For me, teaching is a calling. From my earliest childhood memories, I remember loving to play “school.” This love of the entire process of learning has followed me throughout the changes in my career path. In any role, regardless of whether I am acting in the formal roles of “instructor” or “student,” I seek to learn and to teach.
Student affairs and higher education is my chosen career path. In my faculty and professional roles, I consider mentoring, supervising and teaching the next generation of thought and practice leaders to be a wonderful privilege. Giving back to the profession I love and believe in is one of the primary motivators behind my teaching. By teaching the teachers, I know that my work can have an impact on college students far beyond those with whom I have immediate contact.
At its core, my teaching is grounded in concepts of student learning and development. Much as our profession has focused on the education of the whole student, I apply this philosophy to my teaching. My main goal in any teaching endeavor is to encourage the student to explore research and knowledge in order to incorporate it into their own professional point of view. Teaching in this field requires one to attend to both the technical knowledge a student needs and to their evolution as a reflective professional and person. Theory and practice are inextricably linked.
In encouraging this process, I believe it is important to view the student-teacher relationship as one that is co-constructed. In this regard, I am heavily influenced by the learning partnerships work of Dr. Marcia Baxter Magolda. Much as I hope students will learn from me, I equally appreciate the learning I take from my students. In the classroom space, I believe that authority and the responsibility for learning is mutually shared.
Part of this co-construction requires that I reflect on my own approach, style and biases in the learning process. It also requires that I recognize that students learn differently, have differing levels of learning abilities, and that my teaching must be sensitive to the individual needs of each student. In approaching my teaching, I attempt to accommodate the myriad of learning styles present in the classroom. I utilize a blend of approaches, including reading, writing, discussion, role play, case studies, reflection, and lecture.
Lastly, I view teaching as a performative act. Although I attempt to de-center myself in the classroom, I nevertheless recognize that teaching is, in part, a show. I relish the challenge of trying to take difficult concepts and explore them in accessible, interesting and engaging ways. I also strive to experiment with new innovative ways of engaging in the learning process. I am not the only one that benefits from this experimentation. My students do as well.
When it comes to education, the process is often the product, and I continually learn as I teach.