My teaching comes from a point of understanding that I am teaching to multiple communities and not a classroom. The communities I consider when teaching are the class community, the campus community, and the multiple communities that each student inhabits.
The Class Community:
With this community comes the expectation of respect, support, collaboration, and understanding of differences. I maintain that all people are welcome within my class, but hostile attitudes are not. I make a point to say in my syllabus, “We may address sensitive issues in this course. The point is to have critical and meaningful discussion. Hostile behavior towards me, your classmates, or yourself will not be tolerated.” I include ‘yourself’ in my list of people because I want students to be critical of their own thoughts, but not to a point where they may disparage themselves.
The Campus Community:
I consider this community by making my class accessible, warm, and with policies that help with student retention. I expect communication and maturity from my students, but I stand by my decision to always accept late work. I feel that by telling a student that they cannot submit late work, the experience and learning they would have gotten from that assignment is now worthless because there is no longer any point value assigned to it. I also allow negotiated extensions to projects so long as the student communicates their need for the extension in advance and I also encourage students to show up, even if they’re late. These policies are tied to my community pedagogy because they are meant to make students have authority over their learning and to encourage student retention. The campus community is affected by every student that chooses to leave it and I make every effort for my class to be a reason why a student chooses to stay rather than a stressor to why they leave.
I understand that these ‘lax’ policies may appear to make for a classroom that students do not take seriously. I would argue against that by stressing that I have high expectations for my students and make that clear to them. Additionally, I would argue that it is better for a student to learn after a project deadline than to not learn the content at all. Finally, it would be disingenuous of me to have statements in my syllabus on accessibility, community, and self-care while my policies infer otherwise.
The Communities That Students Inhabit:
I explain to students that our learning is made meaningful when we use our abilities and knowledge to benefit others. Throughout my courses, I encourage students to think of how they can benefit their communities and make their work in this class have an audience besides me. I dedicate in-class time for reflection on their progress, the application of their knowledge in multiple contexts, and on questions their newly-acquired knowledge generates for them. I do my best to avoid framing classes in ways that make them go ‘out into other communities’ to do work as academics and instead, encourage them to use their knowledge to help benefit the communities they already inhabit. This is not to say that students cannot explore and integrate themselves into new communities, but I frame my class and projects to avoid students artificially intervening into a community for the sake of a grade.
My classes are also highly process-based. While the products that my students produce are important to me, I also want to instill the understanding that even their ‘final projects’ for me are mere practices for the work they will produce in the future. Learning is always unfinished and their work in my class should also be considered as such, but they should also feel pride in their practice and in their progress. By focusing on the process instead of the product, students can reflect on how to develop better habits in their learning and creation of content rather than critiquing a singular work. This also allows students to be recognized for the work and effort they put in to creating something, even when the final product is not what they envisioned it to be. Peer-review is a large part of this process pedagogy, which strengthens the class-community as they rely on each other for constructive feedback on their own work. Lastly, I feel like this approach encourages lifelong learning by understanding that even products they are proud of can always be edited with a more refined process.
I believe that by creating an environment with my students that encourages comfort in being able to openly, they will be able to speak critically and engage with class concepts at a higher level. While I am passionate about my philosophy of instruction, I am also not someone to think that my philosophy will not change. I am always collaborating with my colleagues and reading new material in order to find ways to best benefit my current and future students.