The Pedagogy of POSE

Four Awesome Teaching Practices from The Show of Abundance

So, FX’s POSE aka just Pose has wrapped and it is truly hard to say goodbye to the show. I haven’t watched the finale yet, but I thought I would write this anyway for all my fellow teaching nerds. Call it what you want, teaching tips, andragogy, educator goals, or the pedagogy of Pose, this show is a learning science art of teaching master class. I was having a little kiki about this with my colleague and friend, theeee assessment whisperer, soon to be Dr. Lindsay Onufer and she inspired me to write it up. Don’t worry there will be no final season spoilers here. Let’s get into this teaching-at-its-ballroom-culture-best, shall we?

1- On Cite

The show does an excellent job on the inclusion front. It also pays careful homage to the people who built the late 20th century NY ball scene hearkening back to the groundbreaking work of Paris is Burning which did a lot to document the experiences of members of the various houses. Pose extends this work by employing a cast that is heavily represented by Black and brown TLGBQIA+ folx. That’s great. Think of it as attracting a student body that is representative of the real world or what some of your administrators will call diversity (yeah ok). But Pose is doing more. From Steven Canals and Our Lady J to Janet periodt Mock periodt, there are TLGBQIA+ from a range of cultural backgrounds serving as writers, designers, directors and other behind the scenes crew. This is important. When you put together a course or a lesson plan, think about whether the diversity you are striving for exists at the discursive power level. If your women’s studies, philosophy, or physics (uh huh) syllabus is all de Beauvoir, Foucault and Kant, I…can’t. Please revise and resubmit that. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ call me reviewer 2 on this one.

2- Feedback Realness

Pose earns all 10s for feedback that just keeps the ball walkers aiming higher. They do not deal in platitudes and the trophy seekers clearly take notes before they come back to the floor. Now I’m not saying we should go all 6…6…5 on students. That ain’t it. But do you know how many times they have seen the grammar, spelling, “good” and exclamation point notes on their work? Let’s be more specific. Tell the students what they didn’t understand about the assignment. Make the praise direct and descriptive. I’ll stop and let Pray Tell inspire you a bit. Remember this is an heuristic. Don’t let me find you on rate my professors looking basic because you said some raggedy mess to your students.

3- Visual Vogue and Accessibility

We love the creativity. We live for the fun, and we positively gush over the presentations the crew comes up with at the balls. I mean really, I only have to offer two words: Queen Elektra! Pose is excellent at delivering on the visual reinforcement over and over as different people walk a category. But can you imagine being there if you had a visual impairment? Umm yes. Of course, you can because in addition to feedback, the announcer is also continually describing what’s going on under those purple rain lights. And there are often a range of other ways for the audience to access the general points of the ball. The show is a multi-modal feast both in the high energy ball scenes and in the powerful drama as well. No one is asking you for the range of MJ Rodriguez but give increased accessibility a try. We must do better in that area to achieve truly equitable prospects for students.

4- Self Care – No Really

Perhaps the most important teaching tip of all that Pose gets right is to create space for your own talent, your community and expect respect. As teachers (instructors, adjuncts, professors, assistants, associates, tenure track and lecture lane – I’m talking to all of us) especially those of us who find ourselves on the margins, we can often face a horrible litany of impostor syndrome, microaggression and political foolishness that make us vulnerable. I know there are plenty of times when I need the courage of Candy, the strength of Lulu, and the resilience of Angel all in one day. Take care of yourself. Take care of your community. Take notes from the Pose families and how they show up for each other. Stand in the gap for others when you see them being mistreated. And if you must …read anyone who tries it. Read them for absolute and utter filth.

If you read this post and thought it was fun, I’m glad. If you read this and you felt pain because academia has made it hard for you to imagine education that is truly committed to liberation, I’m with you. Here are some resources I go to for inspiration:  

What did FX’s Pose show you about teaching and learning? How many boxes of tissues do I need for the finale?

Oh yeah and do you have tips to help me make this content more accessible? I’m trying to do better, too.

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