On Love and Learning: Reflections of a white professor "teaching" black adult students

Shantih E Clemans

Abstract


Most broadly, this essay is my mission, as a white teacher, to examine my teaching process as a way to understand and improve my work with students, particularly black adult students.  Throughout these pages, I show examples of my teaching journal as well as examples of student reading reflections during a semester of teaching Cultural Competency in Human Services to a class of mostly black, African American and Caribbean American adult students, pursuing undergraduate degrees in Human Services.  These excerpts combined with my thinking, questioning, and wondering in response to these examples, I begin a conversation about race, racism, power and privilege, identity and history, topics that are often unspoken or invisible for faculty specifically, but not exclusively, white faculty.

Social justice is an ongoing process for both educators and students. Nelson and Witte write that, “critical reflection must be part of any social justice action” (2017, 16).  In this example, I show that and critical reflection is an essential first step for  social justice to begin in a class of adult learners.  In this essay, I take a close look at my assumptions, ideas, feelings and questions specific to the themes of the course.  We learn about each other through conversations about everyday, ordinary topics: holidays, family, loves, favorite foods, politics, sports, poetry.  Small, intimate conversations beginning with openness and wonder spark learning about another person and lay the groundwork for a social justice process. Learning about myself allowed me to be open and curious to learn about my students. This openness paved the way for a relationship based on compassion, interest and care.  Finally, my intention to is to share this teaching example in order to create a model of sorts that can be replicated or adapted by other teachers working with similar groups of adult learners.


Keywords


Adult Learning; Cultural Competency; Teacher self-awareness; Teaching about race; faculty development

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