PHILOSOPHY OF TEACHING & LEARNING
I view teaching as the quintessential component of being a professor and categorize my teaching style as a womanist pedagogy. Womanism is a social transformation theory with five characteristics—antioppessionist, vernacular, communitarian, nonideological, and spiritualized—and uses social transformation methods such as dialogue, hospitality, and mothering. I apply the five characteristics and social transformation methods in my teaching.
Learning African American History, African American Studies, and Gender Studies are often times personal, and womanism allows students to identify and grapple with their ethnicity, their communities, and their humanity, and gives them responsibilities to each. To nurture this environment, my role and responsibilities, as well as the students, shifts and allows them to interject themselves, their family, and community story into the narrative of the class. Teaching as a womanist also changes the power dynamics of the classroom making the professor a facilitator of learning and students active learners. As a facilitator, the professor uses a discussion format with short lectures and critical questions from the readings and lectures instead of the usual didactic technique. The students take responsibility for their learning by being critical readers and performing critical analysis. During the discussions, the students are active as both learners and teachers because all are equal and invested in the class and the subject matter. My role as the facilitator is to help direct the conversation and keep the students on task by centering the readings and lectures.
In my teaching, I challenge the students’ understanding of the social, cultural, and historical thinking by providing a thicker and nuanced perspective of how we have arrived at this moment. I assign a diversity of learning materials—articles and books, movies/television, social and new media, and music in order for the students to be able to grasp all the content. Each class is geared towards discussion from the students’ perspective by intertwining academic language with culturally relevant language while raising the analysis incrementally over the semester. Within these discussions, I challenge students to historicize and place themselves within the context of the class, seeing their race, gender, sexuality, and class. I move students away from reading and saying “I did not agree with or like that,” or “I find that interesting,” into critiquing the source, the methodology, as well as putting the contents into conversation with other resources.
My teaching is organic and the more I master the art of teaching my pedagogy continues to evolve. Working with students within African American History usually entails being more than just a professor; it also includes being a counselor, advisor, and life coach. I recognize that universities are diverse and inclusive spaces that allow students to engage in being in a challenging multiethnic, multicultural, and global society. Discussing these issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality unlocks the past and connects it to the present, encouraging students to engage with current challenge using a historical lens. As a facilitator, students connect with me because I care about their holistic well-being, while maintaining a professional atmosphere. Because I have high expectations, students learn to be more critical in addition to mastering the subject matter. Students look to me for help and understanding about their family, community, and seek advice on matriculating through the university and life.
I have taught at three major research universities, as well as, three small liberal colleges and the womanist centered classroom works in all environments. Giving students a nurturing atmosphere to develop academically and personally is my goal as a professor. As I have developed my teaching skills and my womanist centered classroom, the students find my approach rewarding and refreshing evidenced by my teaching evaluations. In addition, I have maintained a mentoring and life coach role with many of my students at all six universities. I believe the quintessential role of the professor is teaching and through that teaching helping students become greater and more responsible citizens of the world. I want to inspire students to figure out how to change the world for the better and teaching African American History/Studies, I especially want them to engage the African Diaspora and its people and culture.
1 Layli Phillips, ed. The Womanist Reader (New York: Routledge, 2006), xix-xlix.
Photos of Classes
Samples of Digital Stories
- TEACHING FEEDBACK
- “The format was excellent. I like the ‘womanist’ approach of an all engaging discourse/discussion…I must say the class discussions were the biggest asset to me. I like active engagement –relating theory to daily life.”
- “I love the format of the class as I hate being lectured to. In this particular class, the students’ perspectives varied so much that the seating arrangements (we sit in a circle) really benefitted class discussion. Articulating our views and the concepts helped me to understand.”
- “I’ve been looking for a teacher like you for years…better late than never I guess. I thoroughly enjoyed this class and though it meant a sacrafice in other areas of my life, it was worth it. I appreciate the value you place on education for its own sake as well as the value you place on education as a means to an end. To say that you “stimulated my thinking and gave new insights” is an understatement. Mostly, I appreciate your attempt to stick closely to the Freire model of education, something everyone knows but nobody does. Though it was frustrating at times, I appreciate the conversational tone of the class and the value you placed on the lived experiences of the students. It was hard work but it actually worked out well (til the end when we ran out of time but thats okay). In terms of your (sic) being a role model, one thing you said to me was that you had no intention of letting the powers that be in your department deter you from getting what you needed to reach your goal. This has been the most challenging semester for me in my own program and those words continue to remind of what I came here to do. I really wish you were not going back to Memphis but regardless, thank you for your presence and your dedication this semester. It has been more valuable than you know. Best, Me”
- “I truly enjoyed this class. I feel better about myself. I also feel that I can apply my new found knowledge to other classes, work, and other real world experiences. Dr. (to be that is) Lanois is an exceptional teacher. He will truly be missed.”
