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Book Discussion: Professors Discuss Experiences

The English Department held a book discussion in the UC Lounge on Feb. 15.

The topic was the book “Teaching Critical Thinking/Practical Wisdom” by bell hooks. Professor Hannah Baggott-Anderson, Dr. Autumn Lauzon and Dr. Scott Hicks lead the discussion.

American author Gloria Jean Watkins, better known as her pen name bell hooks, is a professor, feminist and social activist.

She has published over 30 books and numerous scholarly articles, appeared in documentary films, and participated in public lectures.

Her writings address race, class and gender in education, art, history, sexuality, mass media and feminism.

The professors discussed different chapters of the book and how it related to their teaching skills. They also shared their own experiences with their students in and outside of the classroom.

Lauzon gave an example of when she was in grad school. She was taught that on the first day of class she should be really hard on her students, so they know who’s in charge of the classroom.

Lauzon’s response was “who cares?” She then referred to a chapter in the book that talks about “befriending students.” She admitted that in the past, she believed that there should not be any relationship between the professor and students, but that mindset changed.

“We are all humans and that’s stupid, why can’t we be friends?” Lauzon said.

The book mentioned three different types of teachers: those who saw teaching as an easy job with long vacations, those who saw teaching as solely about the transmitting of information and knowledge that can be easily measured and those who are committed into expanding the intelligence of their students and helping students learn more.

“They’re the teachers who thought about what they do and why they do it, and they’re the teachers who push back against education as transactional, standardized (or standard) you let a kid check out more books then they’re allowed,” Hicks said. “It’s amazing how much education sometimes limits policies or procedures or practices.”

Anderson talked about turning inclusion of education into transformative education rather than inclusive.

She gave an example on how we hear a lot about diversity here on campus but if you look at it from a different perspective, you start to wonder if you really want to be included in something that you don’t believe in or have little knowledge of or would rather be into something that was integrated for you and created with your “needs in mind.”

“We put you in the box with us, but you don’t get to participate in what’s going on in the box,” Anderson said.

The book discussed how it is the teacher’s responsibility to make the classroom an interesting learning place.

“Everyone has something to bring to the table,” Anderson said in opposition to the book’s ideology.

Lauzon mentioned how during a conversation, her students bring up the idea of “I didn’t talk in high school because I was constantly shamed if I was every wrong and now I don’t wanna talk here because I was every wrong and now the stakes are even higher.”

“I heard so many people in class precede their answers with ‘this is going to sound dumb but’ and then they’ll attempt an answer,” Anderson said. “Like it doesn’t sound dumb, you just don’t necessarily have the vocabulary for it and it’s not your fault. Just explain it and I’ll follow I’ll give you the words. I don’t even know the words half the time.”

Hicks mentioned how in education that there is a certain ritual and that they don’t make it clear on what the ritual is.

“Sometimes we diminish education by foreclosing what it is that a student is supposed to learn,” Hicks said.

Photo credit/Willis Glasgow

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