As the complexities of our daily lives accumulate and intensify it becomes increasingly important to pause — to consider our place in the world and how we want to participate in it, to reflect on our own stories and recognize the value in the stories of others, to think critically about the realities of our society and where our personal beliefs correspond with or differ from those reflected within these realities. As a teacher of literature and film, I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to help students master the skills essential for such contemplation. My primary goal as a teacher is to foster the higher-order thinking that will allow students to engage with the world around them instead of merely existing within it. In order to do so, they must be interested and challenged, and they must see the relevance of the content I present to them. It is my role as an educator to create both a learning environment and a curriculum that meet these needs.
My curriculum centers on literature and films of testimony and social justice, of philosophical and psychological debate, and of cultural and political examination. I have designed it to offer students varied substantive material that promotes the higher-order and creative thinking they need, as well as to highlight the urgency of stories of witness in our time. Pairing classic with contemporary texts –both written and visual—allows students to see the progression of various ideologies and the significance of different representations on the development of social constructs. In addition, it gives me an opportunity to discuss topical content that affects the lives of my students on a daily basis. Drawing parallels between Elizabethan sonnets and Nicki Minaj songs or between Shakespearean plays and Breaking Bad, for example, prompts students to think about the media they are bombarded with throughout their days. By consistently practicing critical thinking, reading, and viewing in class, students will find themselves doing the same on their own. I strive to give them the pride that comes with recognizing their ability to think on such a level and articulate their ideas.
Beyond a thoughtful curriculum, I also work to create a learning space, classroom activities, and assessments that encourage student-led discussion and collaboration; I firmly believe that sharing ideas is essential to the maturation of individual thought. Working together to explore difficult, sensitive topics in a student-centered classroom engenders respect and tolerance — values that I emphasize through my classroom policies and instruction. This structure helps students to develop their flexibility, initiative, and communication –making them better prepared for what awaits them after graduation and better able to serve a community as contemplative citizens.
I am not a teacher who expects students to espouse my thoughts or simply repeat what I say during class. I expect my students to shape ideas, craft written arguments, and create thoughtful assertions based on careful observations – all as independent thinkers. I want them to question what they see. I want them to deliberate, to imagine, to produce. I want them to feel comfortable and happy and confident and bold. I want them to thrive. It is my hope that their time in my classroom will help them do so.