As a professor, I have taught many different subjects including creative writing, literature, composition, theater, linguistics, and technical writing. Regardless of the specific class I am teaching, a few key concepts inform my teaching process. I believe that:
- each student can have and develop strong, original opinions.
- students improve while actively engaging with the material.
- making the material culturally apply to my students has value.
- students should fail boldly inside of an education setting.
I want students to believe that they can have original opinions, but at the same time, I want them to realize the difficultly of having original thoughts. By engaging critical texts, reading published material about a chosen text, and discovering a topic that requires additional explanation demands time and patience. I challenge students to look at problems in new ways, and I structure my assignments so that sets of skills must work together to create something new and original.
I desire for students to participate actively in the classroom. When I think about my favorite professors, I remember the ones who pushed me to get out of my chair, to say something, to act out a scene, to participate in some way. The kinetic interaction with the material increases retention, class atmosphere, and motivation to understand the text. I also try to limit my own lecturing time. I do lecture during most class periods, but I try to keep that lecturing time to a minimum. If students are completing the assigned reading, then class time is better suited for utilizing that information and applying it towards a classroom activity.
I have taught in several countries during my life, and I have found that what works at one university does not mean that it will work at another. Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and American students all approach the classroom differently with conflicting interests and bases of knowledge. By taking a little time to try and find readings and assignments that will speak to my students on a more cultural and personal level, student engagement and interest increase. In China, we looked at Chinese science fiction alongside American science fiction to see how cultural sci-fi actually was. In South Korea, we crafted family stories in my creative non-fiction class because the family unit in Korea is so strong. Considerations my students as people with distinct interests and backgrounds gives my classroom a more active environment that I always desire.
I also believe that students should find the courage to fail boldly in classroom. By saying this, I do not mean that I enjoy watching my students fail. Instead, I mean that education serves as an opportunity for students to try new activities, ideas, and projects in a safe environment, and a good university gives students the opportunities to keep trying new and bold experiences that they might hesitate to try on their own.
Education should be challenging. When facing challenges, people sometimes struggle at first, but that difficulty is the origin of real development. When a class is easy, students learn nothing. Instead, the moment when they have to fight to learn something, when they struggle, when they tackle an idea to the ground and hold it for a moment to understand it, that’s when education is happening.