For as long as I can remember, my life has been guided by the following Neil deGrasse Tyson quote: "For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you." As a life-long learner and social worker myself, my teaching style centers on encouraging students to continuously question and search for answers to global social problems.
My core beliefs about classroom teaching have been shaped by my experience as both a student and an instructor. As a student, I always appreciated courses that provided opportunities to improve upon my written proficiency skills and classroom environments that empowered me to take charge of my learning. Further, I admired professors who acted as mentors, were passionate about the material, and whom had high expectations of themselves and their students.
Writing assignments are essential tools in social work courses. Through the development of American Psychological Association style papers, students are empowered to synthesize their knowledge of the course content and clearly articulate their ideas and arguments. By implementing a draft submission with instructor and peer review, students learn how to give and receive constructive criticism, refine their ideas, and create finalized products that they can take pride in. I realize that writing can be a source of anxiety for students, but I feel that anxiety can be reduced by providing adequate feedback and opportunities to rewrite assignments. I also feel that students give more effort to skill development when they understand the practical, professional applications. Therefore, I emphasize the value of presenting theoretical and empirical evidence to engage stakeholders, serve clients, draft grants, and persuade lawmakers. These skills allow social workers to act as change agents. Students, who typically choose the profession with this goal in mind, find additional motivation to hone these skills once they see their relevance to bringing about change.
In my classroom, it is important that students have the opportunity to continually provide feedback and take ownership of their learning. Each week, students are encouraged to post any unanswered questions in a collaborative discussion board to be addressed by peers or myself. Additionally, I ask that students participate in anonymous midterm evaluations of the curriculum and my teaching strategies. Soliciting this midterm feedback allows me to tailor my classroom instruction to the learning styles of my students and to continually grow as an instructor.
In my opinion, nothing inspires students as much as a passionate mentor. I believe that my mentors have and continue to play an instrumental role in my professional and personal life. I am eager to positively influence aspiring social workers and give back to the profession in the ways that my mentors have done for me. Good mentors are dedicated to the profession and invested in the success of their mentees.
Academic settings have always been my home, the spaces where I am most challenged and experience the most growth. I attribute this growth to the high expectations imposed by myself and my mentors. With proper support and a safe learning environment, students can feel free to make mistakes, to step outside of their comfort zones, and to grow personally and professionally. My role is to facilitate conversations, encourage critical thinking and to make sure that each student feels like they have the internal and external resources necessary to succeed.