CHRISTINA KULP, MSW, LCSW, APHSW-C
According to fitness guru Fred Devito, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you” (2003). I believe this is the same for learning, as it is for exercise. I feel you have to push yourself to your limits, and often beyond, to grow. That may mean studying things which are confusing and hard to understand, or things you may never have considered in the past. There is beauty and satisfaction in those “ah-ha” moments when you finally understand, and it is my hope students will experience them often. It is with this perspective I approach education. From my viewpoint, the purpose of education is to challenge narrow assumptions, stimulate the brain and transform the individual by opening doors and encouraging enlightenment.
I have found students learn best when provided with an environment which encourages curiosity, involvement, support, and growth. Students also require a solid foundation to build upon and clear expectations of the work involved. It is my job to assess the foundation thus far and adjust the learning environment, accordingly, knowing students will be at a variety of levels at the beginning of the course. It is also my responsibility to present the material in a variety of ways, understanding that each individual in the classroom learns in their own way.
My job is also to be sure all in the classroom interact in a respectful and inclusive way, including myself. Learning is not going to be very successful in a hostile environment. I will prepare for class, cover the material to address the course objectives (and beyond if possible), treat students with dignity and respect, and be available to help students integrate and clarify material. I strongly believe it is my job to partner with the student during their learning journey and to provide a safe place for learning to occur. I am more interested in an increase in knowledge, than I am in perfection. While following the appropriate educational framework is necessary, it is important to remember a curious and reflective thought process is a priority. As the leader in the learning journey, I strive to present the course material in a way which engages learning, encourages creativity and provides support.
My interest in social work, particularly research and leadership, lie in the knowledge the profession fully commits itself to advocating for those minimalized, celebrates the individual while understanding the need to operate as a community, and operates on a foundation of ethical action. I envision research and leadership as the way to ensure the ongoing longevity of the social work profession. Leadership demonstrates the vision and communication social workers promote. While research provides the credibility and knowledge social workers utilize in every part of their practice. Therefore, teaching is my way of promoting Social Work by training future practitioners in the field. It is my hope to encourage students to be passionate about the profession and to use their enthusiasm to serve in micro, mezzo and macro areas. My overall goal in teaching is to instill a sense of wonder related to learning, and to create a curiosity in the student which will never fade. If the spark related to the joy of learning has not been lit yet, it would be my goal to kindle that fire with the hope it would last a lifetime.
The most effective teaching method includes a conversation between the instructor and students related to the material being presented. I find myself using case scenarios and real-life situations to provide more context to the material being taught. It is because of this technique; students find themselves becoming engaged and attentive as opposed to falling asleep during a lecture. I feel most comfortable with posting a framework or outline of the learning goals in a PowerPoint, discussing terms and concepts, and then opening up the discussion to the room. I see a teacher as a mixture of leader, facilitator, tour guide, conscious and taskmaster. I must also stress while a teacher is a leader, they need to keep the natural power differential stable, but not so overbearing as to inhibit communication.