I would describe my teaching philosophy as critical and progressive with an African-centered liberatory framework. Critical theory in education is about questioning how our educational system can best offer education to all people. It offers opportunities and understanding of the different perspectives of disadvantaged members of society. Much like social work, progressivism in education focuses on the whole learner, rather than on the content or the teacher. Learning is rooted in the questions of learners that arise through experiencing the world. As stated in Gutek (2014), I strongly believe that human life and social institutions can be improved. African-centered values include a sense of belonging, and well-being is enhanced through the teaching of African-centered values such as positive community action, harmony, reciprocity, and the affirmation of humanity (Hackett & Lo, 2018). To be a learner means that you will take the knowledge that you gain to uplift your community and offer a legacy to build upon. Coupled with a liberatory framework, I seek to dismantle and reconstruct the classroom setting with the experiences and input of my students to cultivate a reciprocal learning environment. A liberatory framework aims to extend the learning and teaching educational spaces to include indigenous and subjugated forms of knowledge (Rodriguez et. al, 2012).
My values and teaching philosophies are structured around four African principles: fawohodie, sankofa, kujichagulia and ubuntu.
The Ghanian adinkra symbol of independence, freedom and emancipation, Fawohodie is derived from the expression, ‘independence comes with its responsibility.’ Liberatory praxis entails affirming every student’s humanity in ways that: demonstrate care, resist bigotry, acknowledge and counter structural inequalities, promote critical thinking, and make learning enjoyable and socially and culturally relevant (Wilson, 2017). As the expression states though, it will be their responsibility to utilize their findings for the betterment of their community.
Another Ghanian adinkra symbol meaning ‘go back and get it’, expresses the importance of reaching back to knowledge gained in the past and bringing it into the present in order to make positive progress. My students will think critically in the classroom setting beyond lectures and convey through introspection. The Sankofa approach calls for the incorporation of culturally relevant strategies such as referencing African American authors and referencing the Africana experience, practitioners and educators in academia to move knowledge forward (Liddell & Talpade, 2014).
The second principle of Kwanzaa, meaning self-determination, is about community and how we celebrate our [African] culture and independently use our resources to “self -determine” our future. This is the bread and butter of a liberatory framework.
Humanity is the common thread that is weaved throughout society but it is how we show up in the world that is the true judgment of our character. Ubuntu is a Zulu word that translates to ‘I am because we are’ or ‘a person is a person through other people.’ I will hold my students accountable just as I hope that they will hold me equally accountable for their learning process.