Professor Rochelle Brock
Listed below are the courses that I am currently teaching in the School of Education. Click on the course listed in the left column under "My Schedule of Classes" to see the syllabus for each course.
- EDUC M501: Urban Field Experience
- EDUC S510: The Development of Secondary School Programs: Methods of Teaching in Urban Schools
- EDUC T550: Cultural / Community Forces and Schools
As the Executive Director of the Urban Teacher Education Program (UTEP) I examine curricula and pedagogy needed to facilitate the success of urban children in our country. My work is guided by the questions: What types of educational practices are most effective? What types of educational experiences will be empowering? And most importantly, how do I as an instructor, foster in my students a commitment towards a radical agency – a feeling that they can make a difference? With this ultimate goal in mind, I design and teach courses, create professional development workshops for teachers, mentor students, educate colleagues on urban education, and develop relationships with the community. My teaching is foundational to my research and service, based on the “tools” that guide me: pedagogy of wholeness, spirituality, sociopolitical transformation and commitment to social justice. The following narrative describes what I am committed to modeling and thus instilling in my students as they prepare to become professional teachers.
A Pedagogy of Wholeness
As a teacher, I have a responsibility to make a difference in the lives of my students and to make a difference in the urban communities UTEP serves. My personal pedagogical philosophy, a pedagogy of wholeness (Brock, 1999), based on the educational theories of critical pedagogy, culturally relevant pedagogy, and Black feminist theory, guides my choices in teaching and curriculum development. A pedagogy of wholeness is based on three interrelated principles: spirituality, sociopolitical transformation, and commitment to social justice, that must be understood through their interrelatedness.
Spirituality bridges the disconnect between the personal and the pedagogical (Brock, 2005, 2010). Once educators understand the factors that influence their identity development, they can apply that knowledge to understanding their teacher identity and ultimately better understanding their students. This search for identity “examines and reveals the truth of your being” (Vanzant, 1995, p. 189) and offers freedom and knowing her or his humanity from within. Education should provide students “care for their being,” via a pedagogy that teaches love of self and others, inner strength, humanity and humanness, survival and struggle, and hope and knowledge. King (1994) declared that “the potential—to exist fully in alignment with one’s human spirit—is already present in each of us” (p. 270) and a task of education is “to help us learn hopeful principles of human existence” (p. 273). This is the spirituality that must be in education.
Ideological forces that anchor our decision-making processes often remain hidden from consciousness. Spirituality frames how and what I teach with the goal to make these ideological forces more visible to teacher candidates. For this reason, my assignments typically have two interrelated parts. First, I ask students to delve into the personal. Then, I ask that they connect that personal to the pedagogical. For example, a culminating assignment in EDUC-S 510 “The Development of Secondary School Programs: Methods of Teaching in Urban Schools” is the “Art/Self-Identity Project” which asks the questions: Who am I? How do I understand my culture? My ethnicity? My nationality? How does my understanding of my culture affect my perception of self? In this assignment, students are required to design a piece of art that answers the above questions and write a narrative explaining their project relative to the various class readings.
Another way I guide students to seeing the often-invisible ideological forces that anchor their deepest levels of decision making, is exemplified in an assignment that helps students gain an understanding of the societal influences that shape their identity. The “TV Log” requires students to watch and analyze 15 hours of television (commercials, movies, sitcoms, cartoons, soap operas, news shows, etc.). Students are guided in a critical analysis of how entertainment shapes and influences their ideologies and ways this same dynamic influences how the wider community may view urban students, as well as how these students are socialized to view themselves and their communities.
Once students begin to understand who they are and the factors that have contributed to the construction of their identities, I begin the process of guiding them to unite the personal with the pedagogical. The separation of the two creates a false dichotomy (i.e., that one could be personally detached at work, and thus a “neutral” practitioner), and does not allow the teacher to connect with students. The connection that I want my teacher candidates to make allows them to understand the whole student and all of the parts that make up each student’s reality. Using the onion as a metaphor, each layer represents a layer of an issue that must be analyzed and each layer of analyses is needed to understand the whole. In EDUC-T 550 “Cultural Community Forces and Schools” I teach students that they can assume nothing when attempting to understand even the seemingly smallest issue. For instance, when we attempt to understand why an urban parent does not attend a parent-teacher conference, we have to look at those components that may have influenced their nonattendance: transportation, unemployment or underemployment, fear, illiteracy, negative memories of their own schooling, etc.
As the Director of UTEP, I also work closely with the school districts of Gary, Hammond, and East Chicago in the professional development of their teachers. One of the workshops I developed focuses on how to reflect. Although this may sound easy, it is actually difficult for many teachers until they are taught. True reflection requires a critical eye and because of the negative portrayal of urban teachers it is more difficult for them to put that critical eye towards themselves. I have found that leading teachers to a place of reflection takes time and great sensitivity but once they are there their teaching improves. I also conduct a professional development workshop for urban teachers on Multicultural Education, Culturally Relevant Pedagogy, and Invitational Education, all necessary pedagogical tools in urban schools. Knowledge in the three areas is sorely lacking for most teachers, especially if they are teaching a class of students who are culturally and ethically different from themselves. When the cultural mismatch occurs in the classroom students suffer both educationally and spiritually. Discussion, films, readings, etc., help me guide teachers to the place of understanding that they must eventually reach.
