What follows is a collection of belief statements and pledges I have made concerning my teaching. This statement was first developed in 2010.
I am a teacher-scholar who values continual exploration and revision—not only in writing but in attitudes, ideas, and practices. It is for this reason that the creation of a teaching philosophy is a tricky task; although I’ve written a cohesive statement here on my professional site, I expect it to change based on experiences I have in my professional life.
I believe that the ability to speak and write, in any language, is a powerful tool. When I was privileged to work as a writing tutor in Heartland Community College’s Academic English Language Program, the writers I worked with were highly motivated to participate in the academic and professional discourses connected to their fields of interest or study. Their goals were to become teachers, doctors, interpreters, and businesspeople, and while some of them hoped to return to the countries in which they were born to work someday, many of them hoped to contribute to the Bloomington-Normal community in positive ways. The time I spent with these writers was transformative. Their life experiences led them to write about political turmoil, war, environmental concerns and social justice. Paulo Freire, in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, writes that students rarely “realize that they, too, “know things” they have learned in their relations with the world” (63). Each individual in my class would ideally identify issues in our community that they think are worthy of discussion, and then write about them with an ameliorative aim. I believe that the ability to effectively communicate one’s ideas and concerns is an important way to initiate positive change, and to create a better and more just world for oneself. As a teacher-scholar working in the context of economic and cultural globalization, I promise to value writers’ life experiences, and to encourage them to share their perspectives with one another and wider communities.
In “The end of CLT: a context approach to language teaching,” Stephen Bax argues for the importance of considering participants’ prior experience and backgrounds, as well as cultural and geographical contexts. I also pledge to acquaint myself with the needs and experiences of class participants individually, as well as becoming familiar with the communities in which they work and live. As a language teacher, I pledge to discover and teach to the preferred learning styles of class participants.
In “Linguistic Diversity and Instructional Practices,” Ann M. Johns writes about ways to collect information about students, like bio-data sheets that can be used to assess prior knowledge, investigate participant interests and goals, and learn about their linguistic and cultural backgrounds (137). By collecting materials like this, course participants could have control over the course direction and content, and the course would also more adequately meet their personal needs and goals. In past classroom surveys, many writers have identified grammar as something that they would like the course to focus on. Of course, using grammar, punctuation patterns, and other language forms that are particular to academic writing—and using them well—is a skill that I hope participants in my courses would gain. However, it is my belief that these skills must always be connected to a writer’s ongoing work. It is, for this reason, that I pledge to implement highly individualized forms of assessment that value writer identification of areas that need improvement (grammar or otherwise), and evidence of individual improvement. I also pledge to value knowledges from many locations and sources, and allow participants in our classes to both contest these knowledges and make organic connections with them. Here, I am particularly thinking about Simians, Cyborgs, and Women, in which Donna Haraway argues for a new form of “objectivity that privileges contestation, deconstruction, passionate construction, webbed connections, and hope for transformation of systems of knowledge and ways of seeing” (191-192). In a recent teaching demonstration I did with a classmate in English 345: Tesol Methods and Materials, we created a slide with images from a particular place, and imagined that in a real class, participants would collect photos from their own lives and places where they have lived, and contribute them for use in classroom activities and projects. In this way, our hope was that participants would have control over representations of people and places in our classroom space. I hope that the people I encounter as a teacher-scholar would say that I met their goals as learners, valued their diverse experiences and knowledge bases, and encouraged them to use writing in a way that transforms the world they live in.
In writing classes, I hope that participants see that they writing they do can have a real-world purpose, and I hope that they would feel empowered by this realization. At least, I do every day. B. Kumaravadivelu, in a book entitled Beyond Methods: Macrostrategies for Language Teaching, recommends keeping a journal about classroom experiences, research, and writing interests, and then using these to generate a theory of one’s own teaching. In that spirit, I hope to convert the blog I wrote for TESOL Methods and Materials into an ongoing space for such a journal. This writing will also change what I have articulated above, so check back often for exciting updates!