge I’ve gained this morning is new, coming to understand how I need to use it is unfamiliar. And I am committing myself to working through Elena’s Aguilar’s program so that I can the resilience I need to be confident in my teaching.
In Aguilar’ first chapter focuses on learning about our selves so that we can play to our strengths and wisely direct our energies. Clear self-knowledge gives us confidence in our actions and decisions. For Aguilar, self-knowledge is true power, and the key to gaining self-knowledge is a deep understanding of how these five elements make up our selves:
- Strengths and Aptitudes
- Socio-political identity
Gaining my own self-knowledge this morning I worked through exercises for values and personality. While it was easy for me to identify 10 values, I had more difficulty narrowing these down to three essential ones.
Upon reflection of my three fundamental values, I can see how the remaining seven values stem from these three. For without kindness and gratitude, could we hope for equity and peace? Doesn’t it seem that embedded in ideas of equity and peace are the values of kindness and gratitude? If we cannot be thankful for the diversity of people and thought that surrounds us, then we cannot expect equity. Being fair and impartial comes from a sense of kindness, of affection, for all in order to see all impartially. Without hope, how could anyone forgive? For me, it is a faith in the underlying goodness of most that creates the hope I center my life around. Without this hope could we expect there to be peace anyone’s life? in the world?
Then I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test on 16personalities and not surprisingly found that I am in an introverted phase. At the end of this school year, I found myself more exhausted by the people-intensive experience that is school. Luckily, I have time this summer to spend in my head — resting, processing, and planning.
Today, (according to this test) I am perceiving information through sensing — an unexpected result. While I do notice details, I like to make sense of the details to connect them to bigger ideas. I feel more comfortable backward-planning as those who perceive the world through intuition.
I process information through feeling, and I make decisions first looking at people and circumstances and seek a harmonious resolution to any conflict. My heart and body hurt when I cannot make everything right for everyone.
And finally, it is through perceiving that I live my outer life, understanding and adapting to those around me, preferring to take in information and trying to keep myself from being overwhelmed by new ideas. I feel I can best be flexible within a structure, especially in my own teaching.
What I like best about the 16 Personalities test (and perhaps the result) is the noun given to describe all these attributes. I am an ADVENTURER. For these past few hours, I’ve been walking around my house, inside my head, thinking about the idea of being an adventurer. And I wonder how much of this aspect of my personality is programmed by my DNA and how much is from my experience as a military brat. Is there a gene for adventure, for using aesthetics and design to push social conventions and enjoying upsetting traditional expectations? Or do I find satisfaction in the uncomfortable, in the need for change because each time my family moved, I found myself looking for a place within the conventional and ultimately knowing that I belonged outside of it?