Creative Translations

Service & Awareness
Educational Studies students translate their pedagogies.

In the Fall of 2015, nineteen Educational Studies majors and minors were enrolled in Critical Pedagogy: Class, Race and Gender in U.S. Schools. The course invites students to pay particular attention to gender, race, class, and culture in schools, and to explore pedagogical approaches that allow us to center social identities in the teaching and learning process.

In addition to class-based work, Denison students participated in a service-learning placement with middle and high school students in the neighboring Newark City Schools. Their work with middle and high school students created rich opportunities for reflection, generative learning, and relationship building.

In support of students’ integration of their service experience and course readings, they completed a creative assignment which asked them to reflect on how the theories and philosophies we were exploring connected to the kinds of educators they were becoming at their service sites. They used these reflections and connections as the raw material for artistic representations of their teaching philosophies. In the images and audio clips below, we feature the work of three students, Christian Miranda (2016), Jennifer Park (2017) and Olivia Snow (2016).

Olivia Snow:

Critical pedagogy allows for student-teachers and teacher-students to discern the socially constructed reality of our epoch while concurrently altering it through the unearthing of our true humanity. For my pedagogical portrait, I was very much inspired by Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, wherein the oppressed individual, chained down by the dominant consciousness, has only the shadowed figures displayed on the wall before him/her to conceptualize an understanding of reality. When the oppressed person’s chains are broken, he/she gazes out to the world beyond the cave in a moment of enlightenment that reveals the discontinuity between perception and truth. People’s identities are molded based on relations of power, and these positionalities exemplify the concept that people without power cannot oppress. In our society, this access to power is limited by sexism, heterosexism, religious oppression, racism, ableism, classism, and nationalism. Oppressive forces can be layered together such that an individual is affected by more than one form of oppression (such that a handicapped, OliviaSnowProject2transsexual immigrant would exist in a position of greater oppression than a Caucasian female). The banking method paradigm of education perpetuates these layers of oppressive influence in that it provides only a sole narration of the dominant consciousness. Thus, it inhibits access of oppressed groups to knowledge and self-actualization.

I sought to represent the relationship between OliviaSnowProject3the application of stereotypes in the classroom and empowerment through my pedagogical portrait. The light of knowledge that reaches students can be distorted and obscured if the banking method is applied and stereotypes are enforced. It is the role of the critical pedagogical teacher-student to pull back these oppressive coverings and engage in the dialectical approach to problem posing education. This dialogue will allow for the sharing of knowledge and the valuing of diversity amongst cultures and positionalities. The eye in my pedagogical portrait represents the reception of knowledge by student-teachers, and the mirrors reflect the experiential knowledge that these individuals reflect and magnify. This depiction exemplifies the potential of critical pedagogy to bridge the divide of positionalities in order to engage in a dialogue that informs and empowers individuals.

Jen Park:

I focused my pedagogical portrait on the five elements of dialogue, love for others, humility, faith in people, mutual trust with loved ones, and hope in humankind (Freire, 1993). It is a paperback journal that any person can use. First, in this project, I wrote a letter to the reader, explaining the meaning of this journal, a book of quotes and blank pages. In that letter, I shared briefly that journaling on blank pages has been a liberating experience because it gave me the time and space to reflect, explore, and open my soul not only in the journal itself but, also, in the world around me. Then, I laid out quotes and activities, that depict the five elements of dialogue, from well-known writers and influential, fictional characters.

For example, one of the quotes, which depicts humility, faith and hope, is by Roald Dahl; he once said, “If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” (The Twits Quotes) In the following page, I laid out my own five thoughts or reflections from Freire’s book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, with each thought representing one of the elements. Then, I provided space for the reader to jot down their own good thoughts. This way, while the quotes and activities represent at least one of the elements, the reader comes into dialogue with the journal and the world that the reader sees.

Christian Miranda:
I decided to do a spoken word poem for my Pedagogical Portrait because I saw how much students loved to write this summer and many through poetry. Hearing these children talk and write so beautifully about what they went through and are going through and the injustices that plague the contemporary education system affirmed to me that there are so many ways that these students could express themselves and that they were not being allowed to do so. I also saw in the curriculum, and through the students reactions to it, that the conventional lessons were overused and uninteresting. I had to teach argumentative writing and personal narratives, yet they had been taught that for the past three summers and for many years in actual school. In this I saw the opportunity for culturally relevant education.

Culturally relevant pedagogy is something that is lacking in many of the classrooms today all across the country. In order to change the way in which we think, we must change the way in which we learn. If we can present children with topics that are relevant to them and involve their culture, we can raise their love of learning and have them be engaged in their education. It is not the solution, but it is a solution.

Potential oppressor impresses them

With knowledge of Ewings and Nas.

Instead of the cold prose of Robert Frost

I give them a few by Maya Angelou,

Throw kudos to Pablo Neruda, and

Have them decipher the dense cyphers of

Kendrick Lamar and see his bars

Are deeper than the sky where we see stars.

They care not for Shakespeare,

But they might,

When they learn that the term “swagger”

Was first used by the Bard.

Further evidence that cultural relevance

Fits education need not be said.

For the ears on which it falls are dead.

Old white men make the truth and

The youth that I serve is not of their concern.

To close schools or fire educators,

That is their decision.

Their vision does not go beyond well manicure lawns

And bonds that represent the money,

that should keep these schools open.

A community hoping for change and all they see

Are the chains on locked doors

On buildings built for exploration and education.

I’m not saying I have the answer,

What I’m saying is it is in those who they have forsaken.

These children are beautiful, smart, creative, and worthy,

They are elated when someone gives them a chance.

That is why I take this stance.

Seek to understand, not be understood,

What if we saw it as OUR neighborhood?

Posted Date 
Friday, April 1, 2016

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