I believe that the most compelling way to approach English studies is to treat texts as living objects of study by exploring how readers actively make new meanings through their interpretation and textual analysis. This is accomplished through an emphasis on arriving at grounded, informed, and textually-supported readings that reflect the multiplicity of meaning possible from each course text. When my class begins studying a book or longer work, I usually like to start with a “book club” discussion, which allows them to converse about their initial impressions or observations with their peers. I believe it is important to build from their first responses so that students can register their own subjective readings of the text and acknowledge them as the ideal point of departure for subsequent analysis. Oftentimes, students in English classes can feel compelled to determine the “correct” reading of a text, based on their instructor’s point of view. I have found that teaching them that a myriad of readings is possible, so long as they are textually-supported, is demonstrated in practice by honouring their initial, individual impressions and then employing focused, close reading to inform and further nuance students’ analysis. I continue this emphasis on supporting distinct and diverse readings by giving students the option to develop their own essay topics and encouraging them to allow their own interests and expertise to inform their research.
I work to situate texts within their original contexts by helping students understand how literary works emerge from specific historical contexts. This is made possible through the integration of resources that highlight the sociopolitical, cultural, geographic, and artistic developments that characterized the historical moment from which the text emerged as well as their production and publication histories. This historical basis is reinforced through curated presentations or classroom resources, highlighting pertinent documents, individuals, or key events that help nuance students’ understanding of texts in context. In my experience, students have found this grounding in historical context helpful for framing their reading of texts, especially with regards to imagining the relationships and chronologies between course texts. Additionally, this historical approach is complemented through the examination of how literary works have their own histories. My classes accomplish this by encountering a work’s subsequent receptions, re-editions, critical responses, adaptations, and cultural currency. Together, we trace the legacies and living histories of texts by viewing significant adaptations as historicized responses to literary works and observing how different audiences in different contexts have variously re-read or re-imagined these texts. As a result, we establish the important bearing of history and context on textual production and reception and frame reader-responses as both highly contingent and multitudinous.
My classes employ a multimodal approach to learning that allows students to experience the course material through different forms and to engage with texts in new and exciting ways. This includes encountering different literary forms, such as poem, play, novel, graphic novel, popular music, etc., while also noting how these texts have also been re-told through cross-medium adaptations that draw attention to the important relationship between form and content. I also cultivate a digital learning environment through engagement with electronic resources or forums that enhance the classroom experience by providing additional resources, highlighting new creative avenues for literary production and propagation, or keeping our discussions going online. Lastly, in addition to composing critical essays, I also integrate assignments that encourage students to consider the different ways they can approach texts and communicate their analysis to others. These include digital encyclopedia entries, in-class colloquia, or dramatic presentations that include “talkbacks” or “artist statements.” In my experience, the work students do for these projects also meaningfully inform their formal essay work, enhances their comprehension of the material, and encourages them to get excited about the course texts.
The most important component of my job as an instructor is creating an open, supportive, and dynamic learning environment for my students. For students to do their best work, they need to feel safe and supported in the classroom. I pride myself on encouraging positive student interactions, cultivating a sense of collegiality, fostering a community of caring, and building a bond of trust with my students. This supportive environment is promoted through in-class work that emphasizes collective engagement and meaningfully enhanced through my ready assistance outside class time, through both one-on-one help during office hours and vigilant email communication. Overall, my goal as an instructor is to ensure that my students produce high-caliber work that they are genuinely proud of and that they leave my course feeling like they know more than when they started. This can only be achieved if I work hard to ensure that they each reach their full potential, if I demonstrate a willingness to keep learning, if I exercise patience and remain sensitive to the needs of the group and the individual, and if I continue to be passionate about the material and remain constantly grateful to be an instructor.