- “Professor Lanois is an excellent source of knowledge, and he has no problem sharing it with his class. He was always open for questions. He also made himself available to the class! I have encountered very few instructors that have this type of enthusiasm when discussing course work. Although this was not a class related to my major, Professor Lanois made this class very interesting.”
- “Mr. Lanois is a wonderful teacher and a motivator and he was always on top of us learning and taught me many things I never knew. Keep up the good work.”
- “Very Enthusiastic about material made me excited about the course.”
- “Professor Lanois an outstanding instructor. His approach differed from what I expected, but it proved to be extremely effective. No matter the letter grade I receive in this course, the things I learned will impact the rest of my life.”
- “Prof. Lanois was a great teacher. He was challenging because everything that we felt strongly about, he questioned our reasoning. This also encouraged the class to think and ask questions [of] ourselves which I feel the college experience should be all about. This is one of the FIRST classes that I feel I didn’t have to regurgitate what I learned, but was actually educated.”
- Professor Lanois taught this course well. His methods are somewhat unorthodox, but I feel more knowledgeable about Africana Studies because of this course. I will gladly take any other courses he offers in the future.
- Great professor. He challenged the students and did not make anything easy. I truly had to work hard and study in order to pass this class.
- Lanois is a phenomenal teacher. Ordinarily I would be concerned with a C in course but because of the rigor of this course and the expectancy of gaining more than just a passing letter grade I will be more than happy to accept the C that is given.
- This instructor has by far been one of the most influential to my education while attending the UofM. Not only have I gained thinking skills in which I will be able to use as I enter the next phase of my life, his knowledge of the particular subject has inspired me to take my own thinking to a new level of approach. I feel grateful for having had a professor who challenged everything I thought. Students admire this instructor because within the classroom, no subject is off limits, and there is always a linking of class discussions to the material read outside of class.
- Charismatic; knowledgeable; flexible; innovative. The professor was one of the most challenging teachers I have had. However, this is the most knowledge and insight I have gained in a single course in my entire college career.
I have taught at eight distinctive colleges and universities—3 public research universities with very diverse student bodies (Georgia State University, The University of Memphis, and Virginia Commonwealth University) and 5 historically Black colleges (Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, Lane College, Rust College, and Norfolk State University). At Georgia State University, I was a Teaching Assistant as well as the professor of record for several courses. I assisted in three courses—World History to 1500, World History from 1500, and U. S. History. These courses averaged a class size of 35-45 students and I was responsible for break out sessions once a week. Within these break out sessions, I led class discussions over the week’s readings and I was responsible for grading all assignments for my section. I was the professor of record for two courses at Georgia State University—U. S. History and Introduction to African and African American History. The average class size was 10-30 students per semester.
My first adjunct position was at Spleman College teaching a freshman level course entitled African Diaspora and the World, which was a two semester course with the class room sizing varying from twenty to thirty students. The next adjunct position I held was at Clark Atlanta University for a one semester appointment. I taught two senior level courses on African American History from 1865 with the class size ranging between 20-30 students. The last adjunct position I held was at The University of Memphis teaching several courses that I created and designed. The first course was entitled African American Fraternities, Sororities, and Secret Societies and was a senior level class that I taught for two semesters with an average class size of 10-20 students. The second course was African American Gender and was also a senior level course with a class size of 10 students. The last course that I created was Black Masculinity Since 1950 with a class size of 25 students. In addition, I taught the Introduction to African and African American Studies and Rhetoric of Hip Hop course and these courses are found in the catalog. I had an average size in the Introduction courses of 25-30 students. The Rhetoric of Hip Hop course was taught online with a class size of 10-15 students.
The full-time positions include Virginia Commonwealth University, Lane College, Rust College, and Norfolk State University. At Virginia Commonwealth University, I taught three specialty courses and the Introduction course. Black Masculinities, Introduction to Hip Hop Studies, and African Americans in the Media were all senior level courses with an average size of 20-30 students. The Introduction to African American Studies course had 20-30 students. Lane College primary was the general education World History courses and one specialty course on African American women in the early 20th century. The World History courses averaged 20-35 students and the specialty course was 15-20 students. At Rust College, I taught the African Diaspora I and Current Issues in History (historical methodology, research, and writing). The class sizes are 20-30 students in the African Diaspora and 4 students in the Current Issues course. Currently, I teach African American History to 1865 and African American History from 1865 as part of general education with the classes averaging between 15-25 students. The upper division course Black Leaders Then and Now was a course that I brought back in Fall 2020 with 10-20 students.
