Why I Teach

A Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy is based in a social-emotional pedagogical practice. An inclusive, welcoming classroom fosters productive and effective learning, and so I take steps to create spaces where students feel valued. Creating this welcoming space helps students feel safe and offers an environment in which they can temporarily suspend any internal barriers they may have when entering your classroom. Without the burden of extra anxieties weighing them down, students become more open and receptive to learning. Further, putting emphasis on their social-emotional health aids in better comprehension of learning materials and an overall sense of inclusivity.

To achieve this inclusive environment, I begin the first class session by handing out index cards on which I have students answer a series of prompts which include their name (and preferred name, if any) and pronouns (including whether or not I may use their listed pronouns in class), and if there is anything important I should know. I then study the index cards as I begin to know students and use the information to help make them feel welcome and safe in my classroom.

Incorporating various pop culture artifacts–that I gage based on polls I share with my students– into the classroom serves as an additional way to create a welcoming space: by using relevant examples from media they encounter on a day-to-day basis students will not only find the subject matter more engaging, but it demonstrates that you, as the instructor, find the shows, films, and music they engage with to be worthy of discussion within an academic frame.

Having incorporated facets of pop culture in my classroom, I find that students become more engaged and more willing to participate in dialogue when the topic du jour is something they are both familiar with and engage with in their daily lives. Having pop culture at the epicenter of assignments and lesson plans helps keep that atmosphere present throughout our time together. I encourage students to use examples from pop culture to answer a question, or demonstrate their understanding of a key concept, to show that their interests have a place within academia. Further, I discovered that using pop culture references helped students to better conceptualize the process of developing a thesis which adds on to an existing conversation by having students think of a “thesis” as a “fancy fan theory.” Equating a thesis with a fan theory–a concept they are familiar with–made it easier for students to grasp the what, why, and how of thesis development.

Using pop culture further helps in comprehension when used in conjunction with breaking down assignments. I am a big proponent of demonstrative learning: rather than simply explaining what an annotated bibliography, or object analysis are, I go one step further and have students practice doing “mini” versions of the assignments in class. This not only shows them how to compose the assignment, but the mechanics behind them.

When you actively create a welcoming atmosphere in your classroom, and show your students that their interests have a place within academia, you foster a learning environment where students feel valued. Showing that you care about students, and are interested in what they are thinking and what they have to say, leads to an overall better and more productive learning environment where students feel valued and appreciated. This can be achieved as simply by asking students for their pronouns and for permission to use those pronouns. Letting students know you care about their social and emotional wellbeing makes them more open and receptive to learning. Showing you value the pop culture they engage with additionally creates a welcoming atmosphere and students are more receptive to learning when it is based in a familiar realm.