Curriculum Vitae

Monday, April 25, 2011

Teaching Philosophy

I have been thinking a lot about my teaching philosophy lately.  What does it mean to have a teaching philosophy? Will writing down my philosophy make me a better teacher?  Shouldn't I use my time to grade essays, instead?  These questions reflected the fact that I did not see what was important about articulating a teaching philosophy or mission and committing it to paper.  I based my value as a teacher on the magical moments (and less-than-magical moments) that happened in the classroom and whether my students were satisfied with their progress (and my ability to help get them there) at the end of the semester.  I couldn't put my finger on my teaching philosophy; it simply was.  I see the usefulness of a teaching philopophy with new eyes, so I am giving it a try. 

Now that I am in the interviewing process for community college faculty positions across the state of Virginia, I understand why I need to have a clear and concise philosophy on paper and in mind: Members of a faculty search committee do not have the time to observe lively and engaging discussions in my real classes, nor do they have the time to listen to me blather on about why I love teaching, and why I consider teaching at a community college my ideal career.  Taking PhD-level courses also has made me write more now than I have in the past five years, so the words come to me more easily and I am pleased with myself for moving forward.  So here is my teaching philosophy below.  I have also posted this on my website I would love to read or listen to any feedback that you may have.  This teaching statement is unfinished, as my writing is always a work in progress.

As a teacher, my primary goal is for students to have stronger analytical skills and confidence to successfully pursue their academic, professional, and personal goals when we part for the last time than when we first met.  This immense task is one that I have embraced while teaching more than 100 post-secondary credit hours, and one that I continue to embrace by incorporating pedagogical training and reflecting on successful and unsuccessful classroom experiences.
While my enthusiasm for teaching traditional and non-traditional students has been unwavering, my methods have evolved as I have gained a better understanding and appreciation for the diverse backgrounds of students in any one class and how that diversity can be a catalyst for dynamic and engaging discussions, projects, and lectures.  As an underlying celebration of diversity as an academic catalyst, I instill in students the idea that we are a community of learners.  In a positive learning community, each student is inspired to recognize his or her role in promoting the success of the overall class by actively participating in discussions, helping peers in cooperative learning environments, and by embracing challenges toward individual achievement. My students are engaged in the learning process and are successful as a result.  In addition, I set clear expectations and evaluation guidelines for student conduct and performance so that all students know how they are expected to meet the goals set before them.
As an undergraduate and graduate student, I had the benefit of learning from outstanding instructors who were simultaneously encouraging and challenging; I model those instructors when I mentor students in instructor and advisor capacities.


  1. Well written and well thought out! I would have loved to have a teacher like you! And you made me look up a word.....pedagogical.....I learned something new! Where are you trying to teach? You guys aren't moving or anything are you?

  2. I am glad that I helped you learn something new today! The interview process takes a while and a lot of practice; I am optimistic about my prospects in the fact that I have been getting to the interview stage. There is a lot of competition out there, though, so I know decisions will be tough. I only applied to English faculty positions in Virginia communities we'd love to consider home. I will keep you posted, obviously, of any developments.

  3. Something as well thought-out and as well written as this deserves a well thought out and well written comment, but I'm at work, and I have no time to think well, or write well.

    Outstanding! Good luck, I have no doubt they'll all love you!

  4. Holy crap pedagogical is a big word... if your intention was to teach us something then it worked...


    hate learning....

    especially new things....

    now I know about studying being a teacher and the process of teaching....

    Ok, maybe its not so bad to learn new things..

    Outside of that, very concise and it was a comforting read. Not too easy, demonstrated your depth of knowledge and intelligence, but still not aloof or snobby. I like it.

    Now, on the constructive side, I did notice one thing. Perhaps its because I am outside the system, but I worry that the in-built focus on diversity could come across as catering to the current politically correct leaning of required diversity in schools. Its important, so I am not sure how to balance things for your audience so this is delivered genuinely and does not come across as insincere. (Checking a required box so to speak).

    I would put a smiley face here, but that may be too elementary.

    Screw it.... :)

  5. Nix, Thanks for your feedback and smiley face! I know that diversity can be a loaded word, but when I use that word, I am talking about the wonderful academic and experiential diversity that can be found on community college campuses in which traditional students (fresh out of high school with varied backgrounds) and non-traditional students (of varying ages and backgrounds) learn from each other when they are in the same classes. Students (and teachers) benefit from heterogeneous classrooms and campuses because we use our experiences to create lenses through which we analyze stories or ideas, and through engagement with those around us, learn that others view the world differently. People learn to formulate their ideas more effectively when someone challenges them to think differently. For example, a class discussion on a war novel takes on much greater depth when some of the students have served in the military or escaped from war-ravaged nations, than if the classroom has only students who know about war from movies and news coverage.