African American History/Studies Sample Syllabi
AFAM 491 – Introduction to Hip Hop Studies
Virginia Commonwealth University
Introduction to Hip Hop Studies is a critical analysis of Hip Hop . The course surveys the original four elements of Hip Hop—DJing, MCing, breakdancing, and graffiti and dissects the evolution of Hip Hop and the new elements such as fashion, magazines/media, videos, entrepreneurship, etc. To understand the cultural production of Hip Hop, we must first understand the history of the people who created it. The course will examine the conditions, history, and culture of African Americans that birth the art and lifestyle. Hip Hop evolution was fueled by the regions it touched—East, West, and South making distinct regional and local Hip Hop. We will examine the Third Coast—the South and understand southerners’ impact and domination of Hip Hop. Finally, Hip Hop produces messages that are interpreted in variety of ways. In this course, we will examine the messages African American girls and women received from Hip Hop. The course is reading, writing, and discussion intensive.
AFAM 491 – African Americans in the Media
Virginia Commonwealth University
For African Americans, at least, media representations often were gender-specific and provided political and social impetus for exaggerated and misrepresented Black femininity and masculinity. This course will analyze and critique representations of African Americans in media—newspapers and magazines, film, radio, television, and new media – and explore the juxtaposition of external and internal representations of race and gender. African Americans created and attempted to sustain an advocacy media to project positive representations and in the process to affirm and validate the existence and collective experiences of their race. Thus, African American counter-media production and the negotiation of negative and positive representations also will be examined in this course. Guiding questions for this course include: what are media representations of African Americans; what are the political and social implications of mass media representations of African Americans; how are these representations internalized by mainstream and black audiences; what is African American media; and who authors African American media.
AFAM 491 – Black Masculinity
Virginia Commonwealth University
The course examines African American men from World War II to today using different gender studies theories such as Black Feminism, Womanism, Black Masculinities, Performance, and Body Politics. Individual, collective, and media representation of African American manhood are critiqued and analyzed throughout the course. The course situates African American men as athletes, fathers, military, activist movements, prisons, and the public sphere to get a diversified viewpoint of the conditions African American men have faced and continued to face in the 21st century.
AFAM 103 – Introduction to African American Studies Virginia Commonwealth University
The course is designed to introduce students to the field of Africana Studies. It teaches the history from Africa into the Diaspora and then transitions into dealing with contemporary issues of the African Diaspora.
AAAS 4451 – Rhetoric of Hip Hop
The University of Memphis
The course explores the movement of hip-hop from its original expressions of a hidden sub-culture to its widespread acceptance in mainstream American culture. The topics covered in the course include race, class, gender, authenticity, message, and global hip hop. The course was taught online to twelve students. In an attempt to recreate the classroom environment online, I assigned discussion posts, recorded short lectures using green screen and uploading it to the UofM podcast system but changed to using google hangout to deliver discussions and lectures. The course included exams, quizzes, and a research paper with the option to make a documentary on hip hop. The primary goal of the course is to introduce hip hop as a critical subject to analyzed and studied.
AAAS 4996 – Black Masculinity since 1950
The University of Memphis
The course was developed by me to be an upper-division undergraduate seminar course examining the history of African American men, manhood, and masculinity from 1950- present. The course discussed mass incarceration, love relationships, civil rights and Black power movement, hip hop and the hip hop generation, sexuality, Tupac Shakur, and media stereotypes. This course was taught to 17 students and they were responsible for discussions/participation, textual analysis paper, semester project and presentation, comprehensive exam. The course was reading intensive and the primary goal of the course was to analyze African American men from their perspective using feminism, Black feminism, womanism, and Black masculinities theories.
AAAS 2100 – Introduction to AAAS
The University of Memphis
The course is designed to introduce students to the field of Africana Studies. It teaches the history from Africa into the Diaspora and then transitions into dealing with contemporary issues of the African Diaspora. One course had 29 students and the other had 33 students. They were responsible for discussion/participation, semester project and presentation, quizzes, short papers, and exams. The course comes with a reader plus they get to choose between one other book to read from a list. One course dealt with the Simple series by Langston Hughes while the other course delved into race and gender fiction and nonfiction books. The primary goal of this course is to familiarize the student with the study of Africana people and the discipline of African and African American Studies.
AAAS – 4995 African American Gender Experience
The University of Memphis
The course was developed by me to be an upper-division undergraduate seminar course teaching the theories and praxis of womanism, Black feminisms, and Black masculinities. The course examined gender and sexuality of contemporary African Americans as well as the historical roots of gender post-slavery. The course had six students and the primary goal of the course was to get the students to learn these theories and be able to apply them in practical ways such as in the media and their personal lives.
AAAS – 4993African American Fraternalism
The University of Memphis
The course was developed by me to be an upper-division undergraduate seminar course teaching the history of African American fraternalism from 1775-present. The course dealt with secret societies, mutual aid societies, Greek-lettered societies, the Black aristocracy, and gender. I taught this course twice and the first time it had 18 students and the second time it had six students. The primary goal of the course was to examine the long history of African American fraternalism and the instrumental role they played in shaping African American history and culture.