A Philosophy of Teaching

einsteinthinkEvery teacher should have a philosophy of teaching, and this is my work in progress.


The guiding principle in my philosophy of teaching is that teachers need to provide students with the necessary skills to take responsibility for their own learning. My role is to give students the opportunity to practice those skills. From the foundations of time management and personal responsibility through advanced rhetorical strategies and critical analysis and argumentation, the skills students learn and practice in my courses provide the needed framework for future success.

I want to teach students what they need to succeed in the course, in future courses, and in the workplace, but I also hope to instill in students a desire for lifelong learning. I want my students to become critical thinkers who will be able to look at the world around them in a new light. One of the most rewarding experiences in my life occurs when a past student tells me he/she can no longer watch a movie, read a book, or listen to a speech without analyzing and critiquing.

I try to create an open environment where students feel comfortable to engage in discussion, ask questions, and explore their creativity. In my opinion, passive learning is not possible. I think that to truly internalize knowledge, students have to actively engage with the material through analytic and argumentative writing and critical, creative, and multimodal projects. Paper and project assignments directly engage with content, but students have the opportunity to adapt assignments to their specific interests and talents as I believe by personalizing papers and projects, students are more invested and create more critical, more creative, and more interesting finished products.

I encourage continuous revision on assignments as I am a firm believer that the traditional production line style of completing assignments is antithetical to contemporary educational pedagogy and counterintuitive to creativity. Creating is a non-linear process that can only benefit from flexibility, re-viewing, and re-envisioning. My classroom is intentionally collaborative where students work together on group assignments and help each other on individual works. Sharing knowledge and experiences stimulates learning and helps students open their minds to new possibilities. The ability to adopt multiple perspectives is a needed and necessary skill in today’s diverse culture.

The use of technology to improve education is a central component of my teaching philosophy. The possibility for personalized education coupled with the opportunity for creative and critical expression makes technology an integral part of educational strategies. I use various pieces of tech for instruction, and I require students to engage with technology for learning and assessment.

The Book I Fell in Love With First

The very first book I fell in love with was a strange tale, one my mother does not remember fondly. She remembers reading it over and over, sometimes back to back at bedtime. I would beg for this book then, and I still have the same copy 35+ years later.

Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese wrote this 32 page, picture-book story about a duck named Ping. I have copied it here for you:


Once upon a time there was a beautiful young duck named Ping. Ping lived with his mother and his father and two sisters and three brothers and eleven aunts and seven uncles and forty-two cousins. Their home was a boat with two wise eyes on the Yangtze River.

Each morning as the sun rose from the east, Ping and his mother and his father and sisters and brothers and aunts and uncles and his forty-two cousins all marched, one by one, down a little bridge to the shore of the Yangtze river.

All day they would hunt for snails and little fishes and other pleasant things to eat. But in the evening as the sun set in the west, “La-la-la-la-lei!” would call the Master of the boat.

Quickly Ping and his many family would come scurrying, quickly they would march, one by one, up over the little bridge and on to the wise-eyed boat which was their home on the Yangtze river. Ping was always careful, very very careful not to be last, because the last duck to cross over the bridge always got a spank on the back. But one afternoon as the shadows grew long, Ping did not hear the call because at that moment Ping was wrong side up trying to catch a little fish.

By the time Ping was right side up his mother and his father and his aunts were already marching, one by one, up over the bridge. By the time Ping neared the shore, his uncles and his cousins were marching over, and by the time Ping reached the shore the last of his forty-two cousins had crossed the bridge!

Ping knew he would be the last, the very last duck if he crossed the bridge. Ping did not want to be spanked. So he hid. Ping hid behind the grasses, and as the dark came and the pale moon shone in the sky Ping watched the wise-eyed boat slowly sail away down the Yangtze river.

All night long Ping slept near the grasses on the bank of the river with his head tucked under his wing, and when the sun rose up from the east Ping found he was all alone on the Yangtze river.

There was no father or mother, no sisters or brothers, no aunts or uncles, and no forty-two cousins to go fishing with Ping, so Ping started out to find them, swimming down the yellow waters of the Yangtze river.

