Black Women Educators Teach to Transgress
Around Mid-February, I joined a book club for teaching assistants in my program.
After a few weeks of gathering book suggestions, we all agreed Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks would be a great read. Especially since our goal was to rethink our teaching practices and generate some ideas to re-design our course.
On the first page of chapter one, Engaged Pedagogy (pg. 13) , bell writes:
"To educate as the practice of freedom is a way of teaching that anyone can learn. That learning process comes easiest to those of us who teach who also believe that there is an aspect of our vocation that is sacred; who believe that our work is not merely to share information but to share in the intellectual and spiritual growth of our students. To teach in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our students is essential if we are to provide the necessary conditions where learning can be most deeply and intimately begin."
Needless to say I was captivated this opening paragraph.
Immediately it made me think of the many Black women educators that I have encountered in school, in church, through sports and how they have impacted my life.
I thought of the ways they care for their students. The ways they bring creative ideas and uplifting energy into any space. The way that they center social justice and encourage their students to live up to their potential. The way that they affirm us and love on us and make us visible. The way they prioritize our intellect and our spirit.
Going into Women's Herstory Month, I knew I wanted to create space to celebrate Black woman educators and the soul-filling work they do. I wanted to show a small token of appreciation and I also know that Black women educators are often under recognized and under appreciated.
For this reason, I dedicated last two weeks of March to honor Black women educators in my corner. As a recap, we learned about and celebrated these phenomenal 8 educators:
Sabriya Jacobs, 7th grade social studies educator in Durham, NC
Bria Wright, M.A., 2nd grade general education teacher in Raleigh, NC
Courtney Mauldin, PhD., teaches Master's and doctoral students in Ed Leadership at Syracuse University
Missy Cosby, Ph.D., 10th grade geometry teacher in Lansing, MI
Bria Davenport, middle grades coordinator at Student U in Durham, NC
Ebony Rowe, kindergarten educator in Durham, NC
Brittany Morrison, 9th and 10th grade math educator in Wake County, NC
Shealynn Womble, 8th grade social students educator in Charlotte, NC
When I reached out to these educators , I asked for general info but also a couple questions about their 'why's for teaching. In this post, I want to share three (3) themes I noticed across these women's reasons and how they speak to bell's notions of teaching to transgress.
1. They view teaching as a way to serve meet students' needs.
Ebony's comparison of educators to superhereos was touching to me. She spoke about her classrooms as a place to meet students' needs such as combing their hair, providing snacks, sending messages of encouragement, making sure their families are okay. She named that in her classroom she is more than a teacher. Shealynn discussed how educators have the ability to provide access to education as a remedy to inequity and Missy described how high-quality education is a way to for folks to improve life circumstances themselves, herself included. In the same light, Brittany strives to be approachable and for students to know that she cares about their well-being inside and outside of the classroom.
2. Black women in their families and their communities influenced their pedagogy.
Courtney shared how Black women from her childhood demonstrated critical learning activities such as storytelling and how that is a big part of her pedagogy now. Bria W remembers her grandma and how she showed grace, which is an element of her teaching. Shealynn shared how she came from a family of educators and it was natural to have a career in education. Sabriya described at-length a high school teacher and mentor loved on her and guided her through high school, college and life in ways that she aims to do for her all-girls cohorts.
3. Lastly, they viewed teaching as a way prepare students to thrive beyond school but in life.
Bria D. described being motived to teach because real change happens in the community and she has the opportunity to impact students and their families through a community organization. Sabriya beautifully describes how teaching is a way to plan seeds in her community and nurture strong, beautiful young girls that are ready for the world. Bria W. shared that she teaches to model for young girls the important and possible roles they can have in education and in leadership.
In so many ways these educators teach in ways (or at least describe their teaching in a way) that exemplify that they see more than academic learning being the center of teaching. They know the whole child or learner needs to be prioritized and the goal is for them to freely be and become in our society. We are grateful for your hard work and how you are impacting our future leaders, parents and change agents.
I am honored you all for agreed to participate in sharing what teaching means to you. Your work does not go unrecognized here. I also want to say thank you to the many followers that engaged with me to recognize educators in their corners! Let's do it again sometime!
In Her Lane,