I believe in the liberal arts ideal of a well-rounded education based on curiosity in which students are presented with the artistic, intellectual, spiritual, and scientific traditions that have, and continue to, help individuals understand themselves and the world in which they live. As a teacher, my role is to help students become productive members of society who can function in a world saturated with media. I am a guide, helping my students navigate the world in which they live to be savvy media producers and consumers. Students enter my classroom with different expectations and experiences, and it is my job to welcome them all into my class and reach them where they are in order to impart knowledge to them, even if this means pushing back against preconceived notions about how media works. Some students might be taking my class because it is a step toward their future careers, while others might be simply enrolling because it is a required course or because they thought the class might be fun. Therefore, I have three overall objectives for their learning experiences: exposing them to new concepts and ideas while facilitating understanding of the material, developing them into self-advocates who are aware of their rights and responsibilities and equipped with the necessary tools to act independently while thinking critically to be able to gather the information they need, and developing the individual student to be a complete person.
As such, my primary goal is to challenge my students and push them out of their comfort zones, and I aim to do so in a real-world environment. Whether it is working on student publications or completing a project for class, the work is done with the assumption the world will see it because we live in a world saturated with media where people live their lives online. This has specific implications for their futures, so I set my class up as if everything is public so the proper foresight can be given to whether or not something should be written or said. However, the classroom serves as a safety net in which intellectual and creative risks can be taken without fear of retribution, such as often plays out in the news when an errant tweet ruins someone’s life. I expect my students to take an active role in their education and be self-directed with a desire to succeed. I recognize this method does not work for all students, so I will take steps to assist students in keeping up with the class and learning how to develop the tools necessary to be self-directed, which will help them become more productive members of society.
To accomplish this, I set high expectations, establish clear goals, and provide ways for them to succeed, even if they find themselves struggling. As long as consistent effort is demonstrated, I will help a student work through a difficulty within my role as facilitator, guide, and encourager. I do this by stressing the importance of communication. Learning is not a one-way street. It takes students and teachers to come together to achieve the goal of gaining knowledge. I frequently post news and insights to my website, of which students are aware. Also, I maintain my syllabi as Google Docs so assignments and class information are kept up to date and students always have access to the latest information concerning my courses. My email address and other methods of online communication are made available to students to reach out at any time with the assurance I will respond within 24 hours or less, and I maintain specific times during which students can meet with me in person.
Clearly, communication is key. That’s why I work to cultivate fertile grounds for discussion in my classroom. Students can ask questions and make mistakes without fear of being ridiculed, but I avoid spoon-feeding them the answers. Discussions allow me to understand what the students know and see ways to help them learn more about the subject matter. This means reading is important in my class. Research suggests that reading improves vocabulary and language use, which improves writing skills. This leads to better oral communication. All of these skills are desirable in the job market, so I foster personal growth as much as I teach within an academic discipline. I utilize online learning management systems (Blackboard, Canvas, etc.) to foster further discussion and be the hub for assignment submission and grade posting. This, along with my website and syllabi, creates transparency and allows the student to know where they stand at all times. I return graded quizzes and discussion postings within three days or less. I return graded writing assignments within 10 days or less so my feedback on an individual assignment can be used as building blocks for future learning. I use multiple methods of student assessment, including exams, individual and group projects with presentations, oral reports, short writing assignments, and research papers. Along the way, I seek feedback from the students. If something isn’t working for the entire class, I must change course and make sure their education is working for them in a manner that furthers the achievement of our educational goals.
Additionally, I strive to see my students for who they are. This means I recognize that my students are adults, and I treat them as such. By treating them as anything less, I feel I am doing them a disservice. Their time is just as important as mine. I will not waste it with trivial matters. If they need to take care of personal business instead of being in class, that is their decision, but they will still be responsible for any material from the missed class. Students respond well to being treated in this fashion. They don’t appreciate being talked down to or made to feel small and insignificant. This breeds the ground for mutual respect and allows the students to find themselves. Therefore, I oppose bigotry, racism, hatred, sexism, discrimination, et cetera. Everyone is welcome in my class, and I will not stand for one person making another person feel unwelcome. We are here to learn. I do believe in the First Amendment and all the rights it affords. However, those rights come with grave responsibilities. Students must exercise those rights appropriately and not in a way to spread a hateful gospel of bigotry and racism. If students believe in those things, that is their decision. However, I will not be a party to it.
When respect exists, great things can happen. For example, I want my students to come away from my class knowing my passion for teaching and for seeing them grow as individuals and succeed academically. I want them to be strong communicators and journalists who know how to succeed in society ethically and fairly. To achieve this, I frequently reflect on my teaching methodologies and how I’m conveying information. I pay attention to the news and academic journals. I research media topics, and I take classes to improve myself, and I will continue to improve myself by observing professionals in both the media and academic fields to ensure I am equipping my students with the most pertinent tools and knowledge in the best fashion possible. I am a life-long learner, and I foster that same desire in my students. Everyone can always learn more, and with the newfound knowledge, positive impacts on society can be made.