I recently revisited an early draft of a "Statement of Teaching" that I had written shortly after finishing grad school and with the intention of applying for a job. I was struck by how it felt simultaneously vague and rigid. I recognize now how the conditions under which this "Statement" was written undoubtedly influenced the lack of life in it that I was so struck by. Then, I was writing from a place of not having a lot of teaching experience coupled with the stress of trying to package something of recognizable worth for an audience with the tremendous power of either offering or withholding a job. Nowhere in the statement did I see the pedagogical strategies, the love, the critical energy and thought, the shared excitement, the urgent collaboration, the intentional community-building, the space to imagine, the call to action, and the life that I recognize as part and parcel of my classrooms today.
In this time of sheltering-in-place, I reread and revisited the books that were already housed on my home bookshelf. Among these was a text that had been gifted to me by a former mentor. There was so much in bell hooks' Teaching to Transgress that I found to be urgently affirming and validating. In particular, I sat with this singular line: "the classroom remains the most radical space of possibility in the academy" (hooks). Rereading this book at this time was a gift. Of the work that the text does, hooks writes:
"Urging all of us to open our minds and hearts so that we can know beyond the boundaries of what is acceptable, so that we can think and rethink, so that we can create new visions, I celebrate teaching that enables transgressions--a movement against and beyond boundaries. It is that movement which makes education the practice of freedom" (hooks)
It was the inspiration behind this series to be in conversation with educators about their work and their classrooms.
On the intentions of the series: To open up conversations about methods of teaching and how these methods/approaches are always evolving. I hope to be in conversation about the way that this evolution requires continual shifts in practice and a willingness from educators to try new things in the classroom. I am invested in highlighting the experiences of educators in their own voices. Situated within ART-C, the project is primarily focused on the arts and humanities classroom. Lastly, my intention through opening up conversations about teaching is to build community amongst current and future educators.
Miah Jeffra is a writer, artist, curator and educator, currently living in San Francisco. A military brat, Jeffra moved throughout their childhood, but most identifies the South as home.
They spent their high school years in Baltimore, and then moved to Atlanta, where they studied English, Music and Theatre at Oglethorpe University.
Miah later studied in the MFA Critical Studies program at the California Institute of the Arts and the MA program in English at San Francisco State University. Jeffra teaches Writing, Drama, Anti-Racist and Cultural Studies at Santa Clara University, and is Founding Editor and Production Designer for queer literary collaborative, Foglifter Press.
To learn more about (and order/preorder) Miah's latest work, click on the buttons below the video.