Open Teaching Initiative, Teach@CUNY

Watching Feminist Pedagogy in Action

By Ernesto Cuba

Simone’s classroom was so packed that I was afraid of stealing a student’s spot. In the session I attended, they lectured about Intersectionality (an analytical tool that intersects identities and systems of social oppression and domination). Simone provided good examples and metaphors taken from national news and their own experiences. Their language was clear and engaging without losing the complexity of authors’ concepts, an adequate register for a young audience. In our follow-up conversation, I asked Simone about how much students are used to participating, since I was quite impressed by the amount of information Simone delivered and the few moments when students intervened. They told me they saw it as a way to challenge female students, in particular, to be assertive and make their voices heard in public spaces.

Simone’s teaching methods are feminist in other ways. They blur the limit between public and personal spheres in order to illustrate how political and socialized are daily, social phenomena. The lecture follows a lesson plan, and it is flexible enough to incorporate diverse examples. Furthermore, their evaluation method is an invitation to students to share their emotions, reactions and life experiences. Simone does not seek to “assess” their students, but to establish a dialogue, and the design of the course is effective in that sense.

They grade different kind of compositions: several reaction-to-readings essays, a final paper and —something completely unexpected for me—students’ notebooks. Simone reads the latter to identify which topics and debates were more relevant to them. They also guide the students through to define their research topics and to question the ethical motivations behind their intellectual curiosity. In sum, Simone’s class inspired me to try new methods and to appreciate students’ experiences.

Ernesto Cuba is a doctoral student in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Languages at the Graduate Center.

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