As the sun rose higher in the sky, boats came. Big boats and little boats, fishing boats and beggars’ boats, house boats and raft boats, and all these boats had eyes to see with, but nowhere could Ping see the wise-eyed boat which was his home.

Then came a boat full of strange dark fishing birds. Ping saw them diving for fish for their Master. As each bird brought a fish to his Master he would give it a little piece of fish for pay.

Closer and closer swooped the fishing birds near Ping. Now Ping could see shining rings around their necks, rings of metal made so tight the birds could never swallow the big fish they were catching.

Swoop, splash, splash, the ringed birds were dashing here and there all about Ping, so down he ducked and swam under the yellow water of the Yangtze river.

When Ping came up tot he top of the water far away from the fishing birds, he found little crumbs floating, tender little rice cake crumbs which made a path to a house boat. As Ping ate these crumbs, he came nearer and nearer to the house boat, then – SPLASH!

There in the water was a Boy! A little boy with a barrel on his back which was tied to a rope from the boat just as all boat boys on the Yangtze river are tied to their boats. In the Boy’s hand was a rice cake.

“Oh-owwwwwoooo!” cried the little Boy, and up dashed Ping and snatched at the rice cake. Quickly the Boy grabbed Ping and held him tight.

“Quack-quack-quack-quack!” cried Ping.

“OH! – Ohh-ooo!” yelled the Little Boy.

Ping and the Boy made such a splashing and such a noise that the Boy’s father came running and the Boy’s mother came running and the Boy’s sister and brother came runnign and they all looked over the edge of the boat at Ping and the Boy splashing in the water of the Yangtze river.

Then the Boy’s father and mother pulled at the rope which was tied to the barrel on the little Boy’s back. They pulled and they pulled and up came Ping and the Boy on to the house boat.

“Ah, a duck dinner has come to us!” said the Boy’s father.

“I will cook him with rice at sunset tonight,” said the Boy’s mother.

“NO-NO! My nice duck is too beautiful to eat,” cried the Boy. But down came a basket all over Ping and he could see no more of the Boy or the boat or the sky or the beautiful yellow water of the Yangtze river.

All day long Ping could see only the thin lines of sun which shone through the cracks in the basket, and Ping was very sad. After a long while Ping heard the sound of oars and felt the jerk, jerk, jerk of the boat as it was rowed down the Yangtze river.

Soon the lines of sunshine which came through the cracks of the basket turned rose color, and Ping knew the sun was setting in the west. Ping heard footsteps coming near to him.

The basket was quickly lifted, and the little Boy’s hands were holding Ping. Quickly, quietly, the Boy dropped Ping over the side of the boat and Ping slipped into the water, the beautiful yellow water of the Yangtze river.

Then Ping heard this call, “La-la-la-la-lei!” Ping looked and there near the bank of the river was the wise-eyed boat which was Ping’s home, and Ping saw his mother and his father and his aunts, all marching, one by one, up over the little bridge.

Swiftly Ping turned and swam, paddling toward the shore. Now Ping could see his uncles marching, one by one. Paddle, paddle, Ping hurried toward the shore. Ping saw his cousins marching, one by one.

Paddle, paddle, Ping neared the shore, but –

As Ping reached the shore the last of Ping’s forty-two cousins marched over the bridge and Ping knew that he was LATE again! But up marched Ping, up over the little bridge and SPANK came the spank on Ping’s back!

Then at last Ping was back with his mother and his father and two sisters and three brothers and eleven aunts and seven uncles and forty-two cousins. Home again on the wise-eyed boat on the Yangtze river.


I typed the whole story because I didn’t think I could fully express the strangeness of the story in summary. I mean you have ducks getting whacked, one who practically runs away to not get whacked, enslaved birds, imminent death of the main character to feed humans, and boys tied to boats.

This, the strange story of Ping, is the book I learned to read with, the book with which I learned to love reading. What was it about this book that drew me to it? Why did I like this sad tale so much as a child? And why do I still keep the exact same copy read to me as a child on my bookshelf?

What childhood book was your first bookish love?

