Friday, May 9, 2008

Teaching Philosophy

Here is my teaching philosophy from last semester. It hasn't changed much except I have a little about grading that I didn't put in there. I don't think I will ever actually put the grading philosophy in.

I attempt to create a classroom in which my students feel free to try new things and even fail at those new things without consequence. In creating such a classroom I tend to move away from traditional teacher-student lectures and focus more on collaborative class time. I attempt to create student-student and student-teacher paradigms in which the roles are not discernible or often reversed.

I provide my students with many different learning techniques and rely heavily on the use of all Gardner’s multiple intelligences in order to encourage learning. Even my first day introductory lesson, in which students create a duct tape wardrobe and attempt to market the pieces in a fashion show, is a testament to my classroom environment. In this lesson, students must work together to solve a problem, students must use several of the multiple intelligences, and the traditional teacher-student roles are broken as I participate in each group as a peer. Students often comment on this exercise as the most memorable of the semester.

Furthermore, student evaluations and comments are often focused on teacher-student relationships and the class structure. One recent evaluation said, “She cares about her students and is very approachable. She does not embarrass us or degrade us for not knowing an answer. She takes the time to explain it again.” Another evaluation stated, “I like that [you] made us think about punctuation in a different way. Normally its memorize, regurgitate, forget. Not in this class.”

I truly believe that teaching is learning and learning is teaching and I take every opportunity to do both in my class room.

Music and comedy as a way to breaking resistance

I've been fighting resistance this semester, so I decided to try something different in my 110 class.  I brought in some comedians, funny video clips, and some music one day to try to bring my class back from the abyss of resistance.  This is the week when I talk about argument fallacies and different ways to construct and deconstruct arguments.  

I begin the class my passing out printed lyrics to Mim's "This is Why I'm Hot."  I hate this song, but for some reason my students love it.  I actually hadn't heard the song until I hung out with my 19 year old nephew one day.  The song is not my type of music, but I took my chances because it shows a fallacy right of (begging the question: I'm hot 'cause I am, you ain't cause you not), but then proceeds to tell why Mim is hot.  It's actually pretty well argued because it sets up criteria then gives evidence of the criteria.  OK, its as well argued as any rap song can be I guess, but it works for my point.  Plus the chance for my students to hear me say things like "so making ladies 'bounce' is a criterion for hotness?" and "Paying a guap for a car is evidence of his hotness as related to richness, what IS a guap?"  My students laugh at my discomfort with the language (discomfort that I willingly admit and compare to their discomfort with academic writing) and I laugh at their animated definitions of "guap."

Then I show my students Eddie Izzard's (Yeah, yeah, shut up! I can't help my "obsession") "Church of England" Lego Youtube video.  They laugh hysterically and when I ask what is his argument they stare blankly for a moment then explode into guesses and comments.  It is a great way to show that arguments come in many forms and can be fun and funny.  I think if I do this again (teach 110) I'll actually have them all write an Izzardesque rant of an argument just for fun.  When I ask the class, "Why do you think Izzard opposes the church of England?" students give assessments like "It was built by a man who rejected Catholicism because he wanted to marry more than once."  An excellent observation and assessment! 

I also show them a Veggie Tales clip which demonstrates a hasty generalization and the consequences.  I show Larry the Cucumber's "Everybody has a Water Buffalo" in which Larry gets in trouble for making that statement.  

The class when I do this is really fun and the students relax into it and give the best participation and assessments that I have ever seen.  I do this assignment on a Monday and the "afterglow" seems to last until at least Wednesday of the next week.  I know my students get bored with the regularity of the class and this is a great way to break up the monotony.  PLUS my students see fallacies as fun.  OK, maybe not FUN, but at least not the most horrible part of 110.  Music and laughter are said to be the keys to curing illness, just maybe they can cure classroom resistance too.