TEACHING NARRATIVE: Personhood & Inclusivity
One theme and guiding commitment that binds together my teaching, creative writing, and literary scholarship is a desire to acknowledge and care for the whole person. By this I mean that, as a working mother and poet of the domestic, I attempt to view myself, my literary subjects, and my students as people—housed in bodies, with stresses and limitations, and embedded in communities that demand our time and attention.
This goal of honoring each student’s whole personhood has helped me cultivate a classroom atmosphere that is both inclusive and pedagogically responsive to student needs. I encourage students to write on issues that matter to them, like race, family, and economic inequity, and we foreground the voices of those most immediately impacted by each issue. For example, when discussing anti-racist rhetorics, I make space for students of color to share their experiences first. It has been a pleasure to see these students speak powerfully about their lived experiences of discrimination and later to hear white students express that it was their classmates’ words, more than any assigned reading, that helped them consider the issue in a new way.
During my time at USM, I have adapted and developed multiple versions of a first-year writing course in response to students’ evolving needs and interests. In Spring 2021, as we collectively sought to understand what community looks like during a worldwide pandemic, I taught a research writing course on discourse community theory in which students investigated how communities function both on- and off-line. In Fall 2021, after numerous conversations with students about technology and mental health, I developed a mindfulness-themed section of English 101 that seeks intentional engagement with technology and incorporates meditation into the practice of academic writing. Students leave their phones at the door and laptops put away so we can meditate, converse, and write together with minimal distraction. Students in this class not only wrote at a high level, they also expressed “relief,” “refreshment,” and an enhanced ability to manage stress.
The whole-person approach to teaching also informs my student engagement and mentorship. It is not uncommon for me to find myself in one-on-one conversation with a student, discussing an issue like plans for childcare, cutting back on work hours, or navigating medical appointments. I want my students to know that I understand the challenges they face both inside and outside the classroom, and that I am committed to helping them surmount the obstacles that stand in the way of their academic success.
In addition to teaching, I serve as the composition program research assistant, and in this capacity I help manage and mentor all new graduate instructors in the composition program. During my years in this position, I have mentored 30 new instructors, each of whom I observed teach a full 75-minute class and met with afterward to discuss all types of teaching questions: how to foster active learning, handle plagiarism, build instructor-student relationships, and much more. These conversations about teaching continue throughout the year, and it has been immensely rewarding to see my office become a site of community and a place where instructors stop by to share their teaching triumphs and challenges.
This section of my website provides descriptions and sample syllabi of courses I have taught: The first-year writing sequence of English 101 and 102, English 203 World Literature, and English 333 Technical Writing. I also include a mock syllabus for an introductory poetry workshop on the theme of home, to reflect my interest in designing a creative writing course.