Statement of teaching philosophy: l’imagination au pouvoir*

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I see my teaching rôle as
a flexible facilitator
and catalyst
in knowledge-centred
higher education:
centred not on instructors
or students,
nor on active teaching
and passive being taught
or variations on that binary;
but on the finding,
making,
and shaping
together
of subject-matter and meaning,
in the adventure of learning itself.

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Pragmatic
and non-dogmatic
in theoretical and practical approach,
I hope
always
to adapt to changing circumstances
and to students and their needs,
treating and respecting them
as the intelligent
sophisticated
adult
humans
that they are.

While I will happily experiment
with any technique,
my one point of intolerance
is teaching methods that patronize
and infantilize
students
or dumb down abstract material:
answering questions
and explaining as best I can,
and regarding my teaching as a failure
if I ever resort to
“because that’s the rule and that’s the way things are”
or
if students are still wanting answers
rather than asking questions
by the end of a course.

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Whenever possible,
I adapt the content-matter of my teaching
to students
—individually and as groups—
integrating student interests,
other courses,
work,
and extra-curricular activities:
bringing the student into the French class,
including their worlds
and all that accompanies them,
as active living assets to the course
in a broad sense “translation”
(the Medieval translatio);
and viewing each person as a whole
the better to act as a universal catalyst
enabling learning,
helping to see
(and, where necessary, weave)
connections
—going both ways,
in ecosystemically-networked learning—
connecting
a course,
all of our contributions to knowledge
through that course,
and the rest of a student’s life.

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This holistic approach
extends to my perception
of language teaching.
My own teaching and learning
have come together
into integrated
Medievalist
scholarship,
through adaptations
and “translations”
to the teaching
of non-Medieval language and literature.
Remembering and reliving my own excitement
at adventuring
into the unknown, foreign universe
that is Medieval studies
—as alien as any 21st-c. science-fiction,
or French to a Vancouverite—
keeps me mindful
of the learner’s point of view.
In a hybridising approach,
I will incorporate context;
references to the Francophone world;
and its integration
in a whole exterior environment
of current affairs, culture,
literature, the arts, and ideas.

Some of our students
will be the next generation of scholars.
All of them deserve the best service
to ensure
that they come out of university
and go out into The World
endowed
and empowered
through the civilizing aspects
of higher education,
with their humanity intact
—the “humanity”and “humanities”
in the BA “human”—
with skills and resources
to provide consolation
and support throughout life;
key amongst them
well-developed and -exercised
solid
imaginative,
creative,
and critical muscles.

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Beyond the immediate curiosities,
the pleasures,
and the intellectual and aesthetic joys
in language, literature, and culture:
this is education for life:
life-long learning,
and learning throughout life,
including that of mature and returning students.

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To this end,
I would be keen to continue
community
outreach
work.
Or rather, its opposite:
the “warm reciprocal pulling-in embrace”
that exists in French:
s’entrembrasser.

While UBC has strong connections
to the local Francophone community,
my interest would be in “preaching”
French language and Francophone cultures
to the “unconverted”
via spaces and venues that are common ground
to the whole
of the UBC and Vancouver communities:
for example in partnerships with cafés,
the Vancouver Institute,
and the Public Library.
I would also like to continue work
with the FHIS Learning Centre,
for example convening small reading groups
—as a cross between a book-club
and an Oxbridge-style tutorial—
attached to courses and their set readings;
and organising reading groups of a more open kind,
in cooperation
with the Learning Centre, UBC Library, and alumni.

I usually try to nurture
an element of entrembrassement
in my teaching:
encouraging the involvement of students
on the outside edges
of a department
(for example,
taking a language-requirement class)
in the life of this
their
community,
for example through the French Club,
as part of integrating the course
with the living target language
and its environment.

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After all,
any student in a French class
is at least a potential Minor.
101-102 is a key stage,
given its potential
for spotting talented linguists
and encouraging them
to take more French,
and for persuading students
already committed to other fields
to bring in a French-language component:
building the idea of French
as an enticing
(and enjoyable
and humanly vital) Minor
that is also “relevant”
in its fullest sense:
pour relever,
soulever,
élever.

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The poverty of doctrinaire proprietorial and hierarchical pseudo-value(s):
towards pacifist anarchist collaborative utopia,
and beyond!


* I happened to be re-reading and re-writing a Statement of Teaching Philosophy (as you do) and realised part-way through the first paragraph that it was very breathy—with a lot of commas—and contained a lot of heavily-loaded, richly allusive individual words. Continuing into the second paragraph, I saw that, as is my wont, the shape of the thinking and writing had more in common with verse. Stanzaic, organised by motifs, metaphorical. So I wondered what would happen were I to compose this thing in verse instead of prose and were pictures to be added. This is the result. Alas: it’s too long; The Statement is usually supposed to be one page long. So I then transposed it back into prose and removed the images for the official version to be submitted. I prefer this version: just as I prefer illuminated rubricated verse Medieval romance to the flatness of unadorned prose, punctuated only by chapter division. 

It felt better when writing, and everything looks better in verse (and with illustrations). A challenge: to compose other such officially-edicted forms of writing, and written forms, in verse. (Such a competition was suggested on this present blog a while back.) I’ve never seen any instructions that explicitly prohibit its use…

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