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Teaching Philosophy

My primary concern in a classroom setting is—above all else—the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of my students.

I am interested in these aspects of my students for two reasons. First, it has become clear to me that it is with a peaceful state of mind that a student can best focus, enabling him to ply his faculties to the mastery of course content. Secondly, I desire to cultivate character in my students—the recognition that it is not solely how one represents oneself to society that matters, but also how one conducts one’s inner attitudes when no one appears to be watching. I teach because I deeply desire to serve others, not only with the knowledge that I have acquired, but also in order to extend an extra portion of grace and compassion to others. I love what I do because I believe that in my role as an educator, I am exercising to the fullest extent my capacity to meet these two goals.

 

I believe that through the richness of multiple readings and interpretations, scholarly discourse makes it possible for human beings to comprehend complex objective truths. On a purely technical level, I see my role as a classroom scholar as one in which I model for students how to ask incisive questions of primary and secondary sources, teach students how to verify information and address complex content, and demonstrate how to pursue lines of inquiry in research with integrity. My fundamental goal is to help students learn how to search for and arrive at defensible conclusions through a rigorous and humane scholarly process.

 

My passion for teaching about music allows me to be myself in large or small settings because I enjoy working both with people who already share my interests and with those whose interest I have yet to kindle. At all times, I seek to demonstrate transparency regarding the extent of my knowledge and understanding. I do not proceed under the guise that I command all the answers or possess all the solutions. Rather, I move forward with an approach that openly communicates to students my pleasure in engaging with them as we grapple with central questions together. I make it a point to communicate to my students that we—both teacher and student—are on a level playing field when it comes to the pursuit of knowledge: we all have questions and are committed to pursuing them. I teach in part because I love to learn, and I have indeed learned a great deal from the kinds of questions that my students have posed over the years.

 

I believe that all students have the right to pursue education with the full force of their initiative, and that any student can succeed in a class given energy, effort, time, and good pedagogy. I believe that each person is designed and equipped with the tools necessary for this life, and that my job as a teacher is to help a student discover and sharpen those tools in order to serve others both inside and outside the discipline. I think that a resourceful individual can put almost any information to practical use and, to underscore that point, I go to considerable lengths to illustrate the relevance and applicability of course content within and beyond the academy. Therefore, I make my expectations for a course’s trajectory clear from the beginning, reminding students of that rationale for the duration of our time together.

 

In service to these objectives, I find that it is of paramount importance to establish a community within the classroom, be it in a discussion or lecture setting. A collegial atmosphere allows students to feel comfortable enough to ask questions and to take advantage of the opportunity to engage with peers in open discussion of course content as it relates to other academic coursework and life experience. I believe that such integrative and interdisciplinary thinking greatly enhances a student’s ability to comprehend the cultural climate in which musical practices occur, and that the yield of such thinking is maximized in a setting where all present are willing to share aspects of their diverse backgrounds. It has become apparent to me that such forums are most successful in a community environment in which all students demonstrate mutual respect for differing worldviews and comport themselves in a way that reflects a serious commitment to professionalism.

 

To enjoy teaching is to revel in the kind of problem solving that requires collaboration. Music is, I think, one of the most wonderful and exciting problems that mankind has ever been invited to solve. It is, thus, an ideal locus for creating a community of problem solvers with an invested interest in one another. I profoundly enjoy the process of leading students through the sonic and cultural quandary that we call music, and especially relish the moments when I get to glimpse that they are right there with me.

 

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illen odyssey