As a DiaspoRican, or a Puerto Rican in the diaspora who has lived most of her life moving back and forth between Puerto Rico and the United States, I am acutely aware of the importance of connecting struggles across geopolitical, cultural, and identity-based markers.
Living in and out of diaspora has taught me to be conscious of how linguistic and cultural conditions influence decisions I make in my writing, scholarship, and teaching, as well as how I approach the diversity of students in my classrooms. Drawing on my work in rhetoric and composition, which I approach through a transnational feminist and decolonial perspective, I help students critically question discourses that may affect them or other underprivileged communities while improving their abilities as writers and readers who understand how language can influence the lives of individuals or a collective. Whether teaching courses in Women’s and Gender Studies or in Rhetoric and Composition, my pedagogy is under-girded by multilingual multimodality and critical media literacy from a transnational feminist perspective.
In line with a multimodal pedagogical stance, the image featured above is an example of one of how learning can happen using multiple modalities. Taking advantage of a warm summer day in Syracuse, I took class outside. The steps of Hendricks Chapel served as a space where students were able to write reflections about their topic of inquiry without the enclosed walls of our classroom, but also shifted the availability of writing tools. Although some of them had wireless technologies, I encouraged all of them to make use of more traditional composition tools like pen and paper.
As a writing teacher, I encourage students to consider choices made in composition processes based on genre and audience. For example, as part of my research on critical media literacy in an ESL college composition classroom, I coordinated an activity in which students interacted with local indie rock bands to exchange ideas about their writing processes. In this assignment, students attended a concert I organized where local bands performed at the university’s amphitheater, an event that was also open to the general public. The students were then asked to observe how musicians discussed their song composing processes and how artists described the transformations their texts/songs went through in relation to the audiences they performed for.
The goal was for students to consider writing processes more broadly, as something that also occurs outside of the English composition classroom. Much like drafting, the musicians noted how they would revise and edit their songs several times, until they had a final product. Student reflections on the event illustrated correlations between the writing choices and processes they were engaging in the classroom and those described by the different bands. For their last course project, students produced multimodal texts, such as songs about peace, newsletters about yellow journalism, and other self-selected topics related to their media consumption.
In women’s and gender studies courses I teach, I draw on the work I do as a writing instructor with a transnational feminist and decolonial pedagogy, which acknowledges different sociocultural and political positions. In my capacity as a Teaching Assistant of WGS 101: Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies, I supplement foundational feminist texts from bell hooks, Paula Gunn Allen, and the Combahee River Collective with video interviews featuring contemporary feminist activists. Using a variety of texts also affords nuanced discussions on intersex and transgender identities, as students read excerpts from Middlesex and listen to a public radio segment featuring KJ Rawson’s explanation of the history and ethics of using the concept of transgender. Once again, besides academic essays, students in my discussion sections have produced multimodal projects to express their understandings of course content, resulting in a paper bag “knapsack” including the students’ unearned privileges, a “sexist monopoly” game showcasing heteropatriarchy, and a gender fluid hair-salon doll. The readings they did and texts they produced meant to encourage students to think about what a project of liberation might look like across multiple sites of oppression, and across different modalities of expression.
Besides a focus on language and rhetoric, in my classrooms I encourage students to pay attention to publics in and beyond temporary geographic contexts as a way to acknowledge other cultures and histories. As an educator, then, my pedagogy focuses on producing more conscious, critically aware, skillful and reflective global citizens who can communicate effectively in a variety of contexts and situations.
For a full transcript of my teaching philosophy, click here.