I believe in fostering independence and free thinking in students by challenging their boundaries with compelling literary and popular culture sources and by providing students with the tools to express themselves in a clear and concise manner both on paper and in the digital world.
My teaching is driven by the desire to share my love of writing and literature. However, students do not always come to us with that same love. I believe that teachers cannot teach without meeting students where they are and leading them to where they want students to be. Knowing what your students are “about” precedes teaching methods and course structures. Without understanding who students are and where they come from, a teacher is building his or her tower of knowledge on sandy soil. Teachers must relate what we want students to know to what they already know. Learning can only begin when the teacher embraces the potentially shaky foundation of students’ current knowledge and presuppositions and works within it in order to build upon it.
Students come to us from diverse backgrounds and educational experiences. They have differing learning styles and preferences. Thus I use many methods in order to reach each student. In my classes I use multiple media to give auditory, visual, and even kinesthetic learners a chance to engage with the subject matter. Students work collaboratively, learning teamwork and benefitting from teaching each other. I stress to my students that even though they may feel that they don’t know anything about writing or literature, each of them knows something important which can be shared with group-mates to enhance everyone’s performance.
Writing is both a critical and a creative task, and I foster both characteristics with assignments that allow a great deal of individuality while requiring critical thinking and attention to detail. My students also complete a project at the end of each semester in which they can demonstrate both their academic and personal growth. Daniel Pink wrote in his book Drive (Riverhead, 2009) that people are most often inspired by the possibility of mastery, autonomy, and purpose. Using his ideas as a guide, I develop creative assignments that present these rewards in a clear and palpable way to students while offering them a chance to better their writing and technological skills and instilling in them the confidence to innovate. For many students, one question remains at the forefront: why do we have to learn this? I try to get to know all of my students and then tailor my assignments to their individual needs. In this way, students learn and perform better because they understand that what they are learning is relevant to their everyday lives.
©Angela Drummond-Mathews 2010