Patricia Espiritu Halagao
"Teachers must see ourselves as political beings, who fight for causes larger than ourselves."
- PhD, Education: Curriculum & Instruction
What is your philosophy of teaching?
My job is simple: I teach teachers. This is how I describe my profession to others. But I realize it is much more than that. I look at the philosophy of my teaching in many different ways. Teaching is about inspiring, stretching, growing, and bridging among individuals, groups of people, and communities.
How do you relate to your students as a teacher?
In Filpino, alagaan means to care for. First and foremost, I need to care for my students as individuals. Noted education scholar, Lisa Delpit states: “In order to teach you, I must know you.” On the very first day of class, we read Hawaiian poet and activist, Puanani Burgess’s
poem, “What’s in a Name” and share the histories, stories and significances of our names. In this seemingly simple exercise we already learn so much about each other’s families, cultural backgrounds, and identities.
Are there topics you think your students are surprised to be learning about in your classroom?
As a multicultural educator I push my students to examine the “closed areas” like racism, sexism, classism, and structural inequality, which may make them feel uncomfortable. But, I hope students leave with a more critical and caring understanding of the world around them and ask questions. Why? What is the root of this injustice? What can I do?
As an educator, when do you know you’ve been successful?
My aim is for my students to find power in their voice and actions so that they may instill these values and principles in their own students. I find it sad when students are at loss with topics for their kuleana projects. We, as teachers, need to bring back purpose and passion in learning and teaching. Teachers must see ourselves as political beings, who fight for causes larger than ourselves. My mentor Dr. James Banks calls this “social action.” I just call this good teaching.
What else makes a good teacher?
In order for me to be a teacher, I need to be a learner. One of my colleagues, Herb Lee reminds us, especially adults, to always have a “learner’s mind.” The Hawaiian word, A`o best encompasses this important concept to me. A`o means teaching and learning at the same time. It is the kind of reciprocity where everyone learns from everyone and everywhere. Having this perspective opens up my mind in so many ways. I see A`o in my relationships with my students, my openness to teach in new ways every semester, and willingness to learn.