To teach in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our studies is essential if we are to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin.—bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (1994)
As a writing instructor, my goal is to teach students how to use the power and versatility of written communication in their lives, both in academic contexts and beyond. My approach is lifted largely from my own experiences as a student when thinking about the moments in my education that have been most meaningful to me. From this, I have uncovered three key exercises: be available to my students, empower my students, and teach with compassion.
It was at my women’s college that I first saw the benefit of empowering students. There was a significance placed on the words and ideas of students that I had not seen much of before then. There was no sense of my lack of degrees or any other qualifiers that made anything I had to say more or less important than that of anyone else in the classroom. Because of that understanding, I was comfortable to state my beliefs, my arguments, and more with a level on confidence that has followed me since. I was able to be fearless in a way that I never had before because I knew that I had the support of my instructor and peers.
To teach with compassion means to recognize the humanity of your students and treat them as such both in and outside of the classroom. Just as I exist in the context of our classroom and outside of it, so do they. It is imperative to remember that life bleeds into the classroom in a myriad of moments and ways, and students cannot always divorce their academic persona from their personhood; in fact, to ask them to do so is to ask them to divorce their humanity from their work which I believe runs absolutely contrary to the goals of the Humanities.