Daisy Miller: Damn You Henry James

daisymillerIf read my old blog, eclectic/eccentric, you know that I have a real love-hate relationship with Henry James. If you didn’t read my old blog…well, there you have it. I find James frustrating. I flit back and forth between admiring his work and being pissed at it (pardon the language). Reading The Turn of the Screw always makes me want to hit something despite the fact I think everyone should read it.

Unlike my experience with The Turn of the Screw, with Daisy Miller, I was thoroughly enjoying myself…for the majority anyway. Daisy Miller is a novella focused on an expat in Europe’s response to a visiting American who defies the traditional values and behaviors that restrict other girls her age. In other words, a stuffy Europeanized American condescends to a pretty (he seriously says she’s pretty 100 times) American girl.

In Daisy, James has a female character that embodies the spirit of the American as an ideological (and idealized) concept. Sort of. She is free spirited, independent, and in defiance of societal expectations. In contrast to gender expectations of her time, Daisy bluntly states that she has “never allowed a gentleman to dictate to me, or to interfere with anything I do”. She clearly doesn’t allow women to instruct her either as she defies Mrs. Walker’s admonitions to adhere to the European social morays saying that she doesn’t “see why [she] should change [her] habits” for European society. Instead, Daisy does what she wants, indicating that “if this is what’s improper…then I am all improper” and European society and Old World values be damned. She is a literary interpretation of the late 19th century’s New Woman.

Winterbourne, our wishing-he-was-rebellious-but-actually-quite-staid narrator, becomes infatuated with Daisy upon first meeting her, and he spends the time he knows her, wavering between fascination and horror. Daisy’s laid-back, do-as-I-please attitude and behavior intrigue him (as does the fact that she is pretty), but he simultaneous judges her behavior in a rather infuriating, condescending attitude. He continually attempts to figure her out, but no matter how he looks at it, Daisy “continue[s] to present herself as an inscrutable combination of audacity and innocence”. She is a truly fascinating character. In turn, Daisy finds Winterbourne quite stuffy. So all’s good and fun…

Warning, there be spoilers below.

But then James goes back to pissing me off since he has Daisy die. Of Roman fever. Which you apparently get from walking alone with men at night. Seriously. Then anger. Why did she have to die? Was it punishment for her eccentric behavior? Is James arguing that Daisy should have conformed to the expectations of European society? Her death certainly seems to indicate such. It reminds me of Jenny’s death in Forrest Gump, a movie that clearly suggests maintaining the status quo and doing your part to further the dominant ideology is the proper way.

In both tales, when two cultures clash, it is the traditional, formal, and staid culture that wins. And no one, not even Winterbourne, is affected by Daisy at all. Everything goes back to normal with prudish virtue…well, except the fact that Winterbourne goes back to his mistress. You know, he’s a guy, so it doesn’t count.

James makes a good run of it, arguing for the fresh-faced, tradition-defying American, but in the end, traditional values win out as Daisy pays the ultimate price for her rebellion. Whether this is the author’s way of promoting the dominant culture or just a way of showing how difficult it is to break away from said culture, well, that is another question.

End of spoilers.

This short, fast-paced, tightly focused novella is well worth the read.

Raising a Reader

I want my kids to be readers. So very, very much. I want to share my love of words and story and learning with them. When Madison was three, I worried a bit. She really didn’t display any interest in books, not even at bedtime. Now as a six-year-old, she is reading well beyond her age, loves the bookstore, and picks up books for fun.readingcarter

At three, Carter is in love with books…as evidenced by this picture of him reading Marissa Meyer’s Heartless….errr..yeah. He plays with my books all the time, pretending to read them, playing bookstore, even just stacking them.

I have no well formulated plan for raising my kids to be readers. Instead, it is a simple immersion. I have a library of over 2000 books in my home – in the same room as my kids’ toys. Both Madison and Carter have shelves loaded with books in their room. We read at least two books every day; the bookstore is a fun day out; and they see me reading all the time. I figure if they are just constantly surrounded by books, a wide-range of books at that, then reading will just be natural. So far, so good.

