Four overarching components guide my teaching philosophy. First, teaching inherently involves relational interaction across issues of hierarchy, ability, race, gender, socioeconomic status, historical inequality, and the valid construction of knowledge. Hence, I ground my instructional philosophy in a critical perspective. I incorporate Freire’s (1970) focus on the relationship between power and knowledge, experiential learning, and empowerment into my teaching philosophy. Specifically, Freire demonstrated how education that prioritizes the teachers’ knowledge and refutes the learners’ experiences perpetuates oppression. I employ a critical perspective by valuing the knowledge that students bring with them into the classroom and cultivating an atmosphere that encourages connections between course materials and lived experiences. In my teaching practice, I push students to take their critical thinking skills beyond writing; as a class we read, do, be, create, deconstruct, and report back.
I view education as a public or social good. As a fundamental component of a democracy, education is necessary to create engaged citizens that contribute to society in a thoughtful and meaningful manner. Therefore, high quality postsecondary education must be financially accessible to all individuals. I work to provide access by choosing to teach at institutions that have affordable tuition, open-enrollment, or a socially just mission.
I use student centered pedagogy to develop and employ interactive lesson plans that engage a diverse student population in participatory learning. I intentionally teach in a manner that includes visual, auditory, and tactile learning opportunities. For instance, when explaining the concept of status symbols I often use music videos to provide tangible examples. Hits from the early 1970’s like Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” connect with adult learners whereas Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop (Poppin’ Tags)” resonate with the millennial generation. Showing both videos concurrently allows me to reach different types of students and then to foster small group conversations about how status symbols have changed, or remained constant, over the past 40 years.
I employ a holistic approach to teaching that is informed by my varied experiences as a practitioner. I view teaching, research, and practice as fundamentally connected activities. For example, my ability to help students identify research problems and create their own solutions was enhanced through my work with the McNair Scholars Program at Bowling Green State University (BGSU). My capacity to foster self-advocacy and desire to educate students about different learning styles originated from my work facilitating accommodations in the Office of Disability Services at BGSU. I gained listening and counseling skills in my work as a Residence Hall Director for the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. In my current position, I use my counseling expertise to assist students with developing and articulating a transferable skill set; I help students connect their liberal arts degree to a career path. My experiences as a practitioner make me a stronger teacher. Working with the student as a whole person is a hallmark of my teaching practice.
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, New York: Continuum.