I came to instruction from a life of intense formal learning. I began studying classical music in early childhood, got two degrees in it, and then an advanced degree in Leadership and Ethics. When offered my first college course, I imagined that I knew exactly how to teach – just as I always wished I had been taught. This was the first of many faulty assumptions about my role as an educator. Luckily, hubris is not a quality that lasts long in the classroom. In the twelve years I’ve been an instructor, every semester it seems I uncover a new pocket of my own ignorance and am subsequently grateful to my students for the opportunity to expand my horizons and soften my ego.
I believe that learning–the acquisition of wisdom and discernment–comes from developing critical thinking, moral reasoning, creativity, self-knowledge, and compassion.
My learners come from diverse backgrounds, cultures, economic levels, careers, and generations. No learner has the same needs, desires, or skills; each one brings unique strengths and challenges to their learning. More importantly, they bring rich, varied, and often inspiring histories. These experiences may not have been valued in previous educational experiences; we are often taught to suspend or disregard personal experience instead of testing and integrating it. However, I believe that at the heart of learning is the ability to examine our own experiences, feelings, and knowledge through the lens of that which we are exploring through education.
Real learning is metabolic; information is taken in, tasted, digested, and broken into useful and non-useful parts. What is important remains; what is irrelevant dissipates. This process must take place in a psychological container that fosters self-awareness and reflection. But the way in which each learner approaches this process may be different.
I design my courses around multiple feedback mechanisms. I have taught in-person, online, and blended modalities; I find learning happens most consistently when I use multiple modalities. Some people enjoy the asynchronous aspects of online discussions. They have time to think about their answers and compose well-reasoned responses. Others love to argue and challenge each other (and me) in a synchronous environment. They thrive on passionate discussions. I often ask my learners to use videos and other forms of media to demonstrate their understanding of concepts or theories that resonate with them. This utilizes visual and creative learning, and is often a catalyst for collective experiences of inspiration, humor, or productive conflict. We reflect together as a group, in small groups and partnerships, in reflexive personal writing, and in critical, formal synthesis of concepts and theories.
I am a fanatically organized instructor because my learners deserve value for their time and commitment. Their time should not be spent trying to decode my materials or dig for resources. I am an excellent communicator. In return, I expect honesty and integrity in learners’ work and communications with me. I use technology to assist in learning and am proficient in multiple LMS, such as Moodle, Canvas, and Blackboard. I also use social media and online applications such as Google Suite to increase the relevance and applicability of the material and to simplify the work process.
These tools are invaluable in creating a consistent, organized, and intuitive learning environment, which then allows more time for emergent discussions and activities during meetings. I have been an instructor and a learner in both online and face-to-face learning environments; both have their strengths and drawbacks. I have, in the words of Eddie Izzard, techno-joy, not techno-fear. I use technology to further my goals as an instructor, which are transformation and growth. The privacy and semi-anonymity of asynchronous online discourse is sometimes a safer place for students to be revelatory and introspective. The energy and dynamism of synchronous learning can be transformative. Both are important to my instruction.
Learning, when done well, challenges us to grow bigger, stronger, and more flexible. I bring a deep love of learning to instruction, and I am committed to providing learners with a challenging, supportive, and stable learning environment.
Diversity and Inclusion Statement
I am committed to furthering diversity and inclusion in my work. My approach is particularly informed by three theories: intersectionality, critical pedagogy, and trauma-informed pedagogy (TIP). I follow pedagogical practices that seek to minimize the effects of colonization on marginalized people in their work.
I strive to create an equitable environment in which we do not discriminate based on culture, gender, race, gender identity, sexual identity, ability, appearance, or religion. We seek to understand each other better to unpack our biases and expand our schemas.
Using intersectionality and critical pedagogy as a guide, I try to create space for all voices in my work, but I strive to center marginalized voices whenever possible. This means allowing learners with intersecting identities of oppression space to discuss their perspectives and experiences as frequently as possible and utilizing materials on and by populations who are under-researched and underrepresented. The role of structural inequality in the development and application of curriculum underlies my pedagogy in all designs.
Trauma-Informed Pedagogy provides guidelines for minimizing harm to students who may experience secondary trauma from the study or discussion of traumatic issues, such as racial violence, family abuse, and childhood sexual abuse. I encourage learners to use coping mechanisms such as non-disruptive distraction, exit, and individual accommodations in the learning environment and provide alternative assignments for learners who may have first-hand experiences of these and other issues.
Finally, when designing and evaluating assignments, I value the ability to think and communicate clearly over replicating the white, privileged norms of grammar and syntax in academic writing. My training in minimal marking practices helps learners prioritize communication over perfection and allows them to develop their thinking while improving their writing.