I do worry that as they get older and more and more of their lives are outside the house, reading will fall by the wayside. I have a half-formed plan for bridging the books they read now – which have wondrous pictures – and non-picture books: COMICS. I love comics, or graphic novels if you want them to sound more intellectual, and I think using comics to augment my children’s reading experience will help them begin to engage with more complex stories. I also have both Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck, The Marvels, and The Invention of Hugo Cabret ready and waiting for either kid to display an interest.

Are there any comics/graphic novels that you guys know of for 3-7 year olds?

readingcarter2

Most advice articles on raising a reader focus on junior high age children, and I want to solidify books and reading long before my kids hit sixth grade. I’d love to hear some advice from all of you. So outside of immersion (and possibly comics), how do you recommend instilling a love of books in toddlers and young children?

Side note: Don’t you just love how his little finger is mimicking following along with the words in that first picture and the oh-my-goodness serious face in the second?

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

SwerveStephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve: How the World Became Modern is really the perfect choice for my first review on my new blog as I have been reading it for the past year. I started reading on 11 January 2017 and I finished the book on 16 February 2018. That being said, I technically read the book in three days. I read the first 155 pages on January 11, then I made it to page 219 on February 15, and finally poured through the rest the next day.

This book is a truly entertaining, informative, and fascinating look at how the rediscovery of an ancient text – Lucretius’s On the Nature of Things (aka De Rerum Natura)- helped drastically shift thinking from religion to science. Greenblatt clearly and concisely covers an epic tale, bringing together ideas and people vastly removed from each other by time and place and ideology. While some knowledge of ancient and medieval literature and philosophy augments the story, it is not necessary for understanding the text. I highly recommend this one for any reader interested in history, in the importance of literature, or in how culture shifts.

Lucretius, a Roman poet and philosopher (weren’t they all), wrote De Rerum Natura in the first-century BC to explain Epicurean philosophy which promoted the pursuit of pleasure in the here and now since the soul is lost upon death just as is the body – since both are made of atoms. As you can imagine, such a sacrilegious perspective Gianfrancesco_Poggio_Bracciolini_-_Imagines_philologorumdid not exactly go over well in the early 1400s when Poggio discovered the long-lost text. We’re talking the Inquistion and death by fire here.

Lucretius’s arguments were violently contested in a religious fervor, and yet they persisted, influencing great thinkers and taking hold slowly and surely. Greenblatt briefly charts this progression, and while the influence is clear, it is not described in-depth. The lack of depth is made up for, in my opinion, by the captivating narrative which provides a god mix of information and excitement.

Thought-Provoking Passage:

“What mattered was not adherence but mobility – the renewed mobility of a poem that had been resting untouched in one or at most two monastic libraries for many centuries, the mobility of Epicurean arguments that had been silenced first by hostile pagans and then by hostile Christians, the mobility of daydreams, half-formed speculations, whispered doubts, dangerous thoughts” (225).

I love the very idea of dangerous thoughts and the sneaky pervasion of those thoughts into culture.

 

 

My Unfinished Intellectuality

2016-08-27 08.32.26Hello and welcome to my blog! I am Trisha, a professor at a community college teaching a variety of composition, literature, film, and creative writing courses. Lucky for me my job feeds my passion as I am a true bibliophile obsessed with reading, reviewing, logging, discussing, organizing, smelling, and touching books. No tasting though. That’s just strange. ​

I love learning about damn near everything and that is why I titled my blog Unfinished Intellectual. While I have spent much of my life in the pursuit of knowledge – I have a BA, two MAs, and an online teaching certificate – I still feel entirely unfinished and unlearned. We have the whole world of knowledge open to us through books, school, experience, and each other, and my goal with this blog is to continually learn and grow and share with all of you.

I previously blogged at eclectic/eccentric, but after having my first child, my blogging fell by the wayside. The arrival of my second child and my choice to pursue another Masters degree meant my attempts to get back into blogging were doomed to fail. I may, from time to time, pull posts from there especially as I re-read previously reviewed books. Now that my kids are out of diapers – one is in school, one is a year shy of schooling – and I have completed my degree, I am ready to start reading and writing and cooking and teaching and doing more of what makes me me. And I am ready to learn and share with all of you.

I hope you will read and learn and comment so that I can also learn from you!