Teaching Philosophy Statement

The fields I am best suited for teaching include: religions, cultures, anthropology, history, literature, writing skills, cultural art, humanities, language skills, and life skills.

I have no other way to describe my passion for learning and teaching other than to say it is a deep spiritual calling rooted in my life’s philosophies of honor and love; honor your teachers and their teachings; love yourself, love those around you and love what you learn. Everything in life is a learning experience. The divine touches everyone in those moments of understanding new knowledge… those moments of AHA! and those moments when a student comes back and says “Thank you” for having taught them. I find it rewarding to learn from my students and to share my knowledge with them. The very act of teaching helps me grow as a person through the experience of trying to communicate my knowledge and ideas to others, through the interactions I have with students and through the opportunities that teaching gives me to follow my passion for learning by further researching the material.

Teaching, being both public and private as an act, begins first with the teacher. Know thyself! My studies in learning styles, cognitive development, and teaching adult learners has all leant to my appreciation of the student, their situations in life, what motivates them to learn, and how to best reach them. I encourage them to ask the same questions about themselves that I ask myself. Do I have preconceived notions or make assumptions about the students, teachers or the material? Why am I here teaching or learning the material and how is it useful to me? How can the material be taken outside the classroom and applied and shared with others? Asking these and other questions is an ongoing process that helps me evaluate my teaching practice and establish a better rapport with my students. I also hope to inspire a love for learning and encourage the students to meet the material with as much passion as they can muster. Every challenge, every obstacle, every problem “is simply an opportunity in disguise.” (Inara from the TV series of Firefly)

My approach to teaching and learning is guided by three main ideas. The first is the “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” (1987) which provides guidelines for strategic use of active learning, gaining feedback, and establishing positive and supportive relationships with students. The second is McCarthy’s theory of educating the whole brain using the 4MAT Cycle method of teaching diverse learners with diverse learning styles. I try to be both flexible and adaptable in my teaching approach. Trying to pin down a single style of teaching is impossible for me as I may set a skeleton forth in a syllabus, but the means of reaching my students will vary as I get to know them better and learn how they learn, thus adapting my teaching methods to best meet their learning styles, yet also to challenge them with other styles that are less familiar to them. The third is called reflective teaching, whereby I reflect on each class, evaluate how well it met the students’ needs, and consider the various options for improvement.

I apply a constructive approach to my lessons. I discover what the students already know about the material, provide foundational blocks that build upon existing knowledge or fill in gaps in the puzzle of their knowledge, encourage them to take steps forward in their learning and even to take a leap of faith into the dark recesses of the unknown. It is like laying down the stones and stairs that can be seen and understood, knowing they lead into a mysterious building of wonderment and enlightenment where further stairs are implied to exist if only one chooses to walk the path. I incorporate a blend of lecture, discussion and collaborative learning activities to inspire and guide students along the path to understanding. I consider myself more of a facilitator of learning rather than an omnipotent teacher. I aim to provide students a safe and comfortable link to learning with challenges and opportunities for them to think outside the box of their comfort zone and explore the unknown. I look for ways to make the material comprehensive, relevant and meaningful to the students. I use a combination of information sharing, quality peer interaction, individual reflection and shared meaning making which is mirrored in the assignments and activities I design. I encourage students to engage the material. Feel the rapture of the unknown and devour the knowledge with hunger for more.

Student reflection and feedback are crucial in helping me evaluate my students’ understanding and my teaching abilities. I use journaling assignments as one method of gaining student insight as well as one-minute feedback forms. I start each class with a moment of reflection and review in the forms of meditation and discussions of the previous topics to see what students “got out of the last class” and sometimes through short pop-quizzes that are peer-reviewed. Student input helps me evolve and improve my skills as a teacher. Finally, I try to lead and teach by example by modeling my philosophies (honorable conduct, respect, academic integrity, love and enthusiasm for the subject, etc.) and by being explicit in my expectations and explanations. For example, I provide an agenda of the expectations for the course and start each class with a mini agenda listing the subtopics of the class and the expected homework, as well as related research for those who wish to go beyond the immediate material.

Teaching is a both a science and an art. As teacher Jeanette McDonald says, “Competency and effectiveness come with reflection, commitment, passion, subject knowledge, experience, and, above all else, a focus on students and their learning!”

“And I… I took the [road] less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost (1874–1963). Mountain Interval. 1920.

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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