TEACHING AND LEARNING FOR SOCIAL IMPACT
Engaging Everyone in ACTS That Lead to TRANSFORMATION
Exploring Storied Lives
The stories that shape are our lives - especially those about social identities such as "race" and ethnicity - create wonderful ways to deepen self- and group-knowledge.
How are we shaped by experience?
Calling upon wisdom from the field of "critical pedagogy," Beloved Conversants explore the memories stored in their bodies but forgotten by their minds.
In order for education to change lives, it must be transformative.* As such, I work in multiple contexts: first as a university professor on matters of teaching and learning; as a religious worker within the realm of spiritual formation; and finally, in our larger national community. My hope in each of these spheres is to create communities of critical reflection where learners are able to cordon off “business as usual” and seek new responses to nagging problems. As a result, I pay attention to:
• how systems of preference and style impact the way we see ourselves and relate to others;
• how knowledge (issues of epistemology) and values are constructed and enacted as forms of self and group knowledge;
• the use of our imagination to reshape real and perceived realities;
• how working in teams can be a way to starve the tyrannies of narrow-mindedness, competition and efficiency;
• the liberating possibilities inherent in democratic ways of thinking and being.
*(see the text, "Learning as Transformation" by Jack Mezirow and Associates; 2000).
Beloved Conversations was created out of a consultancy with First Unitarian Church, Portland Oregon to explore matters of "race and ethnicity" as a function of spiritual development. The curriculum includes a 1.5 day retreat followed by eight "sessions" wherein participants are asked to place the stories of their lives into a critical yet sacred conversation with dominating structures that divide the human family.
MEDITATION ON RACE & ETHNICITY
I recently overheard a student say, "you never know what will happen in a Mark-Hicks-class." I take that comment as a point of pride! Learning does not happen when we are safely tucked inside our comfort zones. Learning happens when we reach, as my colleague Jennifer Garvey Berger writes, " the edge of our meaning." Thus, my classroom tilts toward the evocative end of things, stretching everyone - including myself - into places where we can bump up against what we "think" we know. It is in those spaces that the magic of transformation happens.
That Bring the World We Dream About
TEACHING THROUGH TWITTER
Technology, like any tool, can be used in ways that cut us off or, conversely, connect us to a world we never imagined. As a Transformative Educator, I’m constantly playing with a wide variety of technologies…I’m always in search for new ways to notice why we’re alive! Here, during the early days of Twitter, I took my students to a museum on the campus of the University of Chicago. While they were exploring ideas and images throughout the exhibit, they found themselves living the question: how might this new technology help me engage with fellow learners? A wonderfully vibrant discussion was launched, one that is yet to be fully understood.
Systematic discrimination, internalized racism and “stereotype threat” have impacted the spiritual formation of people of color for generations. Additionally, people of color in predominately white religious congregations, are often asked to play the educational role of helping white congregants understand their on-going complicity with institutionalized racism. When a preponderance of spiritual development and advocacy programs focus on “interrupting systems of whiteness,” for People of Color, the result is limited psychic and emotional space to make meaning of their own spiritual journey. The cost is daunting. As UU congregations work to grow in terms of ethnic/racial diversity, conscious efforts must be created that support the faith development of children, youth and adults who themselves are targets of oppressive thought and behavior. This project includes an outline of basic educational concepts/principles/elements that have the capacity to promote self-knowledge and systems of support for persons on their journey toward wholeness.
FAHS LECTURE 2011
GETTING THE WORD OUT
November 2014. Thirty seminarians and congregational lay leaders joined me in Tulsa, Oklahoma to explore how a ministry of faith formation happens in the context of multi-racial faith communities. Turns out it's quite rare, but when it happens, it's a powerful thing to behold. Our shared text was two Tulsa Unitarian Universalist congregations - All Souls and Church of the Restoration - who have committed extraordinary spiritual and intellectual resources to the challenge. I wrote a working paper, "Spiritual Malpractice and the Struggle for Voice in Multi-racial Congregations" to explore how faith formation, as a tool of developmental psychology, works in such a setting. Student papers and essays are suggesting that we've hit a golden vein for exploration and on-going learning. I'm excited to explore this in the coming months.
Two local historians - Vanessa Adams-Harris and Rev. Gerald Davis - helped us understand how the destruction of the Greenwood neighborhood set up a racial tension in Tulsa that lingers today.
Bearing Witness. Beloved Conversation participants talk about their learning outcomes. For more information or to gain a liscense to use, click here.
“If you told me 10 weeks ago that I’d be sitting in circle with Black Christians, singing a gospel song about interconnectedness, I would have told you that you were crazy!” - White, male humanist
“Thank you for telling something I didn’t want to hear. You’re helping me return to the real intentions of my heart.” – White, female, Jewish elder
“Simply because Black people know oppression does not mean we have nothing to learn about how we’ve been shaped by racism.” – Black, female lay leader