August 29, 2016 Leave a comment
It’s a new semester and new academic year. I can’t believe this is now my second semester at CSUSM and that I have effectively been teaching for over 5 years. I like to think I have learned a lot about teaching, learning, and education in that time but I think the more I have learned the more I understand how much i DON’T know or just when I think I have an assignment figured out, something changes requiring me to adapt and change with it. Some of my friends think that as a professor I spend most of my time sitting around doing nothing. HA! Little do they know about the hours of planning and adjusting assignments and policies to ensure that I am meeting certain learning outcomes. I get it, that sometimes it seems like things I do (or educators in general) don’t make sense. In reality, you have to remember the big picture and understand that much of learning is a process and that things do build upon each other.
To that end I have been thinking about my own philosophy of teaching. I actually wrote a blog post about this as a doc student many years ago if you are interested you can read it here. Essentially, my philosophy of teaching tends to be student-centered. I realize that students bring a lot of knowledge and experience into the classroom. The challenge I have is getting students to recognize that they have something to bring and they can make such a meaningful contribution to our learning if they share. Along with knowledge and skills the students bring, I have realized they also bring anxiety or trepidation about sharing and being shut down. I understand that students need to feel comfortable (something that the University of Chicago just negated so to speak) before they can share. I try to empathize with students and let them know that my classroom is a safe space and I try to make it so that they can share. But I realize that the message does not always come through. I hope to keep on trying to communicate this as I move forward.
Being student-centered to me is about making students comfortable but also understanding that it can be challenging to wrestle with tough topics like racism and oppression or statistics. What I try to do is set students up to feel empowered to take on those challenges in a way that they know they can try, even if they fail or get a B-…But at least they can understand they are learning. For me it is about thinking critically and valuing the process of learning, respecting one’s peers, and keeping an open mind. I tend to use digital media in my classes because of my research interests but lately I question the use of those mediums as students appear to be overly distracted. I know that my teaching philosophy is going to change and it will continually change over the course of my career but I hope students will always know they can come to me if they have questions. That connection is important and feeling empowered is critically important to the learning process.
So for this new semester I do plan to try a couple of new things both using and not using technology. If I have any students reading this blog I hope they will understand that I may not have all the answers but at least I can help them find what they are looking for and to do so in a way that helps to transform the way they look at education and interacting with people. Best of luck to everyone with the new semester and if you have any good ideas, tips or tricks. Please consider sharing.