Humanities Out There Teaching Fellow, Alden Sajor Wood

As the 2017 Humanities Out There Teaching Fellow, PhD Candidate in English Alden Sajor Wood will develop, supervise, and provide mentorship for H.O.T. undergraduate tutors in an afterschool program for local youth at the Bowers Kidseum.

Why did you want to join Humanities Out There?
I share a deep commitment to the humanistic core values of service-learning and civic-minded public engagement that Humanities Out There has helped foster since 1997.  Within the current political moment there is unfortunately decreasing support for the humanities.  We are witnessing the defunding and instrumentalization of humanistic institutions and initiatives that are absolutely integral to helping foster engaged, reflective, and informed communities.  I firmly believe that in dire times like these the humanities and its dwindling cultural and educational institutions must reassert an active engagement within the communities they ostensibly serve.  I am honored to help continue Humanities Out There's mission of grounding education and cultural programming within community-based collaboration models. 

What are your goals for next year?
I hope to increase the size of the H.O.T. undergraduate intern group, as that will translate to increased opportunities for individual instruction during tutoring sessions.  I'd also like to help increase literacy proficiency of the K-8 population served by the Kidseum by implementing a consistent "literature circle" period run by the UC Irvine H.O.T. undergraduate interns each day.  Finally, I hope to implement a "cycle of inquiry" that will entail the instructional design, teaching, and post-teaching evaluation of one engaging lesson per quarter, which will be taught by collaborative-groups of interns to the students at the Kidseum.

How do you see this work connecting to your research and teaching interests?
My teaching practice is strongly informed by critical pedagogies that emphasize the relationship between education, collaborative instructional design, and social justice praxis.  Before coming to UC Irvine I was a credentialed 9th grade English/Humanities teacher at a high school in a lower socioeconomic neighborhood in Oakland, CA for three wonderful years.  The time spent working with my amazing students in East Oakland was undoubtedly the most formative of my teaching career.  I experienced first-hand the struggles of an under-resourced school working with students whose day-to-day existence was impacted by poverty, gang involvement, insecure documentation status, family incarceration, limited English-language acquisition, mental health issues, and complex trauma.  From these incredible students I learned about resiliency, the power of restorative justice models, and the importance of grounding one's pedagogical practice within more expansive conceptions of community.

I am most looking forward to translating my experience and passion for working with primary and secondary students-of-color from underserved communities to the UC Irvine H.O.T. undergraduate interns.  Helping train budding educators to serve the specific student populations in Santa Ana is going to be an absolute privilege.  I hope to instill and foster a committed sense of civic engagement in the interns, and if even only one intern comes away from their experience at the Bowers Kidseum thinking about a potential career in community-based education I will have felt I've done my part!