On this page, you can find links to some of my syllabi—or, as AP style would have it, “syllabuses”—as well as my statement of teaching philosophy and a blogged review of my teaching style. If you’d like to see more, please send me a note via the contact link.
Reviews of my teaching
A student media professor from Northwestern State University of Louisiana wrote this review of my teaching style at a conference presentation titled “How Do You Teach Writing?”—a session that I’ve presented more than a dozen times at national conventions dating from 2006 to the present day. More recently, the University of Vermont published a short news story in which Natalie Summers, a national spokesperson at DALL-E OpenAI after stints at USA Today, Wired and Apple, discusses how my teaching set her on her career path.
A philosophy: Listen, teach, let them fail and recover.
My philosophy of teaching and media advising has changed a bit over time, but one thing that hasn’t changed is my belief that we should meet students where they are, work to understand them, and use that knowledge to help them become not only adept at employing the technical skills they will need in their field but to build them up into the leaders we know they can be.
Too many educators expect students to display mastery of skills they haven’t been taught before entering our classrooms and then, worse, hold them accountable for that lack without once giving them the guidance they need to develop those skills. These educators forget our job is to train.
Other times, educators put students in leadership roles—as the editor-in-chief of the newspaper or radio station manager, perhaps—and then never give them the chance to fail. Advisers and professors make decisions that impact students without ever asking them—not once—for their input, much less their guidance. As a result, generations of students come to rely on “the adults” to carry the load and tell them what to do. They graduate into the world looking for the next person to tell them what to do.
Teachers and advisers who cradle their students mean well—they want the student media product to look professional, and they believe they know better than even the best-informed students when it comes to designing a curriculum without student input—but they willingly turn themselves into Helicopter Educators. They forget our job is to build students up, let them take their first steps and fall down a few times.
Teaching/advising starts with listening, moves on to training, and then must involve our stepping back, even if it means our students fail. We can be sounding boards—supportive as they work out their solutions—but at that point the solutions should be theirs, not ours.
This is how our students become leaders of their peers, their organizations and eventually the society into which they enter as skilled, informed and capable citizens.
Chris quite literally opened the doors to the beginning of my journalism career. As the student media adviser at the University of Vermont, he kept the bar so high over me I could barely reach it. And I am pretty sure I owe my work ethic to that entirely. I worked harder and smarter than I knew I could because Chris showed me it was possible to expect more of myself.Natalie Summers, Artist Access lead, DALL-E at OpenAI