Walls turned sideways are bridges.
-Dr. Angela Davis
As a Black feminist scholar, my intellectual journey forms the foundation of my teaching philosophy. I seek to create a student-centered learning environment that encourages critical engagements with race, class, crime, and feminist thought. Students come to us because of our expertise in “what we know” but often the most valuable gift we give them comes from “how we know.” Teaching encompasses many exercises and lessons, but ultimately it consists of building student skills, promoting student curiosity, and being part of an educational process that makes students lifelong learners and creative problem-solvers, that helps them become people who can teach themselves long after they have left the classroom.
When possible in my classes, I try to create an intimate space where students can theorize and discuss what it means to recognize social inequality in society and to address it. Angela Davis argues that the very things that serve as barriers to freedom can be turned into conduits for liberation. I take this stance and apply it to my teaching philosophy by exploring social problems with an emphasis on solving them with the critical thinking tools sociology provides. I challenge my students to recognize, ruminate on, and question pervasive social norms and how these norms shape and determine their identity, social status, and placement in society.
I aim to facilitate critical, intersectional, and historically grounded analysis of the social world when teaching students. I accomplish this through collaborative-learning assignments, peer teaching, group discussions, and case-studies based techniques. To provide students with hands-on sociological experience, I assign independent research projects that enable students to develop their own self-directed thinking and learning practices. My principal imperative of critical engagement allows for students to apply their knowledge to real-world phenomena by pushing them to make connections between course materials, their own experiences, and contemporary social issues. I urge students to develop written and verbal communication skills with a combination of weekly writing assignments, blog posts, and classroom presentations.
My teaching style is underpinned by diverse teaching methods and mentorship practices. Keeping in mind different levels of preparedness, I mix traditional and nontraditional materials to accommodate a variety of learning styles in the classroom. I create an inclusive and comfortable learning environment by addressing my students by name, facilitating classroom discussion questions and group exercises, and periodically picking a student to speak and add their knowledge to the discussion. In addition to these teaching techniques, I use weekly writing exercises, games, and multimedia resources (e.g. music videos or documentary clips) to extend the range and effect of my pedagogy. To assess student progress, I use a combination of exam types (multiple-choice, short answer, and essays), pop quizzes, and in-class presentations.
I highly value mentorship as part of the teaching and learning experience. Personally, I have benefitted from multiple affirmative actions based mentorship programs since high school that continues to support and impart my current research and career trajectory. I seek to build relationships with students that go beyond the assigned class for the semester where they feel comfortable and confident enough to rely on me as a resource for future academic endeavors. I work to cultivate future sociologists who are critical and attentive to the world around them.