My teaching philosophy may be distilled down to the Greek philosopher Plutarch’s insight that “the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting.” To me, this phrase is not simply about the ignition of interests, but of the deeper self-realization of expansive potential within all students, not only those currently excelling. This is highlighted by Marianne Williamson’s assertion that “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure… [and] as we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Thus, at a broader social level, the unlocking of individual potential fosters the development of a fearlessly thoughtful citizenry who can further what Ruth Benedict suggested is the primary purpose of anthropology, “to make the world safe for human differences.” I emphasize writing in particular not only as a skill that can be learned and a muscle that can be exercised, but more significantly as an unparalleled means for asserting one’s inimitable voice inward and outward with the radical potential for transforming both.
I approach teaching and research as symbiotic, and centered around close attention to process. Just as my research highlights the social life of film over the finished product, so too does my teaching emphasize the wrestling with ideas over conclusions. I illustrate the importance of engaging multiple paper drafts through in-class peer-review protocols that help students to develop as writers by receiving and providing feedback, fostering a broader confidence in critical reading through identifying the strengths and challenges of others.
Drawing on a variety of active and experiential learning strategies, I seek to cultivate compelling points of connection between students’ often disconnected academic and social worlds through small group discussions, class debates, media production projects, and other activities that engage diverse learning styles. For example, during the first weekend of class I often have students conduct a brief period of fieldwork at a social event for their first paper. This engages a topic that the students find inherently interesting while positioning them to construct original and inductive arguments that are relevant to their own lived experiences.