I know I am a teacher. If reading and writing and playing are my loves, then teaching is my ambition, my activism. The Myers-Brigg Type Indicator agrees: I am extroverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging (ENFJ), the teacher archetype. I have taught at nearly all levels of education—from elementary to college—but I prefer and offer my commitment to teaching, learning, creativity, collaboration, and student advocacy at the university level. I believe teaching is a concert of inspiration, leadership, mentorship, friendship, alchemy, and stand-up comedy.
I have taught for over a dog’s age. Eight years of composition and freshman preparatory courses at the University of Maryland (UMD), nine years of writing, literature, and special topics classes at the University of Washington (UW), two years of American literature, media studies, and digital humanities courses at Drew University, and now queer studies, popular culture, and feminist literature at the University of Oregon (UO)—that’s over 80 sections, over 1,800 students, and over 10,000 papers graded. And I still want to go on. My courses invite and integrate discussions about academics, current events, lived experience, politics, technology, and everyday culture. A recent course description reveals this: “A requirement for this class is a well-developed curiosity about the world, about the culture we live in, and about the cultural productions we imagine, produce, and consume…This class will spend the quarter reading, thinking, writing about various literatures and how and what these texts argue, reveal, narrate, hide, and complicate the world we live in.” Overall, I encourage students daily to think, speak, write about and participate in diversity, in difference, and in community. As I half-jokingly tell students on the first day of term, teaching is about infecting their minds, their lives to encourage them to ask questions, to explore, and to extend themselves beyond their comfort zones. In ways big and small, I impress the idea that teaching is empowerment, activism, entertainment, and world-making, and that learning is centrally about reading, thinking, writing, making, and doing.
I also know that teaching comes in many forms and guises. In the past, I spent a year and a half of my Master’s as an academic advisor for UMD’s Division of Letters & Sciences. At UMD, I served the LGBT and queer communities by organizing events, creating publications, leading speakers bureaus, and facilitating an LGBT peer-support group. At UW, I pursued similar coalitional teaching and learning opportunities. I was an officer of the English Graduate Student Organization, an editor for the online journal of 100-level writing e.g., and an organizing member of the Critical Gaming Project and the Keywords for Video Game Studies graduate interest group. I have also been an officer for the QGrads LGBT group, an organizer for the Queer+Public+Performance working group, and served as trainer for the Safe Zone project. At Drew, I was the faculty advisor for the undergraduate gaming club and the Drew Acorn student newspaper. And now, though still new to UO, I count myself as one of the out and proud citizens on campus. I am a core faculty member for the Queer Studies minor, and I am the faculty advisor to the LGBTQIA+ Scholars Academic Residence Community (ARC). I have learned to wear many hats: mentor, leader, advisor, advocate. These things should not be anathema to the classroom, to teaching, and to living. In a day and age when Colombine, September 11, Ferguson, and escalating violence against trans* persons are a startling reality, there can be no failure in education and in the examination of the world around us. I believe that teaching is and should be direct action.
Teaching is also about unions, about coalitions, about intersections, empathy, and communication. It is about being a cheerleader, a short-order cook, a judge, and a good neighbor. Teaching is also about honesty, humor, reciprocity, respect, and trust and self-confidence on both sides of the desk or lectern. The best teachers in my life have always modeled the ideas, values, philosophies, excitement, and investment they possessed themselves and encouraged in their work without the expectation that I would follow exactly, blindly in their wake. They taught me instead ways to grow, ways to change, and ways to follow my heart, my questions. They taught me a teacher is only as successful as their student and vice-versa. And they taught me to teach others. Now and ad infinitum, here and wherever I go, I wish to do the very same.
For more information about my teaching, see also the following: