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Introducing a Pedagogy of the Full Self


If you know me, you can consider skipping this introduction and jump right to the juicy bits further down the page. My name is Casey Anne Brimmer and I am an ASPECT PhD student at Virginia Tech; I am queer, nonbinary, neurospicy in the forms of (late diagnosed) ADHD and Autism, and otherwise multiply disabled, all of these identities and being a first generation college student with a wide berth of experiences in academia, have led to my dissertation. My dissertation research is about creating what I call a Pedagogy of the Full Self (PFS) utilizing autoethnography and community theorizing. In this blog post, I want to introduce you to what a PFS stems from, and how I see it working to make academia--particularly higher education such as college--a more accessible and positive experience for those who choose this route.

What Does a PFS Mean?

The most simplified premise of a PFS is to create learning spaces in which students and faculty can bring their full selves into the room. Truthfully, it stems from Pat Parker's concept of a revolution. Black, lesbian, activist and poet, Pat Parker said in her piece Movement in Black, that “If I could take all my parts with me when I go somewhere, and not have to to say to one of them, 'No, you stay home tonight, you won't be welcome,' because I'm going to an all-white party where I can be gay, but not Black. Or I'm going to a Black poetry reading, and half the poets are anti-homosexual or thousands of situations where something of what I am cannot come with me. The day all the different parts of me can come along, we would have what I would call a revolution.” A PFS climbed its way out of the ableism, hazing, and pushout culture I experienced in the last several years and made its way directly into my heart.

Developing a PFS is genuinely a passion of mine because it is about creating spaces where more people can be fully themselves, and learn better and more deeply because all of the parts of them are welcomed. Developing a Pedagogy of the Full Self has it's difficulties. What if one person's full self is antithetical to another person's full self, such as someone who is a white supremacist and someone else who is a person of color? I haven't found the solution yet, but I imagine it will look like standing on the side of the oppressed rather than the oppressor.

A PFS is about creating spaces that invite students to bring their full selves into the room, and about being prepared as an instructor to bring our full selves into the room as well. It is about recognizing that just because someone is invited does not mean they are obligated to come. It means listening to the silences of the marginalized and the marginalizing people; as well as listening to the overabundant noise telling the marginalized and minoritized "No, you stay home tonight, you won't be welcome."

So What?

I am invested in a pedagogy of the full self for all of the times instructors told me "We don't do that kind of [accommodation] in graduate school." or "How am I supposed to explain to your peers why you can use your laptop but they cannot? How am I supposed to explain to them you're special?" It is about stopping people in power from uttering sentences like "If you need an accommodation, maybe you should take a leave of absence."

A PFS is very much in development and it might always be in development to some degree. But, there is enough of an idea in my minds eye that I put it into practice as I teach courses for various programs and universities; and even as I facilitate trainings for the public on LGBTQ+ identities and struggles.