why I teach

I became a college professor because I really like to read and write and to talk about books, ideas, and culture. After college, I spent about five years working in an office, mostly doing business writing, but I always missed the kinds of conversations that were a part of my daily life when I was in school. I went to graduate school and started teaching because I wanted to share these kinds of conversations with my colleagues and my students. Bottom line? I teach because it’s fun.

how I teach

I’m pretty methodical about the way I prepare for classes. My syllabus is always fully mapped out at the start of the semester and I’ve made all the big decisions about assigned reading, writing, and projects.

Within that plan, though, I like students to have as much choice as possible. I will often prepare assignments that ask students to choose topics independently. I believe in using strategies that break down the work of the semester into manageable chunks, in active learning practices like large group discussion, on-the-spot writing, and workshop-format activities. As much as possible, I try to be aware that everyone in the room will have a different learning style, cognitive approach, and set of skills and abilities and I try to use this awareness to be as inclusive as possible.

In the end, though, I don’t think that authentic education is about achieving clarity. I think most of us learn more and more deeply from going off the beaten track, from getting our hands dirty, from making mistakes, and through accidental, challenging, and confusing encounters. I try to make my classroom a safe working laboratory for testing out ideas about reading, writing, and culture. For this reason, the literature, writing, and disability studies classes I teach often generate more questions than answers. My hope is that students leave my courses with bigger questions and with a richer, more complex understanding of the problems we’ve studied together.

Learning isn’t about doing everything right; it’s about figuring out where we might go from here, the next step in the project, the next book we want to read, the next question that has to be asked. It’s messy, sometimes agonizing work.