Think. Pair. Share. with Dr. Maria McKenna

From the origins of Sesame Street and Photovoice, to the pedagogy of vulnerability, to equity, inclusion, and diversity as foundations of education

Maria McKenna, Associate Professor of the Practice in the Department of Africana Studies and the Education, Schooling, & Society program at Notre Dame discusses youth empowerment, equity, inclusion, and diversity as foundations of education, as well as her stand on cereal as soup and why she doesn’t really want to live forever.

Read the Transcript

Notable Quotes

  • “Being a kind teacher or a teacher who promotes joy or care doesn't mean that you're not the leader in the room or you're not in control of a classroom. In fact, you're hopefully in more control of the classroom in the sense that you have an understanding with those students that you can both have fun and work hard. You can both be respectful and be able to say, "I don't understand this." It's a both and. So it's not, I'm gonna be a soft teacher, and I'm gonna teach all of these lovey-dovey social-emotional learning things. Or I'm gonna really work on allyship and diversity and equity and inclusion to the exclusion of something else. It means that you are an educator whose vision of leadership and vision of being the person that's responsible for these young people in front of you, whether you're teaching college, or you're teaching three-year-olds, that you're doing this together. And that you are going to work for a mutual respect that allows you to challenge, allows you to do creative things, and allows you to take the time you need when you need it to backtrack or to do something different.”

  • “If we're trying to grow into healthy, whole humans, we really need to think about the way vulnerability interacts and impacts our teaching and our learning. And vulnerability is not seen as an academic strength, an intellectual strength. And so I'm trying to change that, whether we're talking about college or whether we're talking about pre-school and elementary and high school.” 

  • “I don't think you can be strong without being vulnerable. Somewhere along the way, you had to sort of prove to yourself that you could do whatever it is that you're doing, whether you have the stamina or the wherewithal or the expertise to do that. And so that takes vulnerability.”

  • “The first thing about allyship is to recognize that the definition of allyship is broader than simply checking some boxes. It is life-long, it is constant, and you will mess it up. And so when you think about allyship, you have to be ready to continually reflect and assess on your own biases, on your own understandings of the world, and the ways in which you may or may not be contributing to continued structural or systemic disenfranchisement. So much of allyship is not about doing things for other people, it's about doing things with other people, even when those things might actually be counterproductive to your own well-being, in your mind.”

  • “I think over the last year, we've seen more than ever that there are lots of different ways that we can connect, that we can be empathetic, that we can still have joyful spaces with children. But I think we've also learned that human contact and human interaction not through a screen is essential and central to holistic education.”