“A very wise old teacher once said: “I consider a day’s teaching wasted if we do not all have one hearty laugh.” He meant that when people laugh together, they cease to be young and old, master and pupils, jailer and prisoners. They become a single group of human beings enjoying its existence.” — Gilbert Highet
I love teaching. I always have a few distinct goals when I step into a classroom to teach. First, my most important objective is to convey the information I want my students to learn in a manner that effectively facilitates adaptation of understanding. Second, I strive to help them establish and develop their critical thinking skills. I find this especially important when working with students who may not have yet had sufficient time or opportunities to hone these skills. Finally, I strive to build communities of learning and I work to foster an environment that allows students to recognize the importance of their voice and provide a space where they are comfortable expressing their own ideas, knowledge, and experiences. At the end of the day I want my students to understand that learning can never truly happen in a vacuum but instead is a powerfully dynamic process that they deserve to be a part of.
One area of focus in my studies has been restorative justice and the use of peacemaking circles. Within these circles consensus decision making and dialogue work together to guide the process, and I have utilized these circles in courses I have taught not only to introduce my students to restorative justice practices, but also as a method for bringing the class together to evaluate the introduction of knowledge and as a means for producing critical thought. Yet, the best point of utilizing these circles has been their ability to build communities of learning within the classroom. Many of the goals I have for my students and my classroom are facilitated by the use of the peacemaking circles. I am able to talk with students about their topics and it provides space for discussions that help bridge information and ideas into the arena of critical analysis.
It is important to me to encourage and facilitate critical thinking skills within my students. I continually make it a point throughout the semester to stay current with local, national, and international news stories and bring in topics related to coursework to bridge what we are learning in class with real-world examples and to model critical thinking skills. For my lectures, I spend quality time preparing notes and use the board or power point slides so students will have a visual outline for their own note taking. I do not like to proceed through lectures as if delivering a monologue and instead enjoy engaging my class and tend to ask students a lot of questions throughout lectures. I get to know students names and attempt to tie in discussions and materials from other courses in the program.
When evaluating student’s performance in class I find it useful to offer several different methods of evaluation, including a combination of testing, assignments, exercises, and credit for attendance and participation. Additionally, I have used extra credit options on multiple occasions. I believe that because students learn best through various methods it is important that professors utilize various methods to ascertain growth and performance throughout the course. My students learn that I am not only passionate about the topics I teach but their success in my class as well. I will go out of my way to work with students facing difficulties and I make myself available through cell phone, email, and office hours.
As a professor, I am interested in becoming the very best educator that I can be. I have developed my own survey tool that I have utilized for several semesters while working to incorporate the feedback, ideas and suggestions into the courses I teach. I have also become very interested in merging traditional pedagogy with technological advancements in academia, and I continually engage in professional development trainings in order to stay current with best practices. I have already begun initiating several new technological features that I use in my own courses and I endorse and encourage a BYOD (bring your own device) policy in the classroom as another method/tool for engaging students.