When education targets wholeness of being, individual and collective transformation occurs (Brock, 2005, 2007). A sociopolitical transformative education has, as its central aim, life change for the student. Ultimately students, especially those who are disenfranchised, understand the social, political, and economic obstacles they are facing and are given the tools to succeed in spite of those obstacles. I teach my teacher candidates to think critically and to deconstruct the world by providing them with the tools to analyze their everyday lives through the lenses of race, class, and gender oppression. I want them to think politically and see the connections between thought and action. I teach to demystify the injustices of the world. Students must possess the knowledge to interrogate those societal structures working against them, how they can combat the structures, and the form that fight will take.
Through a pedagogy of wholeness, a greater understanding of those qualities important in a transformative education and teaching is possible. Clearly some Black and Latino children must receive something other than what they are getting in our educational system. An effective reform of education and schooling must be concerned with all areas of a child’s existence. To transform means that I don’t just look at what happens in school, but I attempt to understand everything that constructs a child’s reality. I deconstruct and then allow students to reconstruct who they are—individually and collectively. When pedagogy is transformative, students stop thinking of themselves in individualistic terms, and instead as part of a community, realizing their freedom cannot come at the expense of the freedom of all people. They understand the historical connection between struggle and survival and then work to create a self-defined standpoint. I guide teacher candidates to understand that although individual empowerment is important, only collective action can effectively generate lasting social transformation of political and economic institutions. A sociopolitical transformation must occur, which allows the second part, life transformation for the student, to happen. When I use critical pedagogy, students realize their connection to the world. They begin to understand the political and economic structures of domination and oppression, and develop tools for change.
One way I attempt to bring about sociopolitical transformation in teacher candidates is through the use of films and readings that challenge, broaden, and deepen their knowledge of a specific issue. Reading an article on poverty can be a passive way of understanding and relating, but discussion leads students to different conceptualizations of living in poverty. The conversation can then move beyond passive knowledge to one that is both analytical and in the affective domain. I want students to feel the subject and see a different way to view and analyze phenomena.
Commitment to Social Justice
The third part to a pedagogy of wholeness is a commitment to social justice. It is paramount that my students understand the concept of social justice in education, both theoretically and in action. I therefore ensure that my curriculum guides students towards agency, and having the responsibility and knowledge to make a change in self and in society. I create an atmosphere in my classroom that allows a language of critique. Learning should be messy, especially when the issues being taught are controversial, and in order for this to happen the classroom must be a safe space. I create this space through open and honest dialogue. My classes are dialogical, where questions are posed and together we search for answers. Conversation is the most important ingredient in teaching. Messy, angry, cleansing, honest dialogue forces students out of their comfort zone into a place that demands reflection. Through my teaching philosophy and pedagogy, I foster and guide teacher candidates into this new consciousness of reflection and a new sense of who they are. Students begin to understand the political and economic structures of domination and oppression, and develop tools for change. Social justice questions the structures of the education system in general, and classroom pedagogy in particular. We need this language of critique as we are deciding what is important to infuse in our curriculum.
Social justice offers two important tools for urban children: the ability to read the word, and to read the world, as Paulo Freire advised. When children read the word they can decode and encode words as they relate to their experiences, possibilities, culture, and knowledge. I help teacher candidates understand the deliberate attempt to influence how and what knowledge and identities are produced within and among particular sets of social relations and question the reasons behind various systems of domination. Currently, UTEP is in partnership with the CRISIS Center in Gary, a halfway house for teenagers that are experiencing some form of dysfunction in their life. UTEP students work with the center’s residents in whatever form they feel necessary. In this way they own the change they are attempting to make in the lives of the children.
Another way a commitment to social justice manifests itself in my curriculum is through a service learning project in EDUC-T 550 “Cultural Community Forces and Schools” where students research a specific real-life problem experienced in the urban districts of Gary, Hammond or East Chicago and then design an intervention. The intervention is to be something that a teacher can implement and one that will have an effect on the problem. For example, in the past a student researched teen pregnancy and then designed a brochure to be given out in schools that contained information a pregnant teenager or her parents need, but may not know (low cost health care in the community, prenatal information, Planned Parenthood contact numbers, etc). This project fosters in teacher candidates that they must make a difference in the lives of their students. My pedagogy works to instill in students that societal and personal transformation is not only possible, but also necessary, and that one person can have a positive affect on the world.
Integration of Teaching, Research and Service
In conclusion, my dance with a radical and transformative teaching must encompass hope, creativity, promise, the hard truth, and enlightenment for those who live in the dark, and a commitment to the transformation of society. How I go about enacting this in my small circle of power engenders the joy I receive from teaching and directing the Urban Teacher Education Program. From designing and teaching courses, developing professional development workshops, mentoring students, educating colleagues on urban education, to developing relationships with the community, my ultimate purpose and goal is to be an urban educator who makes a difference.