Teaching and learning languages are at the center of my personal, academic, and professional lives. For these reasons, my teaching style evolves constantly as I learn through professional development, observe my peers, and engage with students. To me, the heart of teaching is discovering how individuals learn, but also having acute self-awareness of one’s theory of teaching and therefore one’s teaching interests.
The Goal of Education
I conceive the goal of education as being “social self-realization”. I envision curriculum from a social perspective and because I share the postulate with social reconstructionists that not everyone gets the same opportunities, I think that it is our responsibility to ameliorate these inequalities. I believe schools, schooling and education are the privileged ways of fixing social and ecological issues through curriculum, because they provide time and space to discuss them. I share the desire with everyone else to live in a better society, but the value I assign to the term “better” is imprinted with equity.
Applied to language education, this means that teaching a language must lead not only to owning vocabulary or grammatical structures, but also producing better individuals and a better society by raising awareness and discussing issues in the countries where the target languages are spoken, drawing parallels with one’s cultures, developing a vision in which the issue is fixed, and taking social action to correct it. Collaboration and dialogue are therefore central to the process of bettering society and should not be limited to the classroom only but be connected to actors outside of school. Therefore, one of my teaching interests is curriculum ideologies and curriculum development in language education. When I taught Academic Reading and Writing at the University of Oklahoma Center for English as a Second Language, I regularly invited guest speakers to share their experiences with the students and discuss issues related to discrimination and participation in the community.
Knowledge is neither passed on nor given. It is constructed, socially and through experiences, and this belief is imprinted in my classroom. Students build their understanding of the world based on their prior knowledge that I must take into account in my teaching. I believe that the classroom is a privileged place for testing one’s knowledge, being exposed to a variety of perspectives and challenging one’s critical thinking skills, making learning a social process and knowledge a personal outcome. I strive to know students and create a privileged bond with each of them, encouraging mutual trust that I believe affects motivation on both sides, and this pedagogical perspective led me to being awarded the Provost’s Certificate of Distinction for Outstanding Graduate Assistant Teaching, at the University of Oklahoma when I was teaching French courses.
Teaching languages is not just about teaching languages
Therefore, my viewpoint on my development and enactment of curriculum could be summarized by the extension of disciplines from within—subjects should be treated holistically and intermingled, as they are in non-academic life. Languages are not isolated, and teaching languages is not just limited to linguistic aspects. When teaching French courses, I became aware of the importance of being a “languaculture” educator. I emphasized the diversity of languages and cultures within French-speaking countries. When teaching ESL courses such as American history and pop culture through cinema, I extensively used technology such as VoiceThread and videos, and brought artefacts such as old maps, pictures, music to increase opportunities for multimodal learning. “Nothing is culture-free,” and I think that culture must always be the core and outcome of any curriculum, especially for students learning a language. Taking into account the sociocultural background of everyone in the classroom is an essential component of my teaching, as I strive to develop intercultural competence and cross-cultural awareness. Consequently, I am interested in teaching language courses such as English as a Second or Foreign Language and French as a Foreign Language. More particularly, I am interested in teaching not only language courses with a heavy cultural component, but also courses related to understanding other cultures in education. I was awarded the Mary Ann Ward Award by OK TESOL for my teaching of ESL.
Knowledge is Value-Laden and so is Language Teaching
Knowledge is never neutral or objective, and I believe that whoever enacts the curriculum should be critical of the knowledge they are valuing, the discourse they are having, and the language they are using. I think that the relationship between knowledge and those who enact the curriculum should be mainly explicit about the aims, and values attached to knowledge. Applied to language teaching and learning, I believe it is necessary to avoid creating or reinforcing glottophobia and epilinguistic behaviors in students, and rather expose them to critical ideas discussing sociolinguistic aspects when learning languages. Language education sometimes leads to the dehumanization and desocialization of the ways people speak, and therefore leads to a certain linguistic homogenization, failing to recognize that “standard” languages are constructed and discriminatory. Indeed, the hegemonic ideologization of linguistic norms leads to linguistic discrimination applied not only in the practice of “foreign” languages, but also in one’s own language. Hence, when teaching languages, I am interested in introducing students to different varieties of English as they embody the complexity relation between language and culture.
Curriculum should be tailored to individuals and serve communities
Curriculum is created for specific communities, specific environments for specific outcomes defined by the community and for the community. It should serve everyone but in different ways, and in order to do so, it should be adapted to the individuals’ interests, needs and abilities, but also to societal needs. What I have learned in teaching is that excellent teaching is intricately linked to the relationship with the students. Therefore, I require office hours and advisement meetings with the students to get to know them. I integrate what I know of individual students into my class material, examples, and discussions to make sure to interest them. Without knowing my students, I find it difficult to connect with them. Education should educate the whole individual and serve everyone with the overarching goal to “stimulate and sustain critical consciousness in people” (Walker & Soltis, 2009, p. 64), in a democratic framework, through democracy and for democracy. Indeed, we all have different interests, needs and abilities, but I believe teaching the whole person through collaboration and dialogue is key to any teaching as it exposes students to democratic processes. For this reason, I use peer review in almost all activities, but also assign group projects. Curriculum does not have to be the same for everyone, as argued by Noddings (2013, 2015) and Dewey (1902, 1934). The interests served by the curriculum should be immediate and future, for the students and their communities and society at large, and revolve around the concept of equity, freedom, and liberation (Macedo, 2006). Consequently, the interests served by the curriculum depend entirely on the communities they emerge from and are for. Hence, I am interested in teaching curriculum based on the interests and needs of students and of the communities in which they are living.
There is no perfect way to teach
Teaching must be empowering, personal, rich in cultural exchanges, fun, and, finally, it must continue outside the classroom. These encapsulate my teaching philosophy and interests, and it is around them that I plan my classes and construct my philosophy of teaching. However, teachers evolve, as do their classes, and personal outlooks and philosophies on teaching must constantly incorporate new ideas and knowledge of recent research in order to remain vibrant and effective.