To be an educator is an honor, a responsibility that often goes without the accolades it deserves. Teaching is a formative process through which we impart a little bit of ourselves onto those we instruct in the hopes that our instruction will improve the learner in some way.
If nothing else in my philosophy is clear, I want this to be: there is always room for improvement.
That tenant of my ambitions as a future educator was not always clear. In fact, it hadn’t been clear to me until I began writing college papers that my professors casually returned to me with Bs and, to my utter shame, Cs. Before then, I never knew what it was like to be told my writing wasn’t exemplary. I phoned in assignments knowing that I’d excel and never challenged myself to do better. I didn’t understand that those As I received throughout my secondary education didn’t mean my work was perfect. Nothing ever is.
To learn is to accept that there is more to be learned, and that’s my goal as an educator: to open students to the reflective process of their academic work and force them to contend with the reality that perfection does not exist, that learning is the continual and impossible journey towards that perfection.
During my undergraduate career, I stumbled in that I was often incapable of adequately catering to the expectations of my professors. This is a conundrum many college students find themselves it. It often takes until the final essay to fully grasp the instructor’s expectations and present a paper that sufficiently satisfies the rubric. This is process pedagogy at work on a macro scale, applied to a series of works as opposed to a singular paper. Students in my class will learn to shorten the macro process through activities that encourage active self-reflection and refinement of singular works.
A secondary mental barrier I faced during my undergraduate studies was grappling with deadlines. While they do require students to budget their time outside of class, deadlines also have the effect of discouraging self-reflection and revision. They almost demand that a rough draft be presented as a final copy, and this cognitive dissonance (being graded with the hammer of finality on a paper that’s truly only in its infancy) is wholly incongruent to my beliefs about the act of writing. The worth of a good writer is their ability to identify and rectify areas in their writing where the rhetorical impact of their composition may be improved.
My course design centers around giving students the time and freedom to explore their processes, reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of their writing, and use that knowledge to increase their baseline rhetorical efficacy. Through guided revisions, they’ll learn to become cognizant of their rhetorical voice and the nuances of language. I do not believe students feel at liberty to express that degree of freedom under the purview of the indelible weighted scale. For that reason, I treat drafts lightly. This will give students the courage to experiment with ideas and language; by extension, this brings them closer to discovering their personal process, the methods and techniques by which they can produce their best work.
Not only will I lean heavily on low-stakes coursework, but I’ll also prescribe myself a more reductive role as their instructor. I’d prefer that I were a vehicle through which their growth is made possible, not a gatekeeper through which their advancement is determined. By reframing the traditional student-teacher relationship, I hope to further inspire my students to explore themselves, their work, and how they express the former through the latter.
It’s my hope that by empowering students with the space to become more self-aware about their work, I will foster an environment that organically enhances my understanding of effective practices for stimulating learning.