As a history instructor, I have three main objectives. First, I strive to enable and empower my students to think critically about the world around them. In the classroom, I use the study of history as a vehicle to encourage my students to form and voice their opinions, to clarify their ideas, and to communicate effectively in both oral and written forms. I stress the importance of making the connections between past and present more clear, to build their confidence and communication skills, and to demonstrate the ways in which students can use their historical knowledge and understanding to help them think critically about the present.
Next, I challenge my students’ perspectives and expand their worldviews. Through both lecture and discussion, I endeavor to challenge their predetermined understandings of history, and to demonstrate the contingency inherent in historical analysis. This requires direct engagement with primary sources, contextualized with lecture and classroom discussion. I assign readings that specifically engage directly with each other while also assigning sources written by authors who can provide a wide range of perspectives on historical issues, showcasing the racial, gendered, class, regional, ethnic, and religious diversity in history. Ultimately, my goal is for students to understand that history is not an array of facts for memorization, but a process of understanding that changes depending on the perspective of the sources scholars use to analyze that historical moment.
Finally, I aim to instill in my students an appreciation—and more importantly, a passion—for the study of history. I encourage them to see the world around them as a result of historical events, actors, and forces, and in turn, to view themselves as powerful agents of historical change. I push them to see that history is as much an intellectual as a creative enterprise. I strive to make history relevant to their lives, and thus urge them to engage in the past in a critical, analytical, and empathetic manner. Even for students who are not history or public history majors, I seek to pique each student’s interest in the field and convert them to the study of history.
I have a number of general principles that I apply in structuring and executing a course every semester, regardless of the subject matter or the level of students in each class. Above all, I strive to have a student-centered classroom, focused around their needs, addressing their particular challenges (which vary from group to group), and centering discussion around their interpretation and interests. I seek to create a supportive learning environment for each of my students. I aim to get to know them both as people and as learners. Regardless of the size of my classes, I make a point to learn each of their names as early in the semester as possible, so that they know I am deeply invested in their success. I provide them with the necessary resources to give them the tools for success.
My experience in the classroom has, for the most part, taught me that if you set a certain standard of expectations, most students will meet these expectations. Over time, I have become more trusting of my students to put in the work I ask them to do, and in turn, I seek to provide them with any guidance and assistance they might need in navigating that work. Above all, during my five years of teaching experience, I am proud of the ways in which I have grown more patient, flexible, and understanding while maintaining high expectations for student work and engagement, and I hope to continue to grow in this way as an educator.