The teacher I choose to conduct my analysis on is a professor that left an empowering impression on me. He made me question how a teacher could and should conduct a class. It was so encourage to bare witness to how he conducted his class that I found myself wanting to replicate his style if I ever found myself leading a class.
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This professor was of course, Andy Wood. I had the distinct honor of taking one of Andy’s class here at San Jose state. He takes each day with glee and enthusiasm that resonated throughout the class that everyone hangs on to his every word. He’s very entertaining to say the least. Andy’s teaching style and the personality he brings to class, is my ideal teaching style I would like to emulate in my classroom as an instructor. And when I found out that we needed to shadow a teacher lead interaction for this assignment, I knew exactly who I wanted to observe. Dr. Andy Wood is a professor in the SJSU Communication Studies department where he teach courses in rhetoric, visual arts, and media studies. His research focuses on omnitopia, which is an environment build for students, scholars, and anyone who recognizes the odd and frightening pleasures of urbanity (directly quoted from his website). In my analysis, I will incorporate concepts I found very relatable to Andy’s style of teaching from the 3 days I have observed him conduct his Humanities Honors class.
In order to understand who Andy is as a professor, I will also be incorporating and interview I had the honor of having with Andy. Q) How long have you been teaching? Since 1998 at San Jose State. Thought for 3 years prior while working on his masters and doctoral program. 23-24 years Q) What made you want to be a teacher? He came out of the navy and knew he needed to get a college education. The teacher he has in his public speaking class was inspiring, engaging, and overwhelming that he couldn’t stop listening to her. And it was at that point he decided to become a teacher as well. Q) Is there a particular lesson that you’re planning on having and do you follow-up with? Not on this class. On my other classes, i typically have one. I have sovereign in my domain and I can decide what’s important in class. But general I try to stay on the path i’ve followed throughout the years. But Humanity Honors class, we are a faculty of 4 professors that take turn giving out lectures and it doesn’t work that way. And if I don’t know what that lecture was, it’s a lot of impromptu. Now if you know Andy like I do, you’ll know that he loves to talk! This brings me to my first concept.
In chapter 5 of Dannel’s book, it’s mentioned in Research Guidance: Engaging Students, student engagement involves the use of humor in the classroom (p. 97) If you’ve ever taken one of Andy’s classes, you would know that Andy loves to talk! That’s one thing he knows he’s guilty of, but he does it in the most entertaining way that you can’t help but just hang on to every word he says. Either he loves it or hates it, this man can talk up a storm, jumping from one subject to the next. All the while building up support for whatever point he’s trying to make. He will occasionally speak in the 3rd party addressing himself from himself, but in a comedic way. Sometimes he’ll contradict himself from something he just said, or point out flaws he has about himself in order to catch the class’s attention. Whether people are actually laughing with Andy or at him, one thing is for sure, It’s catching people’s attention. And as a teacher, being able to capture and entire classes attention could be a difficult task on its own. Something I’ve noticed Andy has very little difficulty doing. Q) What do you like best about teaching? The life unexpected moment. When a student says, “I’ve never seen that,” that’s the moment I live for. I want to have that too. I want to create moments that I can be surprised. This brings me to my next concept I found relatable to Andy’s way of teaching. This is also my favorite attribute that resonated with me from meeting Andy and observing his class. Its that he admits to his vulnerability by saying he’s not perfect and we shouldn’t expect it from him.
In Chapter 7 of Rudick’s book, vulnerability can also be a powerful method of leading students towards cultivating a reflexive ethic (p. 84-85). Whenever Andy goes on a long lecture which incorporates himself as an example of a thought or lesson he is trying to drive across the class, depending on how relatable it is to himself, he does admit on his weakness and shortcomings. He admits in a few occasion that he’s not perfect and has his flaws, then turns around and ties it to a point he’s trying to make in regards to the daily lesson. By doing so, Andy makes himself more relatable. We all know we’re not perfect, and as student’s we’re not academically complete in that regard, but to under the guidance of someone who’s on the same level as ourselves is comforting. Andy does not come off as overbearingly superior to his students. One common phrase that I did find Andy saying more often than not, is, “_____ I didn’t know that,” It’s said many different variations, but always leading to the concept that he isn’t perfect and doesn’t know everything. And that’s something I feel some teachers fear admitting to their class in order to now lose their respect for them. Andy however keeps his communication, his attitude, and his personality to a level of relatable. And his constant admittance that he’s not perfect solidifies that. By exemplifying that he too can learn something from his students makes him relatable, and in return, students are more intrigued to what he’s saying during his lectures, thus their attention is more glued to his presence in the classroom.
Q) What are your greatest concerns about teaching? The fact that students don’t have time to do the things that I took for granted when I was a student. They’re willing to do the work and they grasp the importance of a higher education, but they are pulled in sort of different directions. Either they’re working 1 or 2 jobs, taking care of children, etc. They’re not going to come into class ready to learn because they’re exhausted. It’s unfair that students have to multitask things in a magnitude that I never had to when i was a student. I find myself genuinely respectful of how hard students work and i wish they had more bandwidth to enjoy their life and not just for the sake of the grade. Andy’s genuine care for the well-being of his students inside and outside of the class is obvious. You can hear it in his voice when he talks to you. This leads me to my next concept.
