My Teaching Philosophy

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The most important aspect of teaching is to create opportunities and impart skills that will allow students to continue the learning process well after the classroom experience has ended. To that end, I believe that fostering discussion and critical thinking are essential. This approach requires that students actively engage in the material presented and critically examine a variety of perspectives. Students are thus asked to consider their own points of view, values and past knowledge while exploring the historical and contemporary issues presented. I have been fortunate to be able to hone my pedagogical and methodological perspectives in a variety of settings including private institutions, public institutions, undergraduate summer programs and private tutoring. These varied experiences have led me to develop innovative courses and workshops that help individuals engage meaningfully with the world.

In my years of teaching I have learned that students come to the classroom with various levels of knowledge and personal experience. I will never forget one student from several years ago who was very resistant – she sat in the back of the room, did not do the homework and was visibly upset during class discussions. I was able to get her to come to office hours and discuss her issues. What she told me radically changed my own perspective. She said that her main issue with the class was that everything we were learning was new to her and contradicted all that she had previously believed. Further, she said, “I’ve never met anyone in my life who didn’t believe and think exactly the same as me.” I realized that many students who are resistant to new ideas and information may be having a similar reaction. From this student I learned to be more patient and understanding when students seem to be having trouble. The most important tool I have as a professor is an ability to listen – and to help students figure out (and overcome) their fears and anxieties.

As an educator often engaged in teaching racial and ethnic diversity as part of my curriculum, my task is therefore not simply one of imparting historical facts and providing examples from primary and secondary sources, media images and literature. It is equally important to find ways to teach diverse historical and contemporary perspectives to students for whom much of the material is new and that challenges not only what they may have learned in other courses, but also challenges ideas they have inherited from family, friends, and the media. I strive to create classroom experiences in which students are able to raise important questions about both the course material and their own perspectives.

The success of my techniques are evident in the number of students who have continued to contact me long after our particular course has ended. One of the greatest joys I have found is through students who regularly update me on their projects and send news articles or press releases for new books that they find interesting. Knowing that students continue to pursue information that they first learned about in our classes is enormously gratifying. In addition, mentoring students over several years has allowed me to see them grow and become vibrant, productive adults. I relish hearing about their accomplishments and the work they are doing to help create a better world.

Finally, I hope that each student leaves the classroom with a deeper understanding of the course material, has the tools necessary to critically engage new information and has a clearer view of the processes that have created the world in which we live. The feedback I have received confirms the value and importance of this approach for students. The classroom must be a safe space in which students can explore theories and real-world examples while grappling with their own identities and relationships. My ultimate goal is to have students leave with a better understanding of themselves and their own perspectives, values and power.