Year Awarded: 2007
College of Arts and Humanities
Interaction with my students motivates me to find different and innovative classroom techniques, methods, and challenges to keep them engaged with their learning. I try to listen to them, hear what they know and don't know so that we can make meaning together as we read and interpret diverse and difficult texts.
Sometimes they are resistant when texts come too close to a reality that frightens them or when I ask them to do research that involves more than just a cursory Google search. Theoretical texts confound many of the students. I tell them, however, that if they will give theoretical approaches a chance, their reading will change dramatically and they will read more critically, looking for and questioning the ideologies lurking behind the textual representations.
One of my pedagogical approaches is to try to disrupt my students' complacency through an ongoing dialogue about gender, race, and class as represented in the texts that we read. I work hard to create an atmosphere of respect so that we can have honest discussions of the issues we see represented in the literature. We don't have to reach consensus, but we do have to consider other points of view. When the students tell me that they have continued their discussions outside of class or online, not because of an assignment but because they care about the dialogue we began in class, I am delighted. Active learning takes place in those moments. I feel successful when students leave my course asking more questions than they did when they arrived.
I am convinced that by refusing to become complacent myself and by refusing to teach the same old texts over and over, I stay focused and excited about what we are doing in the classroom. My attitude affects them in mostly positive ways. The students seem to like to be there. For me, successful teaching involves active learning, meaningful engagement, critical thought, cogent writing, careful reading, collaborative assignments, respectful dialogue, global connections, diverse viewpoints, and concern for social justice.