Chapter 9 of Dannel’s book goes over how teacher’s can make a difference. One particular concept that is exemplified by Andy Wood is Bell Hooks and Engaged Pedagogy. To teach in a manner that decenters authority and creates self-empowering conditions, teachers must be aware of their location in history and society and understand the relationship between power, ideology, knowledge, differences, and identity (p, 208-209). This concept was something I knew before actually observing Andy’s class that he had. But it wasn’t until actually having that one on one interview that my assumption was confirmed. Andy genuinely cares about his students. Having been a former student of one of his classes. I have personally witness Andy alter lesson plans, agendas, even test questions on the fly just to make sure that his teachings were fair and equal to everyone. He understands how difficult it could be for some students to not only study for a class, but to also manage their personal lives as well. Things are more hectic now with new generations. Andy is right, there are things we, as newer generation of students have to do just to get by that previous generations, such as Andy himself, might have taken for granted when they were a student. Q) What do you feel that students need to do to be able to communicate with you better? There’s really nothing else I would ask from them. I take students more or less as they are. I don’t think I require that they need to translate their thoughts to professor friendly. And sometimes I will try to translate what they are saying to what is connected to the class.
So I’m willing to do that work. I would prefer that students, as they communicate with them, that they are honest. I have had students ghost the class and see their grades plummet and I would email them every week. I tell them that it’s nothing personal but you’re walking into an electric fence. If they communicate with me that they are having a personal problem and can’t quite negotiate the problem, I would tell them that I can’t solve their problems, but I can show them resources that can help. So when they communicate their problems or concerns with me, I take it as my first priority to see if I can help them. But if they don’t communicate with me, I can’t help them but see them suffer and wish I can help. Andy sometimes feels that he can only do as much as he can do in his position. As a professor, he can only do so much. Ultimately it is the student’s responsibility to reach out to him for help if they need it. This leads to my next concept.
In chapter 5 of Rudick’s book. “First, students should feel invested in the classroom. Relationships are not healthy when only one person is invested in making it work (p. 56-57). Each day I came to observe Andy’s class, he pays very close attention to the time when he can start teaching. Always waiting till the very last moment to give enough time for students who may be running late to get there in time and not miss out on any learning. He also occasionally does this at the end of class, when he states he only needs the last minute or two of class to delivery a message either about the content of today’s learning, or something regarding a lesson for later date. But regardless of what he is addressing, he’s always kept it on the time he’s promised. Andy makes sure that if students are there to learn, that they get the most of what they came for by using every minute of his class time to bestow knowledge upon them. I knew that Andy understands that he can’t force a student to be in class when they don’t want to. But at the same time, Andy genuinely concerns when attendance starts to affect a student’s grade. He can only do so much, but ultimately, can’t force someone to show up to class.
During my observations, I witnessed Andy making alteration on his schedule to allow students more leniency on their workload. A lighter workload from the class could help prevent students from omitting class attendance here or there just to catch up with class work. Q) What is your greatest disappointment and greatest achievement as a teacher? My greatest disappointment is, from the first semester on to today is learning student’s name. It’s a damn near impossibility for me. I remember a young lady from my first quarter, she expressed a deep seeded story of sadness and woe, and she’s experiencing pain. And i’m pretty good at being present and being performatively engaged. So I’m thinking we’re having a genuinely authentic moment. Where she’s sharing her concerns and i’m hearing and planning on how I can help her. But then she stops in the middle and said, “You don’t know my name do you?” And she was right. I knew she was a human being and I knew that I care, and I knew I was there to help. So name and faces has always been a nightmare for me. And i’ve always struggled with that. My greatest achievement are moments of serendipity, when students reveal things about the world that I didn’t know.It happens enough that I want to keep doing this for another 10 or so years. The pleasure of the unexpected surprising experience where we can be teaching each other something is what keeps me coming back. And this leads me to my last concept that relates back to Andy’s way of teaching is exemplified each day he teaches. And that’s Making a Difference.
In Dannel’s book, making a difference is not about emulating your best teachers or rejecting your worse teachers. It is not about doing exactly what the research recommends or avoiding its cautions. It is not about blindly accepting one philosophy or turning away from another. Making a difference is about learning to be Michelangelo: chipping away the parts of the stone that not you and bringing what is left – your distinct gifts – to the classroom; teaching…. Out loud (p. 212). Each day of my observation, Andy speaks to the class like a symphony. Everyone hanging on to each one of his words as if it’s music. And by doing so, each word affects the student significantly. Either positive, or negative, that’s for the student to translate. But regardless of that, it sparks a change to the student. You’re left encouraged to do more than your fair share simply by how Andy speaks to his class.
During my observation, I witnessed students giving above and beyond speeches that more than fulfilled the assignment. Students felt compelled to really get into the subject, tackle it, and show more effort than what was required from them. At first I thought it may have been just the student’s natural strive to be an overachiever, but when multiple students started to show the same trait, it then becomes a reflection of the instructor’s teaching. When I asked andy what his greatest achievement was as a teacher, to which Andy replied, “…moments of serendipity, when students reveal things about the world that I didn’t know…. The pleasure of the unexpected surprising experience where we can be teaching each other something is what keeps me coming back.” It was at that moment I myself came to the realization on why I choose Andy as the teacher I wanted to observe. As one of his former students, Andy’s teaching style resonated with me since day one. He didn’t just stand in front of the class giving lectures full of words, he gave ideas, concepts, perceptions, things that made you think not only about the content, but our own self actualization.
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