I am teaching sessions this summer with young people. The week before they start, I wake up the day after Memorial Day in a panic. My mind is racing, and I am thinking about the sessions so much that they have started to accompany me in my sleep. I am replaying parts of my dream, taking mental notes in the process. Were the young people satisfied with their experiences? Did they all consume a snack without an allergic reaction? Did I know what I was doing? I know some of my anxiety comes because it’s the beginning of summer and I’m getting back into the rhythm of teaching. I want all the young people to have a positive experience, even though I know that part of this is outside of my control. However, a larger contributing factor of my stress comes from making changes to my pedagogy. This summer, I decided to design the summer sessions utilizing the theories of Black feminism and constructionism.
My decision to integrate Black feminism and constructionism comes from my interest in both of these theories. I really resonate with the principles of Black feminism and I find that constructionism is helpful when using technology with young people. Black feminism, and constructionism both compel me to take a different approach to education. While I have been excited about this process, I am also finding myself more anxious about my choice.
The stakes for implementing a new pedagogical approach are high in my mind. I come from a family of teachers and have many friends that are teachers. They are all supportive of my work, but I still feel this sense of wanting to be looked at as a competent educator. Having always chosen to work in informal education, I have had my fair share of encounters with people who think I don’t really teach and that I’m just babysitting. At times, my work has not been taken seriously, and I get upset by that. I replay those experiences and conversations (instead of the positive ones) and feel the need to prove myself and my work.
On top of that, I am implementing new pedagogical approaches – Black feminism and constructionism. One thing that Black feminism compels me to integrate is critical consciousness. This is an essential component of the theory that I think this is important. Though I know the value of critical consciousness, actually doing it and actually integrating it makes me feel uncomfortable. It’s not that I haven’t fostered culture and diversity in my work with young people before. It’s just a different way of doing it, and I want to get it right. Even after reading an assortment of books and articles, I know that each educator implements it differently. I’m still trying to figure out what that looks like for me.
Couple those two aspects with being a recovering perfectionist and that amounts to a fair amount of pressure. Perfectionism has shown up for many different reasons for me. In higher education, whether as a student or staff, many times I have felt the need to be the perfect due to my experiences as a Black woman. While people may think the double standard that people of color experience is a myth, my own experiences have demonstrated that it’s a reality. For me, this double-standard has fostered a need to be perfect and also show a depiction of Black women that is not the stereotype. I want to show people that Black women are intelligent, capable, responsible, versatile, open-minded, serious without being angry, curious, etc. Even writing this, I believe it is an insane request to ask of anyone to be perfect and counter to the stereotype; yet, it happens often. In my case, it is such a knee-jerk reaction, and I have intentionally to remind myself that I am a human being, that I can mess up, and that I don’t have a representative of Black womanhood all the time.
It’s kinda of amazing how stress over pedagogical changes triggers multiple reactions from me. I realize that some of these areas are outside of my control. I can’t control how people view informal educators or Black women. As much planning as I do, I can’t control the young people’s responses and how Black feminism and constructionism will play out in my setting. Just as the saying goes, “all I can do is control my actions and reactions.” I have to remember that I’m a better human being and educator when I am relaxed. I know that I am doing my best, and my intentions for the sessions are positive ones. Let’s see how the first day goes.