Creative Community MashUp: Beyond Canada 150
To mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation in Canada, upper level students will self-organize and design, create and mobilize their own research-based expressive projects based on the 150th anniversary national themes (diversity, inclusiveness, young people, the environment and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples). Projects may include CJSF radio series, podcasts, special performative events or exhibitions in their local communities, in partnership with Canada 150 Alliance members. From pitch to performance, learn the skills for effective public intervention and project management.
Race Movies: Other Voices in North American Film
Since the beginning of the film industry in North America, Hollywood’s representations of race – from the blackface caricatures of Birth of a Nation to the wooden portrayals of Native Americans in the Hollywood western – have often served to marginalize people of colour. Although this course will examine Hollywood’s representations of racial difference, it will focus on the ways in which North American filmmakers from ethnic and racial minority groups have responded to these images and stories. From Japanese movie star and producer, Sessue Hayakawa, to contemporary Asian Canadian filmmakers like Mina Shum; from race movie auteurs like Oscar Micheaux, to Blaxploitation genre films like Sweet Sweetback’s Badass Song, the class will look at how minority filmmakers have represented their communities on screen while negotiating their place in an industry dominated by Hollywood. The course will be organized thematically as we discuss such topics as theories of race and representation, race and gender, race and stardom, and film reception amongst people of colour. The class will also look at amateur, non-fiction, and experimental filmmakers to think about how film form as well as content can be used to challenge and expand ideas of race on screen.
My philosophy of teaching is fundamentally interdisciplinary. As a historian, I begin with the assumption that learning about the past is key to understanding the ways in which people, power, and culture interact in our world today. In the classroom I look to combine this historical awareness with a range of theoretical and methodological approaches, including cultural studies, film and media theory, and the critical analysis of class, race, gender, and sexuality. This approach has enabled me to teach in a variety of institutional contexts over the last several years. I’ve taught small seminars and large lecture courses, freshman introductions, upper level undergraduate classes, and individual independent studies. I’ve done so in departments ranging from film studies, American studies, Africana studies, history, and gender studies.
My primary goal is to help students examine the world with a critical eye. The classroom should not simply be a place to learn about history and culture, but a place to do historical and cultural analysis – that is to examine texts (of all kinds) and ask what they can tell us about the past and present. Drawing on my background in history as well as media studies and film theory, my courses challenge students to think about issues from several perspectives. I am particularly aware of how examples from the cultural sphere can be used to illuminate and explain political, social, and economic change, and vice versa. By exposing students to a wide variety of cultural texts – including photographs, films, and other visual documents – I urge students to look at their culture in new ways and to question their own assumptions. To this end, I use in-class writing exercises, student led discussion, and social media in order to make the classroom as interactive as possible – I have found that classes where students are asking, as well as answering, questions work best. I aim to foster a classroom environment that respects difference and empowers my students to interrogate the relations of power that structure their own lives.
As a media scholar I recognize the power of communication technologies and I try to use media to enhance the classroom experience. My lectures are full of film and other visual materials. These do not simply illustrate my lectures, but offer a valuable opportunity for me to model visual analysis in the classroom and engage students in critical discussion. Where possible I supplement these in-class discussions with the use of web-based tools to offer all students a chance to contribute more fully to the course. I have employed a number of digital projects – including twitter hashtags, class blogs and online exhibitions – in order to encourage students to collaborate with one another and to make connections between course material and their own lives.
I feel strongly that teaching students to express their ideas clearly and persuasively is a key component of any sound pedagogy and helping my students improve their essay writing skills has been an important part of all of my teaching. I have been fortunate to teach several designated writing intensive topics courses, including a First Year Seminar at Brown University and a course in Franklin & Marshall’s Connections Curriculum. Connections Seminars are designed to be interdisciplinary and thematically based while offering students academic skills in writing and research. My course, “Voices of Resistance,” examined the relationship between media and social change – looking specifically at the ways in which individuals and social movements have used television, zines, and social media to achieve their political aims. Given the subject matter, the course is a natural venue to discuss the importance of genre and style in both academic writing and media. As Janet Giltrow points out in her excellent work, Academic Writing: Writing and Reading Across the Disciplines, “style is meaningful.” Like Giltrow, I encourage my students to think of academic writing as a genre, with its own set (and disciplinary subsets) of traditions and conventions. I find this helps students to recognize that the sometimes-arcane practices of academic writing are neither arbitrary nor meaningless. On the contrary, its conventions are designed to further the pursuit and exchange of knowledge, and learning them allows students to enter into a dialogue with a vibrant scholarly community. As such, developing the skills of academic writing can help students to be better readers as well as writers. More than that, good writing can help us to be better thinkers.
In an effort to improve my pedagogy, I have participated in a number of Faculty Center workshops, including sessions on inclusive pedagogy, teaching writing for ESL students, and encouraging revision in student writing. Drawing on these workshops and my experience in the classroom, I design short writing assignments that focus on particular skills such as the use of primary evidence, the development of coherent and compelling arguments, and the analysis and critique of secondary sources. These shorter assignments culminate in final projects where students integrate the skills and knowledge they’ve developed over the semester. I work closely with students to help them design research projects, outline their ideas, as well as to draft, write and revise their papers. I strongly believe this kind of process-based approach to academic writing is key to improving student work.
Finally, I am extremely interested in the pedagogical potential of experiential learning. I recently taught a course at Simon Fraser University designed to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation in Canada. In “Creative Community MashUp: Beyond 150” upper level students self-organized to design, create and mobilize their own research-based expressive projects based on the 150th anniversary national themes. From pitch to performance, students learned the skills for effective public intervention and project management. Similarly, at Colby College, I had the opportunity to design and teach a new course called “Film Festivals: Cultures and Practices.” Drawing on my own festival experience, this course integrated a rigorous examination of the history and culture of film exhibition with the hands-on experience of a student-run festival. My experiences teaching both of these courses have convinced me that this blending of academic inquiry alongside hands-on experience offers an excellent opportunity for students to see the applied value of the liberal arts and critical thinking.
My teaching experience has given me a good sense of my strengths as an educator. With the help of excellent mentors and my own students, I endeavor to constantly reflect on my teaching practice. The feedback that I have received has given me confidence in my abilities as an effective and enthusiastic communicator. It has also challenged me to improve my teaching. In particular, I am always working to facilitate more discussion between students and to help all members of my classes participate as fully as possible. I’m committed to creating an open and inclusive classroom where students from different backgrounds are encouraged to engage with one another as well as a wide range of written and visual texts, historical documents and theoretical concepts.