Teaching Philosophy Statement: Conversations
As a teacher in both K-12 and postsecondary contexts, I have come to appreciate the pedagogical value of meaningful conversations in the learning process, whether they are external and with others or internal and with ourselves. This appreciation for conversation has inspired and informed my teaching. In every lesson, I seek to encourage students to interact with and learn from not only others, but also themselves. From such stories shared with others and with ourselves, we grow.
By inviting students to engage with and learn from each other, we may create a more student-centered and collaborative classroom, one in which they exercise agency over and ownership of their learning. I fundamentally believe that bottom-up learning, rather than top-down teaching, serves and equips students more effectively for one simple reason: The learning comes from them and not to them. By using a writing workshop format for much of my instruction, I ensure that students are involved in and responsible for their growth as writers. Every student brings to the classroom an abundance of insights and experiences, from which we can grow and develop further.
Diversity and Empathy
Such an affirmative environment for students would recognize and build upon the diverse backgrounds and lived experiences they have. Respecting and celebrating diversity in all its forms allows all of us to learn more profoundly and deeply as we engage with and encounter each other. Every student has a story to be considered and acknowledged, and in my pedagogy, I seek to use the stories from which we have come to instill further appreciation for the rich social fabric. In addition, such stories may invite and beckon us to perceive and understand the world anew.
Use of Technology
In addition, we have entered into a new world in terms of technology, one containing and offering countless tools for enhancing and enriching the process of communicating. Such tools, such as Google Drive or Canvas, allow for enhanced collaboration and multimodality, enriching the conversations in which students partake as they learn from each other. Throughout my teaching, I continuously seek to infuse technology into instruction in a meaningful way: one that engages and enchants students while also aligning with learning objectives and contributing substantially to their growth as communicators and success with assignments. In the classroom, technology should always serve as a means for learning and communication and not as the end in and of itself. I would use the myriad technologies available in the 21st century to create a more engaging and potent learning experience for students.
The Importance of Reflection
Alongside learning from conversations and interactions with others, however, students can and should learn from conversations and interactions with themselves. By immersing themselves in sustained and deliberate introspection and reflection, students may come to analyze and learn from their experiences in the classroom and as communicators. In an “activity culture” that pervades in both education and the world at large, students may encounter the surface of but not dive into what they have experienced. As students pause and step outside the deluge of information in today’s world, they may encounter what the poet T.S. Eliot would describe as “the still point of the turning world.” By taking the time to process where we have been and to clarify where we would like to go, we can come to exercise ownership of and develop a growth mindset in terms of our trajectory as communicators. As a teacher, I seek to practice such reflection as well to enhance and improve my instruction: By pausing to contemplate what worked and what did not in the classroom, I can modify my teaching to better serve students. Out of the struggle with ourselves comes evolution. One of my key goals as a writing teacher is to equip students to become conscientious and thoughtful writers further; reflection plays a key role in this regard.
A Practice of Critical Thinking
As a teacher, I continuously infuse opportunities for introspection and reflection into my teaching to ensure that students can internalize and meditate upon the content, can step back and grapple with what it means to them personally. Upon becoming immersed in this dialogue with themselves, upon wondering and pondering at length, students may come to find themselves confused. In a world of rigid partisan certainties, such confusion may disorient, discomfit, and intimidate them, but I believe such confusion can play a powerful role in the process of learning and writing and may indicate considerable thoughtfulness and conscientiousness. As Sheridan Blau asserts, “Confusion often represents an advanced state of understanding.” In a complex and nuanced world, there is great value in students’ developing a tolerance for ambiguity and openness to the myriad possibilities before them as writers. Throughout my instruction, I seek to cultivate and encourage such confusion as students realize the many different sides of the elephant before them.
Opportunities for Creativity
With this plethora of possibilities before them, students may stumble upon and discover ingenious and potent paths for their work as writers: Imagination and creativity flourish best when given the space to emerge and be cultivated. Presented with open-ended and myriad potentialities and chances for innovation, students will become immersed in and enchanted by the process of writing and learning. I believe that inviting and encouraging students to exercise creativity and ingenuity instills intrinsic motivation and empowers them to understand and appreciate the relevance and significance of the English classroom in their academic, professional, civic, and perhaps even personal lives. With every assignment given and every lesson planned, I aim to invite and empower students to exercise divergent thinking and creativity.
In my teaching, I seek to create conversational classrooms, ones in which we engage with each other and ourselves. By adopting a student-centered pedagogy, one embracing diversity and technology, I strive to affirm and engage students in an active and powerful environment where they come to “own” their learning. In addition to interacting with each other, I believe that the conversations we hold with ourselves hold a critical role in the classroom: By partaking in reflection, by experiencing confusion, and by exercising creativity, students will likewise become involved in and responsible for their learning. From these conversations, both external and internal, students blossom and flourish in the classroom and in life. This is the basis of my philosophy of teaching: the power of conversation not only with others, but also with ourselves.