Pedagogy has been a buzz word in education for as long as I've been conscious of my practice. To know and understand how something is taught, and how students come to learn it - is, in a word, teaching. I barely used the word over the past decade even though every one else has. I guess I never needed a substitute word for what I inherently understood teaching to be: an art, a practice, an ability, always changing and evolving.
This past summer I was part of the Hip Hop in the Heartland Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where educators and community leaders together learned the best practices in hip hop and spoken word pedagogy.
Pedagogy. That word again.
This time though, pedagogy penetrated me like a blazing sun. My time in the Institute brought all my years in the hood of National City, CA to the forefront. During this short one-week frame, I recounted my memories of soul music, cruising Highland Avenue cool as can be crazy over the ostentatious show of low riders and antique cars, fashionable starched cuffed Levi 501's and baggy khaki chinos, block and neighborhood house parties. National City raised us to believe it wasn't a big deal to be smart - everyone in the Granger and Sweetwater schools were just who we were - smart and cool without pretense, and mixing in with true diverse homies of the time as both friends and teammates integral to the NC pride. That's something neighborhoods and schools north of us just didn't relate to - we were too far south, too close to the Tijuana border, too Brown and Black, too "ghetto." Writing and coming together as a community of writers and thinkers invested in the art of urban pedagogy provided the open conduit for the latent oxygen to flow a bit more smoothly and effortlessly in me - able to acknowledge and face where I came from, and do so in a safe and supportive environment where most others were doing the same.
I want to write more about this institute - particularly, Hip Hop pedagogy. I'll save it for a next professional development post after I spend some time exploring with my current students their voices and realities. For now, suffice it to say that pedagogy is more than just a buzz word in the field of education. Particularly in the lives of teachers teaching urban youth, the efforts to take on complex issues affecting the lives of adolescents who themselves must find pathways to learn and understand their identity, is an art, a practice, an ability - always dynamic and always evolving.