My primary role as a teacher is to challenge my students to approach our course subject matter critically and creatively. While I believe that understanding the fundamentals of our subject matter is important, I also believe we must encourage students to develop ways of understanding our subject matters in terms of their own life experience. If we neglect to show them the transferability of the information we provide, then, from their perspective, all they have done is memorize trivial information. When students are encouraged to build connections between their own experiences and their course subject matter, they are more likely to retain the materials covered in class and more likely to use the materials to help them understand the world around them. In my classrooms, I constantly seek to engage my students on multiple levels, through writing, multimedia, and discussion, and I try to create an environment where we work together to understand the texts that we’re examining and the relevance of those texts to the social systems we inhabit.
Many of my assignments encourage students to bridge the gap between what they are familiar with and what they read about our British Literature, World Literature, or Literary Studies courses, much of which seems alien and unapproachable to them. I design assignments that take forms they understand. For example, because my students are not all English majors, I give them the option to choose their own final projects. The projects I suggest include a traditional term paper, a 5-7 minute documentary video, a short story incorporating research from the time period, a lesson plan, an annotated bibliography, and a website. All projects require the same level of scholarly research to complete, but they allow students to explore the materials from different angles. They enjoy the freedom to pick an assignment that they can relate to and that allows them to use their talents. Last semester, I even had a nursing student who wanted to write a care plan for Ivan Ilyich. I believe that they retain the information at a higher rate when it’s attached to something they like and many students have told me that they remember our discussions long after the class.
In addition to creating assignments that incorporate the familiar, I try to engage them by allowing them to practice. All semester, students are required to submit short reading responses to the works that we’ve read. Each response has different requirements and they can choose when to complete them, but they must complete them all. Each short assignment requires a task that will help them with the later projects and the final exam. For example, the short assignments for literary analysis helps them prepare for the longer research essay, while the assignment that asks them to find a useful documentary or website and explain the significance of their finding prepares them to prepare for the technology-based assignments. They are also asked to find a scholarly article and create an annotation, which prepares them for both the annotated bibliography and all of the other assignments because all assignments require the inclusion of research. Also, to help them practice, I give them quizzes that take the exact form of the exam. Each time they take a quiz, it asks them to do exactly what they would be asked to do on the final, only in miniature. Some of the questions from the quizzes appear in similar form on the final exam, so they have already started working out an answer that they can expand upon in the exam.
All students engage with subject matter differently, so I work on engaging them through active learning strategies. I ask them to complete short writing to learn type assignments, work in groups, and peer review each other’s work. We have open discussion in class and our lessons are often guided by the issues they find most significant. That said, I understand that some students benefit from guided discussion, so I do incorporate lecture on occasion as part of my teaching method. However, lecture can distance students and creates an illusion of power that disturbs the environment of personal investment that I try to create. To avoid adding an unnecessary element of distance, I try to divide my class into periods of lecture, periods of discussion, and periods of individual work. I also often utilize technology during my lectures to incorporate recordings, artwork, video clips, and other multi-media components to keep them focused and to spur conversation.
Each semester my philosophy of teaching changes, sometimes just a little, sometimes drastically, depending on the class. However, in all of my classes, I try to maintain a balance between my duty to provided them with content knowledge and the need to get them to utilize that knowledge, with the ultimate goal of encouraging them to engage fully in their own education.
My PhD is in Eighteenth Century British Literature, so I am qualified to teach Eighteenth Century Courses. The focus of my dissertation was women’s writing, and it incorporated authors from the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, so I am particularly qualified to teach courses related to female authors in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. I also have experience teaching lower division survey courses, composition courses, and the Introduction to Literary Studies.