In every course, my pedagogy is centered around empathy. I believe that students learn best when they have the resources—in and out of the classroom—to do so. Yet, so many students come to college without these systems of support. Recognizing that, I emphasize to my students that they are humans first. With flexible office hours and attention to self-care in the classroom, I help students access the resources that help them best learn. We each bring our experiences to the class as we challenge ideas about equity, justice, and cultural value.
Check out how this functions in a selection of my syllabi and assignments below.
Created with guidance from resources including Ann-Marie Womack’s & Tulane University’s Accessible Syllabus and the universal design, I work to make my classes as diversely accessible as possible. My syllabi often include images of required or suggested texts, alt-text, live links to sources, and my preferred pronouns. I provide plain text versions, too, which more readily run through screen readers or translation software. I simultaneously provide students with versions of the syllabi that are legible by screen readers.
Expanding the Canon
In each of my courses, students reflect upon our course’s selected texts and consider how various ideas shape how we determine whose ideas and voices are worth reading. In literature-based courses, students and I use class discussion and their assignment to question the construction of literary canons and the effects of representation.
I recognize that the work of the course cannot be siloed within the space of the classroom and that the work of the college student inevitably abuts and erupts into students’ personal lives as humans. Embracing pedagogies based in caring and advocacy, I structure classes to encourage student engagement in the course.
In my writing classes, I bring the students back to their own work as the site of critique. By examining writing we ourselves have written we are often able to grasp the “moves” we make–and then see how to strengthen them.
Revision is a key part of my writing courses. Students write at least two drafts of major compositions, but we often revise pieces of them more than that. In this way, the recursive practice of writing becomes a craft we can practice and continually develop.
Writing is intensely personal, and I urge students to see their writing as exercises of their own authority as a thinker and advocate. In class, I model this behavior by valuing students’ work as models for the class–using Google Slides and other digital platforms to host student ideas, questions, and remarks during discussion. This becomes a way of framing the students as themselves sites of knowledge.
Selected Syllabi & Assignments
Survey of American Literature
Intro to Literary Study
Sample American Lit. 1880 to Present Lesson Plan & Assignment
Below I include two examples from the work students undertake in my American Literature survey.
The first is an excerpted lesson plan on the canon wars. Students read several pieces discussing the creation of ethnic studies and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies programs alongside efforts to diversify the generic canon. After reading these pieces, we discuss in class how this has implications for our course and the institution’s general education requirements. We end by students nominating new texts or artifacts to our class reading, which students subsequently vote on. The students therefore are able to actively participate in shaping their education and push back against how we’ve defined the literary canon.
The second is the prompt for a presentation assignment for the class. Students select a concept, event, artifact, legal case, or figure from history that we don’t already cover on the syllabus. They research this topic and teach the class about it using a presentation (defined broadly) and a handout or digital resource for their classmates. Students have taken unique approaches to this, close reading influential magazine covers, offering a dramatic reading of flash fiction, or giving an oral history of a music genre.
Sample First-Year Composition Assignments
Below are links to two assignments used in my spring 2019 first-year composition course.
The first is a frame & case assignment, in which students use the concepts from our course readings to analyze a text (here, I call it a “site of change” to refer to our focus on social movements, activist organizations, and events).
The second is a semester-long research project that asks students to learn about a social issue or movement over the semester before creating their own activist artifact. This longer-than-usual prompt includes a guide for students to interview people in the field, surveys to help direct their research by their own interests, a project proposal outline, and a research log. Past students have created interactive art exhibits, informational websites, educational games, and mock infomercials.
As you can tell, I have been fortunate to have some incredible students. I think this assignment sequence helps students play around with creative ideas and get engaged in issues that matter to them.