My teaching 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. Acknowledging and addressing emotions—such as discomfort, fear, anger, guilt, and sadness—is key to this approach. However my goal is not that students leave the classroom feeling like “better” people. Rather, I frame these emotional reactions as opportunities to confront ourselves and our society. In this way, I welcome risk and foster solidarity among my students.
I also 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.