I teach to building human capital through transformative learning.
It was 5:30pm on January 26, 2015, time for Sociology at Great Bay Community College, my first college course in which I was the instructor on record. I greeted students as they shuffled into Room 134; an assignment on the board also greeted students, directing them to make a nameplate, pick up and read a printed copy of Nathan Palmer’s blog post “What to Take From Your Sociology Class,” and then reflect on questions I provided. The reading posed key questions central to sociology regarding social structure, power and social stratification, and possibilities for change.
I teach to help produce the human capital capable of producing vibrant, just communities. Capital (as theorized by Pierre Bourdieu) is power. Sociological understanding is an integral part of developing the consciousness and tools for students to meet the responsibilities of citizenship and act as power-balancing forces in our society. My classroom is a place of experiential, relevant, transferable, and transformative learning. Student frequently note in their course reflections that my class changed their worldview, that they are now less judgmental, more understanding, able to see the role of society as it manifests in their professional and personal lives, and that there are concrete changes that they apply from this learning to their life outside the classroom. My students exercise academic citizenship in the classroom and take away community citizenship beyond my classroom.
I teach to empower each student to reach their potential.
After the do-now, students proceeded to share with a partner and then, as part of our introductions, with the class, their broader academic goals in their program, how this course fits into those goals, and why they are taking the course.
I teach to help all students fulfill their potential and am motivated by my class having meaning and an impact for students’ lives. My classroom is a rigorous environment in which I meet students where they are and then push them further, to help them meet their goals. I differentiate my instruction to meet students’ diverse social and academic needs and aspirations, and to grow their agency.
Students in my class are active participants in a critical thinking journey. This is both an expectation and a taught skill. Students engage as collaborative social scientists in social inquiry investigations. By critically constructing their own knowledge and surfacing and delving deeply into complexity, students are able to participate in a personalized and transferable learning experience.
I teach through producing an actively engaged classroom community that is supportive and encourages authenticity, risk-taking, and metacognition.
As part of their introductions, students also shared an object they had brought from home that personal meaning to them, and shared personal stories about why it was significant to them. We revisited these objects again when learning about social constructionism.
I strive to create a classroom community in which the environment ensures the class is as beneficial as possible for every student’s educational and professional goals. Students can best meet their goals and grow together if the classroom is a supportive space. I work with students to co-create and hold norms within the space that reflect a vision for how I want students to be as a class and in relation to one other—safe, supported, open, productive, trusting, intellectually curious, thoughtful, and engaged.
I engage students with my teaching and students engage actively with their learning. I believe learning should be an enjoyable activity that fosters a love for learning. I strive to be responsive, compassionate, share my passion for the subject matter, and guide students’ growth in personalized ways. My actions help students know that I care about them and their success, which often translates into genuine student success.
I also participated in the class introductions, sharing an object I had brought and also sharing my goals for the class –not the course objectives on the syllabus that would be discussed as the next part of the class session, but, like students had done, my personal goals for the class such as including finding out whether college teaching was something I wanted to pursue as a career.
I am authentic with my students and model metacognition, including sharing the rationales for the intentional practices I ask students to engage in, engaging in out-loud problem-solving, and demonstrate a willingness to take risks. I recognize the power imbalance between teachers and students; in doing so, I intentionally engage students in an adult-adult relationship in which they, too, get to engage in sociological inquiry and take ownership in their learning. I intentionally build students skills such as their ability to engage in reflective practice.
Accomplishing these goals and enacting these methods is an ongoing process; as such, my teaching is an iterative and intentional practice.
On the first day of my second college course in which I was the instructor on record, I used the blog post again as part of the do-now. However, this time students engaged in a write-pair-share rather than a think-pair-share. This change generated increased student engagement, dialogue, and depth of thinking.
My teaching is pragmatic, not static. I aim to manifest my philosophy into practices that effectively accomplish my core goal of student learning and development. My teaching practice is a continuous iterative process of assessment, reflection, and experimental reform in which I try to meet myself where I am and then push myself further. In order to be goal-oriented and pragmatic, I engage in innovative problem-solving.
The principles and methods outlined in this teaching philosophy intersect and are interdependent on one another. My teaching is focused on ensuring students engage in a ways that are beneficial to their development, respectful of them as individuals, and which lead to success in their mastery of academic and skill objectives and the ability to transfer their learning to the world outside of and beyond the classroom. To accomplish this I engage in active reflection and bring creativity, intellect, drive, and compassion to my teaching,