As a bilingual refugee researcher and educator, my philosophy of teaching focuses on students’ lived experiences as central in the learning process (Paris & Alim, 2017). I design and present my undergraduate and graduate courses to leverage what my students bring into the classrooms and create a space for them to co- learn, co- labor (García, 2020) and co-construct knowledge with me. I foreground students’ voices in my own teaching through meaningful, interactive, and student-driven discussion and inquiry. Furthermore, I orient teaching and learning as a collaborative and reflective endeavor across class sessions and course assignments. 

My classes are anchored in translanguaging and transtrauma pedagogical stances. A translanguaging stance encompasses the language practices and cultural understandings that students bring from home and communities, as well as from school. These practices and understandings co-exist, work juntos, and enrich each other. Students’ families and communities are valuable sources of knowledge and must be involved in the education process juntos. The classroom is a democratic space where teachers and students juntos create knowledge, challenge traditional hierarchies, and work toward a more just society (García, Johnson, & Seltzer, 2017: p. 104).

I also draw on a transtrauma stance, which views the trauma of marginalized/multilingual students from an institutional perspective and not from an individual perspective – the relocation of trauma from individual bodies to the institutions (Le, 2022). It looks at the structural conditions that inflict trauma on marginalized communities. It upholds armed love (Freire, 1998) and bilingual love (Mignolo, 2000) in the classrooms. Finally, it uses the arts and collective storytelling as a form of collective healing (Desai, 2020; Kilgore, 1999; Pour-Khorshid, 2016). 

At the beginning of every class session, I always start with a warm-up activity that draws from my students’ lived experiences. For example, in my Multilingualism in the U.S. class, the topic of the day was reviewing “The Standard Language Myth” by Lippi-Green, I began the warm up activity with a turn and talk prompt asking my students, “A time when you felt discriminated because of your language practices.” Students got into pairs and discussed the prompt and then shared with the classrooms. This activity drew on students’ lived experiences and engaged them to think critically about who gets to decide which “dialect” to be the standard. 

I believe that teaching is about “armed love” (Freire, 1998) and bilingual love (Mignolo, 2000). “Armed love” is more than just providing minoritized students with care and nurture, it is providing them with love that is based on liberatory education and affirming one’s humanity (Bartolomé, 2008). This armed love is linked to Mignolo’s (2000) ideas about “bilingual love.” When students’ entire linguistic repertoire is considered and lovingly related, education can pay attention to what all students know, instead of focusing on simply developing command of linguistic norms and conventions that have been imposed by school bureaucrats and social elites. With that in mind, I reject normative ways of teaching and assessing my students. My classroom is like a canvas: We utilize all of the spaces in the classroom. For example, students draw and write on the floor and wall of the classroom. We are engaging in a lively and dynamic co-construction of our understandings as we learn with and from one another. We incorporate many aspects of theater performance into the classroom, such as spoken word and acting. For example, in my Introduction to Academic Writing class, some of my students were shy of speaking and I want them to be more comfortable speaking in the class. I previewed the activity with performances from spoken word artists. Then I followed up with prompts to scaffold my students to write their pieces. The students then performed in front of the class. 

 My students are the artists of the classroom. Centering students’ lived experiences is a priority in my classroom. At the beginning of every class, we check in with each other and then engage in a self-reflection writing prompt such as “ A time when you felt happy.” I follow Maxine Greene’s pedagogy stance (1995) which is using arts to release the students’ imagination and creativity through self- reflection and critical thinking, placing their lived experiences at the center. For example, in my Foundations of Bilingual Education class, the first assignment asked my students to reflect on their experiences being bilingual or multilingual. If they self-identified as “monolingual,” I asked students to reflect on their experience with teaching students who are bilingual or with their own language learning. The students shared their stories through drawing or performance. Through this assignment we were able to understand each other and develop trust. This sets the stage for how we will co-construct learning and teaching throughout the rest of the semester. By anchoring my classrooms in translanguaging and transtrauma pedagogical stances I ensure that my teaching is inherently inclusive, experiential and participatory. This affords me the space to design activities and classroom lessons that bring course content to life for my students. Moreover, these practices have resulted in positive feedback from both students and supervisory faculty.