Without learning, you’re not truly living
“If you’re not learning and growing as a person, then you’re not truly living. Learning truly does make us.” – Dorian Brown, associate professor of history at St. Louis Community College
They may not always get the credit they deserve, but every educator deserves a chance to shine. Dorian Brown recently explained to us in issue three of our Digital Magazine, Degrees, how he ended up becoming a history professor. Here is his story.
From a young age, Dorian Brown, a native of St. Louis, gravitated towards hip hop music and history books. Following a winding educational path that had him dabbling in engineering, math, and law school, he ultimately listened to his heart and went after his master’s degree in history. He says of his transition into teaching history that he wouldn’t have it any other way—teaching and history are his two passions, and he feels right at home in the classroom. In fact, he’s currently pursuing his PhD to continue his personal growth and commitment to learning.
Regarding his teaching philosophy, Dorian often integrates hip hop into into his lessons to provide relevance to students. He loves helping his students understand that history is being made all around them. This requires them to appreciate that the things that happened “so long ago” actually weren’t all that long ago. It also helps them value their own place in history, and grasp the importance of being active citizens in their own communities. Dorian says that Post-World War II and the Civil Rights movement are his favorite eras to teach because they highlight the value of the individual citizen’s rights and the part that all Americans can play in helping the nation live up to its Constitutional obligations.
Proudest Teaching Moment
Dorian’s classes have a reputation for being tough. He insists that this is to ensure that all students have an equal chance of success. At the end of one semester, a student approached him and told him she initially didn’t want to take his class, having heard how difficult it was, but was glad she had. She ultimately learned to thrive and felt she was better equipped to do big things in the real world with the critical thinking skills she had obtained in his class.
Secret Weapon in the Classroom
Dorian knows how to teach in a language students understand, and he often adapts material to their frame of reference. He’s always thinking with his history brain and brings film and music references into the classroom to help elaborate on a point. Sometimes he’ll pull up Facebook to get a discussion going or show a scene from Schoolhouse Rock. He also challenges students to truly think critically and to not only rely on information from sources they are comfortable with. Challenging perspectives and opinions is the name of the game when it comes to critical thinking!
Personal Education Philosophy
“The teacher opens the door. You have to walk through it.” Dorian believes strongly in the need for students to approach learning with passion and a willingness to work hard, and that they should not expect to be given their grades just for showing up or paying tuition. If and when they do so, they can truly grow into informed citizens and become makers of history themselves.