Teaching Portfolio

Philosophies: Teaching, Administration, and Multiculturalism | Sample Course Syllabi

Teaching Philosophy

In her essay "A Sense of Myself," Luci Tapahonso describes how her sense of self is intimately tied to language and social interaction. Through language and interaction, she makes meaning of her life and the world around her. In much the same way, my sense of self as an educator continues to be shaped by the students, teachers, and creative ideas I have been fortunate enough to work with and learn from. Teaching is for me more than a “career.” It represents a profoundly personal act that I have been performing as a complex investment: emotional, intellectual, ethical, and philosophical, as I take the dialogue with my students and colleagues to be a steady challenge to my practice and view of the profession.

I have worked hard to build a broad theoretical and practical base to inform my praxis that includes scholarship not only from the discipline of second language acquisition but also from rhetoric and composition, literary studies, curriculum and instruction, psychology, literacy studies, cultural studies, and gender studies. Whether I am designing a new program, course, or assignment, three core beliefs guide my approach to teaching and learning:

  1. Effective teaching is student-centered – focusing on individual needs, interests, and talents, then spiraling outward to encompass the interactions of language, school, society, and culture;
  2. Knowledge is socially constructed through thoughtful reflection on discourse and experience, and,
  3. All humans are capable of learning. The goal of education is to help students discover their true potential and to act upon this in ways that respect the underlying humanity that unites us all.

Through my scholarship, research, and reflection, I seek new ways to apply and act upon these beliefs in the classroom. I strive to involve students in interactions that provide enriched learning environments. Learning technologies, writing across the curriculum, interdisciplinary studies, and community partnerships all offer exciting ways to extend the boundaries of learning by involving students in multiple discourse communities. Since learning is a lifelong process, students and teachers must constantly question existing beliefs and practices in the light of each new experience.

For instance, in English 590, a graduate seminar on community-literacy, a diverse group of students and I explored the multiple forms of language and literacy--ways of seeing and knowing--that are active in the greater Greensboro community. The assignments integrated research, teaching, and service by pairing traditional classroom activities, such as critical analyses of printed texts, with students’ volunteer work in the community as language and literacy tutors for local schools and non-profit organizations. Students conducted primary and secondary research on literacy practices in the local community while providing a much needed service to traditionally marginalized populations. Through online and in-class discussions, small group projects, and individual oral presentations, students reflected on the different definitions and examples of literacy they encountered in class readings and their work as literacy tutors. The semester culminated in each student writing a critical ethnography documenting the “funds of knowledge” and the multiple forms of literacy they observed and participated in at their community agency. Several of these final reports were written with the community agency as the primary audience, providing these organizations with useful source material for future grants and promotions. A revised version of one student’s paper was published in Learning the Language of Global Citizenship: Service-Learning in Applied Linguistics that I co-edited and published with Anker and Jossey-Bass.

Since I believe in student-centered classrooms, in teacher-centered institutions, and in life-long learning, I must constantly reflect on, extend, and adapt my teaching practices and the theories from which they evolve. I must invite my students to reflect on and expand their understandings of the intersections among language, literacy, and life. One class in which this is particularly true is English 321: Linguistics for Teachers. Since students in this course are aspiring teachers, I strive to model the principles of good practice that we study for the teaching and learning of language. I ask students to reflect on and challenge what they know about our reading, writing, speaking, listening, and critical thinking processes. I try to establish a community of learners through small group interaction, writing-for-learning assignments, computer-assisted communication, and the inclusion of diverse perspectives.

I also use learning technologies to extend the boundaries of learning by involving students in multiple discourse communities. Most of the courses I taught at UNCG included an online component such as Blackboard. In English 321: Linguistics for Teachers, I required students to design and demonstrate a lesson plan that teaches an aspect of language through the Blackboard features. In doing so, they met grade-level Standard Course of Study competencies for language and technology expected by the state for the students they would teach. Additionally, as associate editor for The Reading Matrix, an international online journal, I help organize the annual International Online Conference on Second- and Foreign-Language Teaching and Research the journal hosts. This conference is unique in that it allows participants from around the world to present and discuss scholarly issues without the expense of international travel, attracting hundreds of presenters and participants from around the world. In these and other ways, I strive to involve diverse student scholars in meaningful interactions in multiple discourse communities.

Guided by my unshakable faith in the human potential for learning that each individual possesses, I enter each classroom with the assumption that we are all there because we want to learn. By listening carefully to students and responding sincerely and thoughtfully to their ideas and writing, we can discover each student’s true potential and the underlying humanity that unites us all. It is all too easy in education today to accept the common labels placed on students – remedial, dyslexic, ADD, learning disabled – labels which can influence our expectations for student performance. When we adhere too closely to what we think our students can do, we prevent them from discovering what they actually can do. I was reminded of this fact by an honors student who asked me for a letter of recommendation. As we discussed her educational history, I discovered that she began her university writing studies in a basic writing class. As I paused to reconcile what I knew of the incredibly gifted student sitting before me with the stereotypes of basic and honors English writers, I was once again reminded of the importance of encouraging students to go beyond preconceived limits, to explore their ideas and language further, so as to allow for the possibility of making meaningful discoveries.

I understand that raising the quality of student learning across the board will require concerted and collective action at all levels of education. The barriers to higher achievement are systematic, and individual teachers or institutions cannot overcome them on their own. However, just as I believe in preparing students to become lifelong learners and engaged citizens, I also believe teachers should demonstrate educational leadership by working with colleagues across campus and in the community to build public and student understanding about what matters in college and to establish higher standards across the board for college readiness and college achievement. I have worked hard to be such a leader and inspiration for my students and colleagues, and I will continue to do so in the future.

Teaching Interests
I am interested in teaching a wide range of undergraduate and graduate courses in English Studies. I have particular expertise and interest in teaching courses such as: Introduction to Linguistics, Second Language Acquisition, Sociolinguistics, TESOL methods, Reading and Writing Assessment, Critical Applied Linguistics, Second Language Writing, Community Literacy, and Community-Based Research and Writing. I would be happy to provide descriptions of these or other courses I might be asked to teach upon request.

Philosophies: Teaching, Administration, and Multiculturalism | Sample Course Syllabi