My teaching philosophy is centered on developing students’ grasp of theory and critical thinking skills. I frame theory as a toolbox students can use to offer explanations for, understand, and address enduring and emerging societal concerns. I model critical thinking as a disciplined process, a quest for knowledge driven by a longing to know (hooks 2009). Probing for clarification, patience in the face of complexity, and recognition of limitations are explicit class expectations. Teaching from an intersectional framework, I also utilize a pedagogy of fear (Leonardo & Porter 2010), which posits that the patterns of violence and experiences of oppression I am teaching about are already in the room, and must be made visible and addressed if students are to learn. My goal is not that students leave the classroom feeling like a better person. Rather, I welcome risk and seek intellectual solidarity among my students. During lecture and discussions, I address discomfort, fear, apathy, guilt, and anger. I encourage students to take responsibility for these feelings in exchange for understanding.
As a first generation student who was on academic probation after my first semester, I know that the rigors of coursework combined with the social and financial challenges made me vulnerable to isolation and confusion. I did not know how to succeed, despite wanting to and being intellectually able to. I assume students are capable of succeeding, but that they may not have the insider knowledge or the resources to do so. I take time to explicitly explain aspects of student and academic life that others may find obvious: the purpose of office hours, how to approach a faculty member for help, how to study for an exam, the relationship between readings and lecture, and how to seek out on-campus mental health, financial and cultural resources.
Ultimately, I believe social science must be made relevant to students, meaning it must help them understand and intervene in their own social world. This is also key if the discipline is to recruit new generations of thinkers. In service of this, I bring in current events and link my research to course content, drawing heavily on the everyday because it is a critical site of sociological inquiry. My foci on the everyday, theory and critical thinking make visible the mechanisms of inequality students witness and navigate across their identities, and empower them to become active agents in their learning.