"The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves." -Paulo Freire
My teaching philosophy is rooted in active engagement, discussion, and learning by doing. As an undergraduate in an ungraded and often self-directed program, I learned valuable skills in critical thinking and self-development. Likewise, as a teacher and health educator in the Peace Corps, I learned to think on my feet and developed a deeper understanding of cultural differences. I have gained my most recent teaching experiences as a teacher of English Composition to undergraduates at North Carolina State University. I find myself continually inspired by my students. They are smart, engaged individuals. In my experience introducing them to critical thinking skills and analytical writing, I have deepened my own understanding.
One of the most important aspects of teaching for me is creating a structure that teaches skills combined with an emphasis on student interaction with the material. When students have the ability to engage with the material and address how it relates to their own lives and interests, they learn more deeply. There is a place for direct instruction and concrete skills that I impart on my students, whether it be how to properly cite sources or thinking about differences in genre. Outside of direct instruction though, I engage my students in a lot of class discussion. When learning about close reading we will discuss articles such as, “Ain’t it Funny? Danny Brown, Black Subjectivity, and the Performance Neurosis.” Interrogating an article like this gives the students a chance to look at the way a humanities text is structurally formatted but also to see how art can make deeper commentary on the human experience. The class is able to have a discussion on race, drug addiction, and mental illness, all while addressing skills of close reading and artistic analysis. In my English Composition class, I provide my students with student examples but I lean more heavily on peer-reviewed scholarly texts. I want to push them to read things they might not understand right away, to help them interrogate the ways scholars write, and to give them examples of what to strive for.
The fact that I come from a background in poetry deeply influences my teaching pedagogy. As a poet, I am constantly interrogating the world around me as well as the page. I am attuned to the structure of writing in a special way. I ask “why?” a lot when I am reading a piece of writing. Why was this decision made? Why put that paragraph before the other? I want my students to develop these skills as well. Critical inquiry and critical thinking skills are invaluable to any individual and a classroom like English Composition is a well-suited place to begin those acts of discovery. I use poetry like Marie Howe’s “What the Living Do” to give examples of the ways we can interrogate the seemingly mundane of everyday life and find something alive that is not only moving but vital to our survival.
I see grades as motivators and a reflection that students can improve their skills. That said, I am more interested in student learning than in letter grades. I allow my students to rewrite papers for better grades which helps me to see them engage with their writing and helps them to learn that writing is a process and not something they turn in once and then walks away from. In addition, in my English Composition course, I have students turn in multiple ungraded drafts for feedback before the final drafts to help them further develop their writing processes. I make myself available for one on one meetings with my students throughout the semester to give my students to talk openly through their ideas.
Self-reflection is a critical component of learning for my students. I ask that my students write reflections on their experiences in the classroom to give them a chance to think deeply about what they have learned. I want my students to walk out of the classroom not needing me. Ultimately, I am their partner in learning and my hope is that they can carry the skills they learn with them. My students will go on to be farmers, engineers, biologists, and artists, what they will take with them out of the classroom and into the world is an attentiveness to language that will be invaluable to them no matter what path they choose.