Statement of teaching philosophy
Also available for download here.
When I enter the classroom each day, I work to ensure my teaching philosophy hinges on two words: equity and curiosity. I design my courses and my course policies to ensure all students have an equal chance of success, regardless of their particular circumstance; I similarly use my assignments and my in-class activities to encourage students to find their own paths and interests, regardless of their particular ambitions. Taken together, these aims create a space in which students feel respected: for their knowledge, for their backgrounds, and for their very presence in the classroom.
My approach to creating an equitable environment begins before students even enroll in the course. As an instructor, it is my responsibility to build assignments that are engaging and accessible. While social media is a key component of many of my composition courses, for instance, I ensure that every Twitter or Instagram assignment includes options and alternatives for those who may not have access to a smart phone or are protective of their privacy. Enacting public-facing communication is one of the most valuable experiences for a student to take into the workplace—but practicing this skill should never jeopardize a student’s safety or economic security. My course policies reflect the belief that students are worthy of empathy and trust, and that they are more likely to thrive when they are granted this respect.
Similarly, I choose my course materials to accurately reflect the world in which my students live. In designing an American literature survey, I might pull together texts that invite conversations about the ongoing ramifications of slavery in American culture, living and growing as a transgender child, and the challenges faced by Muslim-Americans in the wake of 9-11. In a course on young adult literature, I would turn to authors who are queer, who are first- and second-generation immigrants, or who grew up in poverty. I talk openly with my students about the choices I make in selecting primary and secondary texts for my courses; the syllabus is the first chance students have to know if their perspective will be acknowledged and understood, and I take seriously the responsibility to offer students a vibrant range of voices and insights.
I couple this diversity of materials with diversity of experience. Each semester, I build assignments that ask my students to embrace their own intellectual curiosity. At Georgia Tech, this has resulted in 3-D printed rocket ship models, creative video games, and an award-winning live performance of an original twelve-song medley. The freedom to explore often intimidates students at first, especially on a campus that values rigor, but they ultimately appreciate the agency such assignments offer. I further emphasize the value of curiosity by taking students outside the classroom: technology workshops, museum visits, and archival exploration all help students question how their in-class learning can influence their out-of-class lives.
As I mark my tenth year as an instructor, I have become keenly aware of my own imperfections. I have made mistakes as a teacher, and I undoubtedly will again. But I believe being open about such moments, with both my students and my colleagues, turns them into vital learning experiences. If I accomplish nothing else beyond modeling this work for my students, then I will consider my time in the classroom worthwhile. I want my students to walk out the door more curious about the world—and to know they are worthy of a place within it.