As an educator, I base my teaching practices in philosophies of nurture, apprenticeship, and social reform. My classrooms are marked by sound and color, and the imaginative components of the assignments I deliver. I engage students with sincerity, and a genuine investment in their individual learning and in their roles as citizens. I operate my classroom with the understanding that each educational environment is a catalyst for personal empowerment on the student level, and social/cultural change on the level of a community. Efforts to providing equal access and in to subverty normative pressures are pervasive in my class materials and philosophy.
As a writing teacher guiding students of many ages in creative writing, rhetoric, and composition practices, my instruction builds upon a core skillset based in critical analysis. I find that beginning students are generally practiced consumers of texts and media, but highly unpracticed critical thinkers. In my classes, successful writing cannot begin before each student gains an awareness of their role as a critical reader and consumer. Each of my writing and rhetoric courses begins first with extensive practice in critical analysis supported by extensive feedback that responds to students' ideas above sentence-level mistakes. We use tools like the critical lenses of gender, race hegemony, and post-colonialism as well as digital and multimedia materials in our inquiries.
Multimedia Composition and Technology feature centrally for me simply because these skills are required for a career path in almost every modern field. Early assignments in my courses direct students to analyze multimedia texts. These projects provoke them to think through multiple modes and to gain audio, visual, spatial and gestural literacies. When these same students are asked to master new media skillsets later in the course, they become empowered to compose in modes that consider stylistic, formalist, and genre awareness. Multimedia assignments prompt my students to think and read differently so that they leave my class with many options for expression and tools for critique.
My Rhetoric and Composition courses are supported by readings about racial, gendered and economic privilege. Empathy recurs as a theme in each classroom. My practices are based in prompting the student’s growing awareness of invisible normative pressures that support the privileged perspective often represented by popular culture. Students are instructed to approach rhetorical situations by identifying ideologies entwined in their rhetoric that constructs or enforces normative identity. The course begins with assignments in composing brief hypertext narratives and concludes with a thorough textual analysis of an advertizement or music video through the lens of privilege.
My Creative Nonfiction courses encourage play, experimentation and rigorous analysis. The first third of the course involves focused readings and critique of a wide variety of subgenres: new journalism, lyric essay, braided research, memoir, poetics, and video essays. Our reading materials represent diverse identities as well as emerging and master writers. It is my belief that the process of art-making begins with empathy. My writing workshop is not a place to determine or relegate aesthetic. Rather, it is an environment in which to present opportunities and that support the individual artist. My job as an instructor is to guide students in writing intentionally with an awareness of genre and context, and to determine and nurture the decisions they make. This very same act becomes the job of each student critic participating in the workshop. I hold all students to high standards in responding to assigned texts, and then to peer essays, and expect critical proficiency by the end of their term.
Responsible Pedagogies and Personal Investment guide my work as an educator.
On the last day of my first rhetoric and composition course, I gave a final quiz. This quiz concluded by present each student with the opportunity to anonymously ask me one question that they wanted me to answer in front of the class. One student submitted her question in pink pen: “It seems like you've delivered a lot of biased, gender heavy material this semester. Are you a feminist? How did you become this way?”
After an afternoon of mulling and fretting, this question provided the opportunity for me to ask, why indeed? And then, how did this student manage to suggest that a feminist ideology was abnormal and in the minority after taking this class? And isn’t privilege comfortable? In actuality, this was one of the most important questions I received all year. Here’s where the teaching reverses. What my student helped me to see is that I am a feminist because of the inherent discomfort with the privilege I myself contain. I strive to be an educator who does not perpetuate suffering based on my own inherent opportunities, but I must still perpetuate by being an educator. So then, at the core of my teaching, I seek to pass on this discomfort, this realization to every student I encounter.
Feminism, at least mine, is a slice of humanitarianism. It’s about rhetoric. It’s an ideology based in the simple recognition of an inequality. It becomes movement that notices and demands others to notice and act upon what they see. This is what my writing courses are about. I teach writing to empower students to deconstruct the elements of the social climate they grow inside and reflect inherently, and then to express this understanding. I teach writing to provoke students to think and act with intention. Though I would never expect my students to leave my classroom as feminists or otherwise, I will have failed them if they do not leave with tools to critique the cultures they witness and absorb. If I contain a philosophy it is this: Look with empathy and intention and ferociously digest what you see. Question every piece of advice you receive by determining the motivations and assumptions behind it. And study abroad.