University of Manchester (2018-2020)
Teaching Assistant: Histories of the Islamic World (Department of History)
Teaching Assistant: Identity in Modern France (Department of Modern Languages & Cultures)
Teaching Assistant: French Cultural Studies (Department of Modern Languages & Cultures)
Brooklyn College (2015-2016)
Instructor: FREN 2024 Advanced Language Skills I (Department of Modern Languages & Literatures)
City College of New York (2015-2016)
Instructor: FREN 12300 Introductory French I (Department of Classical & Modern Languages & Literatures)
Instructor: FREN 12400 Introductory French II (Department of Classical & Modern Languages & Literatures)
My teaching philosophy has long been guided by the principle that learning works best through collaboration. Whether I am lecturing, leading a discussion section, or teaching a language, I try to create a classroom environment that encourages students to engage critically with the material at hand. Inspired by Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Jacques Rancière’s critique of the explanatory model of teaching (in Le Maître ignorant), which reifies Foucauldian power-knowledge structures in the classroom, I have come to see my position in the classroom as more of a facilitator of learning and critical thinking rather than a transmitter of knowledge. The facilitator teaches through dialogue, while the transmitter, to borrow Freire’s metaphor, sees the student as an empty bank account that is to be filled with knowledge. Freire rightly argues that the latter approach dehumanises and reflects (as well as helps maintain) an unjust society. As an educator, I do not want the students in my classrooms to see me as an unquestionable authority. I want them to be able to question me as much as they question the texts they engage with and as much as they question each other and themselves. Thus, I do not explain; I share. I do not instruct; I guide. I do not provide answers; I ask questions. Simply explaining creates a barrier between teacher and student, while collaborating removes barriers and allows for non-hierarchical, multidirectional learning to take place through cooperation.
The classroom is not a neutral space; it is both affected by and affects the broader society of which it is a part. By adopting a collaborative approach to learning, I hope to encourage my students not only to become critical learners in the classroom, but also active citizens outside the classroom. This approach is not without its difficulties. Initially, students sometimes feel uncomfortable when they realise that I expect them to participate actively in their learning and not to simply absorb the material passively from me. In lectures, they might be surprised the first time I stop to ask them to take a minute to write down their thoughts and questions on the material at hand. In seminars, they might be taken aback when I ask them to take a moment to think about the material by themselves before sharing their thoughts with a student next to them, and then sharing their thoughts with the entire class. In language classes, students might be surprised when they realise that I only ever speak in the target language (even at the absolute beginner’s level) instead of explaining vocabulary and grammar in English. Their initial discomfort may be due to the misguided belief that they would be more likely to better answer exam questions if they are able to memorise and regurgitate facts and rules. With time, however, they begin to realise that an active, collaborative approach to learning empowers them to master the course material beyond memorisation and regurgitation.
Encouraging my students to take an active role in their own learning does not, however, mean that I necessarily take the backseat in my classroom. I certainly share my research expertise with my students, but the key word is share. By fostering a non-hierarchical, collaborative atmosphere in my classroom and empowering my students with the tools to be active learners, I hope to also be, indirectly, helping them on their way to becoming the active, critical, and vocal citizens that our twenty-first century societies desperately need.