I am constantly telling my students that writing is not just an art, it’s a practice. However, I don’t spend time to talk about how active that philosophy is in my own life. While this is mostly because time simply isn’t forgiving and there is a lot of material to cover, I’ve been thinking about adding my CV/work to Blackboard. I’m not sure if this will give validity to my teaching, but it will at least be evidence that I “practice what I preach.” But then, do I? It’s been a little over a year since I’ve been actively working on a literary analysis or literary based research. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing; I do regularly-ish contribute to Tropics of Meta (mainly as a review of books; the link takes you to the latest one) and I have created many, many teaching resources for my courses. I am an active blogger on a personal site. But what does that mean? In a growing digital age, can active blogger substitute for active writing? What does it mean that the institution where I am employed requires students to interact via Blackboard, a digital learning environment, but also demands formal papers? What would be the most effective way to marry an informal, vastly unorganized digital forum with the old standards of the word document paper? For my part, I think it comes down to effectively teaching students about audience.
But I digress.
I do have an idea for an info-graphic. I’ll either have to redefine “active practitioner” or start working on some literary research.
I attended my first conference as a college professor last week. While it was very good, it also reminded me that my own professional blog has been remiss. I was trying to decide how to begin again, when I thought of my teaching philosophy. What does it meant to me? Does it reflect my current beliefs?
And suddenly, I have a place to start. It’s a good beginning, but it doesn’t include my new experiences with technology, or my new beliefs about rubrics. But first things first: a review of the old one:
I began my teaching career under North Carolina’s lateral entry program, which means I had to develop a method and teaching philosophy while employed in a North Carolina high school. I quickly discovered that success as an educator relied more on developing relationships rather than the specific amount of knowledge one might offer a student. Education policy tends to divide students into various subsets of intellectual, behavioral, and economic factors; these methods of classification sometimes negotiate the student’s identity as an individual. The successful teacher should balance the mandated material and facilitate a personal exchange between the multi-faceted student and the classroom as a whole. I began to understand teaching as a lifestyle that put knowledge into action rather than simply covering material in a book.
Various successes and failures in my first months as an educator taught me the unparalleled value in recognizing each student as a complex combination of personality traits. Each student was a product of individual and shared environment; while knowledge encourages us to view students as unique, knowledge itself must be uniform among many to establish validity. Twenty-five students could look at the same text and see twenty five different things. Subsequently, I learned to discover the quirks and personalities of each student and adjust my methods accordingly. The interaction or give and take between student and teacher created a balance. Taking effort to learn my students and developing guidelines for classroom mannerisms married my professional responsibilities and allow each student to feel empowered by their diversity.
My educational philosophy is founded on the notion that successful teaching begins by building honest relationships with students. It is my job as a teacher to assess the skills and talents of students as fairly and honestly as possible. My evaluation standards should be made available for every graded assignment, that each standard is clear and concise in definition, and that each evaluation is a chance to improve and not a stone solid statement about a student’s potential. I encourage all my students to use evaluations as a reflection, in hopes of inspiring the direction of their talents. Finally, because teaching is not a static profession, I will cultivate my ability to remain open to new ideas and experiences.
I’m excited to begin; I hold firm that active reflection makes for a good teacher.