Who in the World Are We?

Note: This essay was written for the 2nd Module of the MILT OOPS! – the Multicultural Inclusive
Learning and Teaching Open Online Seminar focusing on higher education

We Bring…Worlds

world in 100We come from multiple worlds with some connections:

We are part of a 1% with our graduate degrees.

We are also:

  • Learners seeking to understand learning.
  • Teachers seeking to understand teaching.
  • People who care about worlds of learners, teachers & communities, who seek to understand multiple – sometimes intersecting, sometimes divergent – ways for learning in and about these worlds thru interaction.

We Bring…Stories

lone treeThe single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story. 

Chimamanda Adichie

I grew up hearing oscillating narratives revealing family ups & downs, variations in family, culture & community. I wanted this in classrooms: content linking chemistry to food matters, and student-student interactions planned around real questions not socio-economic tracking.

What stories shape you? Your ideas about education?

We Bring…Identities

fish waterWe likely come here with goals akin to Beverly Daniel Tatum’s ABCs as we discover ‘water’:

Affirming Identity by asking Who am I? While knowing the answer depends in part on who the world says we are & on ways we are missing and/or represented.

Building Community is both scary and growth-producing when dialogue is aimed at relationship growth, building of ideas & crossing barriers rather than disproving or reifying others’ stories.

Cultivating Leadership amid the contradiction in 21st century learning & living.

We Bring…Contexts

elephantOur multiple daily contexts are fraught with possibilities & fear.  In this, a colleague notes “content as king” and “context as queen.”

Striving to understand dynamics shaping Ferguson or Paris or Nigeria we must “take in” the entire elephant. The teaching need is to see entirely classroom elephants.

Consider the chemistry teacher who must address student-peer biases, and imagine students who will understand core concepts not via pre-packaged labs but via engagement with the chemistry of painting, food production, alternative fuels, sustainability efforts, health impacts, and daily chores or cleanliness.

We are Learners

To this end, we open modules with context-setting, short videos about the seminar:

We Are Teachers

  • The Insights readings pair Craig Nelsen’s self-reflection on MILT with Alicia Chávez’s student reflections regarding MILT-aware teachers and teaching.  The FYI reading sets out why the traditional vs. non-traditional teaching debate must give way to active teaching practices with discerning research seeking to understand when, why, how & what works in a teaching context.
  • The Forum Activity brings us together in talking about who we are, perhaps as embodied people making social justice uses  of our varied privileges, perhaps as people people who are – or are not – the diversity in front of the room, perhaps as allies to learners, perhaps as scholars making use of knowledge we’ve created and experiences we’ve gained in crossing barriers.
  • We see the course heart as emanating from the combination of interactive reading, interpersonal reflection, peer networking, and cross-cultural conversation in Insights & Activities sections.

We Are in History

Ella Baker, who advised students building the Freedom Schools curriculum in 1964, and Septima Clark, who devised the Citizenship School curriculum that honored the adult in adult learning, these women are two of the learning leaders on whose ideas we build, and in whose spirit we aim to teach in honoring the integrity of the broad range of learners with whom we walk learning roads.

Miss Ella Baker
septima with rosa
Mrs. Septima Clark and Mrs. Rosa Parks

PDF version of this Meta-Essay prepared for participants in the “Multicultural Inclusive Learning and Teaching” open online participatory seminar (OOPS!), sponsored by the Preparing Future Faculty Program at the University of Minnesota: Meta-Essay Module 1 Final.


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