Teaching is exciting. Teaching is a grind. Teaching is sacred. Teaching is tedious. Teaching is frustrating. Teaching is fulfilling.
Teaching is a calling.
I came to teaching 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 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 a teacher. Luckily, hubris is not a quality that lasts long in the classroom. 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 students come from diverse backgrounds, cultures, economic levels, careers, and generations. No student has the same needs, desires, or skills; each student 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 in light of that which we are exploring through education.
Many students are excellent at critical thinking but lack basic compositions skills. Others are excellent writers who need further challenges and refinements. Such is the challenge of a diverse classroom. I spend quite a bit of time working with my students on writing composition, style, and organization. Many students find this challenging, but I believe that developing good writing skills is a non-negotiable requirement of a college 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 container that fosters self-awareness and reflection. But the way in which each student approaches this process may be different.
I build my classes around multiple feedback mechanisms. I have taught classroom, online, and blended classes; I find learning happens most consistently when I use multiple modalities. Some students 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 the classroom environment. They thrive on passionate discussions. I often ask my students to use videos and other forms of media to demonstrate their understanding of concepts or theories that resonate with them. This brings visual and creative learning into the mix, and is often a catalyst for collective experiences of inspiration, humor, or productive conflict. Thus, we reflect together as a class, in small groups and partnerships, in reflexive personal writing, and in critical, formal synthesis of theory.
I am a fanatically organized instructor because my students deserve value for their tuition dollars. Their time should not be spent trying to decode my syllabus or dig for resources. I am an excellent communicator. In return, I expect honesty and integrity in students’ work and communications with me. I use technology to assist in teaching, and am proficient in multiple online tools, such as Moodle, Canvas, and Blackboard. I also use social media and online applications such as Google Docs to both 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 class meetings. I have been a teacher and a student in both online and face-to-face learning environs; 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 a teacher, which are transformation and growth. The privacy and semi-anonymity of online discourse is sometimes a safer place for students to be revelatory and introspective. The energy and dynamism of the classroom can be transformative. Both are important to my teaching.
Learning, when done well, challenges us to grow bigger, stronger, and more flexible. I bring a deep love of learning to the classroom, and I am committed to providing my students with a challenging, supportive, and stable learning environment.
Diversity and Inclusion Statement
I am committed to furthering diversity and inclusion in my classroom. My approach is particularly informed by three theories: intersectionality, critical pedagogy, and trauma-informed pedagogy (TIP). I follow pedagogical practices in writing 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 classroom, but I work to center marginalized voices whenever possible. This means allowing students with intersecting identities of oppression space to discuss their perspectives and experiences as frequently as possible and encouraging research and discussion on and by populations that are under-researched. The role of structural inequality in the development and application of science underlies my pedagogy in all courses.
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 allow students to use coping mechanisms such as non-disruptive distraction, exit, and individual accommodations, in the classroom and provide alternative assignments for students 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 students prioritize communication over perfection and allows students to develop their thinking while improving their writing.