My goal is to help students to improve themselves holistically as thinkers and writers, as members of a society, and as individuals. In the classroom, my primary role is that of a facilitator who juxtaposes texts and ideas in ways that help students to glean their own meanings from them and to find relevance for the material outside the classroom. I attempt to establish a dialogue with my students so that, ultimately, we learn from one another in an extended, semester-long conversation. Giving students a directive role in their own education keeps them interested in the subject and willing to learn. Even when a student asks an ostensibly simple question about, for example, the meaning of a line of poetry, I share the problem with the entire class by placing the line on the chalkboard and asking the students what interpretations they can propose before I venture a response. While I encourage students to contribute to the class and to mold their own learning processes, I also provide them with a well-structured, yet flexible, course of study in which they understand my expectations and assignments. At the end of each semester, I hope to have challenged students to develop more of the intellectual tools they need to analyze texts-literature, their own essays, even business documents and advertisements-to test the critical assumptions that underlie the discourses.
My literature classes emphasize the historical, cultural, and literary contexts of the materials we read. I emphasize close readings and introduce my students to literary theory as a tool for elucidating meaning. My literature classes generally include materials from the traditional canon of literature but also incorporate the works of lesser-known writers. For example, in an introductory course on British Romanticism, I would hope to cultivate my students' understanding of the Big Six (William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and John Keats) because these poets' writings traditionally have defined Romanticism. However, I would also incorporate writers like Elizabeth Inchbald, Felicia Hemans, Charlotte Lennox, John Clare, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, and Thomas Beddoes. Juxtaposing such a variety of writers would help students to question the canonization process and to understand the historical and cultural influences that have formed the canon. In exploring the canonization process, students also explore their own responses to literature to develop a greater appreciation for it and become more conscious of the cultural, social, and other contexts from which the texts emanate.
In composition classes, I present writing as an ongoing process that involves recursive revision and rethinking of one's position on the issues at hand. I emphasize the importance of audience and encourage students to remain ever aware of the discourse communities in which they write. For example, in writing an essay, one of my composition students initially supported the idea of making English the official language of the United States but changed his mind when questioned about the growing Hispanic population and other important cultural groups in American society. In his case, I feel that the assignment was a success because it inspired him to think more critically and to question his assumptions. The process of revising and questioning helps students to clarify their own beliefs and their own understandings of cultural, social, and other types of issues through critical thinking.
Technical Writing Classes
In technical writing classes, I encourage revision and the critical re-evaluation of one's position as well as an awareness of the ethical issues that inform one's decisions and writing. Given the nature of the assignments in technical writing classes (letters, memos, reports), I also emphasize the job-application process and interpersonal office skills so that the course work will attain more relevance for the students in the workplace. I stress the importance of writing tactful, diplomatic documents that concentrate on the reader and his or her reactions while maintaining simplicity and conciseness that will not detract from the business environment.