In her call for “An Antiracist Black Language Education and Pedagogy” 25 Dr. April Baker-Bell states "linguistic and racial justice for black students are not rooted in in anti-Black Language pedagogies that cater to whiteness, but in term of the complete and total overthrow of racist, colonial practices that antiracist language pedagogies might begin to be imagined, developed and implemented.“ 26 Dr. Baker-Bell describes these new pedagogies as something that may come in the near future but will bring forward some of the best and most radical ideas from the past. It is scholars like Dr. Baker-Bell and my own teacher for this seminar, Dr. Ferguson, who inspired pedagogies like the ones I tried to outline in this unit that do not yet exist, but still must be.
The various literacies young people, and all people for that matter, need fluency in to make sense of the world and make themselves heard in the world seem to be changing at a pace that makes it almost impossible for any classroom teacher to adapt to before the next disruptive change comes along. We are not living in a world where text, meaning the printed word, is the primary means through which important information is communicated. One of the deep understandings I have coming out of working on this unit is that important information has never been based solely in that kind of text, but that has not always been widely recognized or accepted. I am excited for the way this unit encourages teachers and students to explore the various ways we can read all the different kinds of information in the world through a process of dialogue where each perspective and understanding is validated and used to gain a deeper sense of understanding about the world and our places in it.
And while this unit speaks to much of what I believe liberatory pedagogy can look like in a high school English classroom, I feel equally strongly about this unit being centered around a performance-based assessment task. Across the country, more and more schools are putting into practice the idea that standardized tests can tell us very little when compared to well-designed performance-based assessment tasks that ask students to tackle authentic issues within a given content area, but in a way that centers the students’ particular gifts and talents. I am excited for the walls of my classroom to be covered in collages created by my students’ individual expressions of visual literacy.
Finally, the centering of student voice and student perspective in this unit is an essential component of the kind of restorative and healing work we are all seeking to do as we continue to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic. Teaching through this pandemic has changed me as an individual and as a teacher. As our community continues to hope for the days when we will be past this pandemic, we also must acknowledge the scars that will stay with us forever. A unit such as this one where students’ voices are not just welcomed, but brought to the center of the classroom, is the kind of work that I think can make the classroom a starting point for the kind of healing that we may need to do for a long time, and maybe should have been doing all along. Who better to be the voices of the ‘things to come’ than the wonderful young people with whom I am so fortunate to share my classroom.