My goal as an educator is to provide my students with the tools and skills necessary to be engaged citizens. In practical terms, I believe this means helping students develop their ability to think critically and analyze the myriad opinions and arguments that bombard them every day. I aim to encourage students to cultivate a habit of looking beyond the surface of the information they are presented to uncover and scrutinize the implicit biases and motivations of the text and the world around them. This emphasis unites my approach to teaching in both the History and the Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Studies departments. I believe developing these critical thinking skills prepares undergraduates for many challenges they will face in their lives, ranging from obstacles in their individual careers to broad issues confronting society as a whole.
My classroom has always been a place focused on discussion, I try to facilitate and lead student-centered conversation because I believe students learn best when they are engaged with the topic. Once engaged, students quickly come to see the material in a new light and begin to adopt the critical and analytical approaches that I seek to cultivate as an educator. The goal of stimulating interest and helping students connect with the material guides everything in my class. From classroom activities such as the brief opening writing assignment that starts class and serves as a springboard for the day’s discussion, to my pedagogical evolution as a teacher, everything has been shaped by my desire to help students connect. When I started teaching, I operated largely on the same 20th-century model I had experienced in my undergraduate work and relied on paper for everything except for e-mail and PowerPoint. Now, I’ve learned that I can help students engage with the material by working with digital tools both for course management via the BlackBoard site and classroom engagement via videos and interactive websites in my lesson plans. I’ve also experienced success allowing students access to their technology during class in order to get instant feedback and poll the room while simultaneously displaying the results using sites like TodaysMeet. These are just a few examples of my continuing efforts to create a student-centered environment that facilitates the skills necessary for engaged 21st century citizenship.
Whether it is discussing the continued significance of early American history or helping students explore and understand an organization or problem in their own community, I view myself as serving the same role: helping each student develop the skills to think critically and communicate their analysis clearly. Teaching people at this stage in their academic careers, when they are just starting to grow into themselves intellectually is what lured me into academia in the first place. I enjoy my own research, but I fully believe that the most important contributions I will make to society will be in the classroom helping students on their journeys to become engaged citizens.