“Accommodation is the most basic act and art of teaching. It is not the exception we sometimes make in spite of learning, but rather the adaptations we continually make to promote learning.”
As a college instructor, I am passionate about implementing multimodal teaching practices to create an inclusive, decolonial, and accessible education. Prior to the first day, students are asked to bring a meaningful, personal item to class. On that first day, I always bring one of my indigenous Filipino cloths and lay it on the table, and ask participants three questions: Who are you? Why are you here? What do you want? I encourage answers to be as practical or as esoteric as the participant desires, but I request that as they share their answer, they put a meaningful personal item on the cloth. I do the same thing. I mention that the item represents each one of us coming together on equitable footing in a shared space. This process is just one aspect of a Filipino indigenous framework called pakikipagkapwa. In this framework, which also serves as an attempt to decolonize the classroom, the teacher is called tulay, meaning “bridge,” and acts as a guide not to knowledge itself, but rather to developed skills and abilities in critical thinking, empathy, curiosity, and self-directed, life-long learning. The students are called kahalok, meaning “participants.” Together, they form the umpukan, which is the community itself learning through mutual respect and reciprocity.
As a bridge (“tulay”) for students, it is imperative that my teaching practice is accessible through implementing multimodal techniques. This promotes learning and ensures inclusion of all students no matter their learning styles and needs. I bring access copies of all handouts and PowerPoint slides, share the materials prior to class on the online learning management system, such as Canvas or D2L, and project the PowerPoint on a screen during class.
Additionally, my teaching style is premised on the flipped classroom. Students read outside of class and write short reading responses, which helps them prepare for small group and whole group in-class discussions and creates a reciprocal learning environment. By sharing our experiences and knowledge, we can experience diverse perspectives and ways of thinking, ideas on what it means to be human in the world, and varying approaches to craft and technique.
To solidify this experiential learning, students learn how to talk about their work. With every major project students turn in, I invite them to include a process note in the form of an informal letter. This encourages them to actively take responsibility for their own learning, and to experience writing as exploratory. Through multiple drafts written alongside these process notes, they are encouraged to reflect on their writing process, how their piece arrived in its current form, with whom their work is in conversation, any cross-disciplinary interests, its literary lineage and the questions they asked and are asking as a point of departure.
Writing is not only a combination of process, critical thinking, and discovery, it is also felt. Exercises go beyond the page. I ask students to take walks, sit in nature, go to art galleries, dance, paint, or find some sort of embodied, tactile activity that encourages the mind to let go, wander, and thus, discover something new.