[A] sensitive moment awakens them to beauty. [An] exaltation makes them what they hadn't known they were.
1. I expect students to learn for the love of ideas. This expectation means I spend a lot of time teaching students how to follow their own interests.
2. Teaching literature and performance is a way of opening students’ minds to their own places in history, of deepening their connection to the world around them, and of inspiring them to realize the worlds beyond themselves.
3. High energy and high performance teaching thrills me. As teacher, I excite. I am a conductor: my energy and my performance rouses and coordinates the energy and performance of the students.
4. There were no grades. Work was evaluated on its own merits and discussed without reference to an arbitrary system of valuation. My undergraduate years at Sarah Lawrence College provide the model of a pedagogy based on the love of ideas. I have adapted this model as a teacher to very different classrooms at the colleges where I have taught. Paradoxically, I have found that the ideal of no grades is sometimes well pursued in the reality of many grades. I often put as many as three grades on a single essay, grades for different categories. Students grade their own participation first, then I respond with my own observations. I grade holistically whenever possible -- giving grades categorically for critical thinking or close reading or knowledge of the subject. I have never had a disagreement with a student over a grade, because my system is based on the student's own evaluation of his or her own work.
5. I work against the previous education of so many students that presented them with knowledge outside themselves to be acquired, and that presented the teacher as the giver and the gatekeeper of that knowledge. I assign students to write self-evaluations. These self-evaluations reveal to students their authority over their work. I carefully position my authority in assessing student work as a form of advocacy -- more authoritative in way, but also second to the student’s own assessment.
6. I provide highly individualized instruction. Even when I have had over a hundred students per semester, I have not only known all of their names but also have kept open communication with all of them about their interests and biases, their strengths and their challenges. This student centered approach allows the active curiosities of the students to drive the course.
7. I challenge students to read, write and discuss material that they at first believe is beyond their level, and by teaching them bring them to feel more comfortable with these challenges. I watch to see them take up this cause and challenge themselves.
8. "Stand up, please, and let us move our desks into a circle."
9. I value the “wrong” answers more than the “right.” Not only does a wrong answer teach more, but it presents an opportunity to postpone judgment about the suitability of an answer, and thereby teaches critical thinking.
10. I devise assignments keeping in mind Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory, and I remain aware that for each bit of knowledge there may be at least nine different facilities at work in understanding or in interfering with the understanding of it. For instance, even in Composition classes, I have employed theatre games as well as assignments that call for illustration.
11. I listen.
12. All of my classes are writing-intensive.
13. Learning is confusing, and sometimes agonizing. I urge students to be patient with confusion, to "dwell in possibility," to give themselves credit for what they do understand and not to become quickly discouraged with not-understanding.
14. I have believed since I was very young that there is nothing worse than a bad teacher and a bad course and nothing better than a good one.
15. To share what I am passionate about, to excite curiosity, to direct self-discovery out towards discovery of the world, to dedicate myself to learning -- these are why I teach and and its real rewards.