Teaching Philosophy

With a background in both psychology and English, I’m able to relate to students in first year writing courses across disciplines. In particular, I emphasize the almost parallel processes of the scientific method and the steps of academic inquiry that guide research strategies taught in first year writing courses. Through this interdisciplinary approach, I hope to engage students that otherwise would not be excited about a writing course. I also hope to demonstrate that there are multiple approaches to completing a task, and that very few ways are the wrong way, especially when it comes to research methods. Assignment requirements and academic guidelines are presented and clarified, but other variables are up to the student to decide as they research and write. I hope to encourage creativity in reaction to this new freedom. The amount of decisions they must make is often overwhelming, especially to first year students, but it also helps them gain independence and ownership over their work. My teaching methods are informed by my years as an overly independent student. I wanted to learn everything but preferred not to seek external help. My mindset was always that I could figure it out myself. I preferred to learn in my own way, about the things that I wanted to study. This wasn’t the best approach. However, it’s reflected in my expectation that students have a certain level of independence and a clear sense of responsibility. This is especially important to foster in first year writing classes where students are just beginning their college careers. Overall, I aim for a balanced approach of being hands-off yet encouraging when students have questions. To me, a major part of generating student questions is emphasizing transparency. On every first day, I tell my students that if they don’t ask questions, I’ll assume that I explained everything perfectly and nothing more is needed. This isn’t necessarily true, but this transparency and implication of partnership – that we’ll learn how to complete this course together – builds an initial rapport. Additionally, when I go over examples in class, I point out how I would grade it, including specifics about what I’m looking for. As a first year writing teacher, I endeavor to introduce students to college in an honest and understanding way. One part of this is being clear that I’m also a student as a graduate instructor. In 1302: Advanced College Rhetoric – a class that emphasizes research – I review one of my own research documents for students and emphasize that research is a skill that develops over time. It will take more than one class to master it, likely their entire academic career. This is another overwhelming concept to first year students, along with the countless choice they now have to make as they build their projects. As part of my goal of transparency, I take every opportunity to acknowledge that distinctly collegiate sense of being engulfed by work. College students, especially first year students, are consistently overwhelmed. My verbal recognition of that feeling helps to build my relationship with students. Not only do I empathize with them, I believe that discussing the mental toll of being a college student is essential to maintaining transparency. Because of this, I make sure to inform students that their mental health will be affected by their new life stage. I discuss mental illness in my syllabi and include any and all campus resources available to them. Many students in the past have felt comfortable enough to tell me that they’re having issues and I make a practice of sympathizing and occasionally allowing for late submissions. Overall, I encourage my students to ask for help (academically and health-wise) but also to take ownership of their work. I also highlight creative or interdisciplinary approaches, and I care deeply about my students’ mental health. Ideally, my classes promote not only the ability to research and complete assignments but also the skills students need to experience college without drowning in it.
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