I suppose I’ve always been a teacher, forcing my friends to play school on Saturdays and directing my third baseman to use both hands on ground balls, but it wasn’t until college that I understood the reward of standing in front of a room and sharing what I know with a group of people who don’t yet realize how much they want to know it.
Perhaps that’s a tad optimistic, but I do believe strongly in the value of all knowledge. Two common arguments in my field of communication are: (1) ours is a discipline that needs all the others to survive, (2) what we do makes no real difference. Nothing could be further from the truth! The greatest of ideas cannot exist without a way to communicate them to the world, and a human race that doesn’t understand how its constituents talk to themselves, to each other, to the world is one that simply will not evolve. Therefore, I choose to counter those arguments by spreading good writing skills and polished speaking abilities through interpersonal connections.
In our sessions, we’ll find what motivates you and we’ll work from there. What do you love? What do you hate? You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to write an essay or a speech when you actually have feelings about something. Oh, and those topics you’re given by your teachers? I’ve got those covered, too! We’ll talk about why they were chosen, why they matter to you (even when you think they don’t), and what impact you can have with your words.
We’ll also probably talk a lot about sports, particularly baseball. You can tell me how you believe football is the real American pastime, or you can admit openly that you hide Facebook posts about sports because you couldn’t possibly care less if you tried. I’m sure I’ll tell you about my dog, and you can tell me how you’re more of a cat person or how you owned an iguana as a child. Maybe when our work is done, you can tell me about your favorite restaurants in town, and I’ll ask you a hundred questions about local parks. In any case, I hope we can find a real human connection that will make you more at ease asking me questions or voicing your concerns so that you don’t merely pass the assignment, you pick up good habits for the long term and break free from the frustration that so often comes with public speaking and essay writing.
I’m a communication scholar. I can’t help but connect.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of South Alabama - Bachelors, Communication (Radio/TV/Film); Minor: Business
Graduate Degree: University of South Alabama - Masters, Communication (Sport Sociology)
Playing soccer, golf, and softball; watching most sports, but baseball is my true love; working out; running with my greyhound; movies and television; cooking
What is your teaching philosophy?
As a rookie teacher, my written philosophy was five pages of someone else's good ideas. I cited professionals with years of classroom experience and tried to tailor their ideals to what I expected from myself. Almost seven years later, as I sat down to write this, I decided to revisit that document. While the ideas of these credible professionals were still as valid now as they were then, I've discovered over the last seven years that my most useful teaching advice is actually from author Douglas Adams. He may have been giving instructions for surviving a thumb ride through the stars, but his words still make a nice set of survival guidelines for the relationship between teachers and students. First, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy comes emblazoned with two words: "Don't panic." Simply knowing that any challenge, scenario, assignment, or problem is easier to work through without losing one's head is a rather portable piece of advice. In the classroom, I remind students often that they will be equipped properly to complete whatever assignment is given to them and that I am always around for them if they feel the waters begin to rise. Although the "open door policy" is more the norm than a novelty anymore, I make it a point to provide students with multiple opportunities and mechanisms for getting in touch with me before a problem gets out of hand. This takes all the usual forms--office hours, email, in class opportunities for questions, but it sometimes goes beyond that in the shape of extra office hours, scheduling "check in" meetings, remaining in the classroom for extended periods, and even setting up Skype consultations. This is particularly challenging with online classes, but I've learned that prompt responses and being available when I say I am is often all it takes to encourage them to avoid panic and ask for help. Second, Adams declares there is an art to flying. "Or rather a knack," he says. "Its knack lies in learning to throw yourself at the ground and miss." Where this applies to my philosophy on teaching is simply in the suggestion that, in order to fly, one must take the leap in the first place. Fortunately, these leaps in public speaking, writing, or even astrophysics generally don't have 'not missing the ground' as a potential hazard, though it can certainly feel that way at times. In our case, I remind my students that I will be there in case you don't quite master the "miss" part of "throw yourself at the ground and miss" right away. I'll catch you, to be more cliché, and when I do, we'll find whatever it is that makes you the artist you need to be to learn the art of flying. Every one of us has a characteristic, personality trait, or interest that can be translated into success in speaking and writing; many of us have yet to be guided by that entity. That's what I'm here for. We'll draw out the thing that makes you stand head and shoulders above the rest, find the topic that makes the words flow like Central Florida rain, pull from you the very art of flying. Finally, Adams describes the "Somebody Else's Problem" (SEP) Field as an all-too-easy way to hide something from someone else. In our case, though, the key is in the discovery that the SEP Field exists because once you know it's there, you inevitably begin to uncover the things hidden within it. What's great about things hidden by an SEP Field is that the person willing and/or able to see them can make quite the impact by essentially turning off the field for everyone else. For practical purposes, this enlightenment occurs when we use research skills to find a little known fact, an ignored issue, or a completely weird phenomenon. Your task then becomes introducing this fact to the world, drawing attention to this issue, or simply sharing in the weirdness. Proper research skills coupled with a little passion can turn off any SEP Field. Imagine the power! When we're learning something new, we instinctively often ask why we need to know it. This is particularly true when something is difficult, scary, or unappealing. When I started working in radio, I asked my program director to explain the many symbols and designations found on the list of songs, and he responded with, "Don't worry about that. It isn't your job." I vowed in that moment never to be so dismissive, and I've carried that throughout my teaching career. We will learn why. We will question why. We will find alternate explanations. The Hitchhikers' Guide is helpful for more than traveling the galaxy, and using its wisdom can help students address the "why?" question with something more powerful than, "Because it's on the syllabus." So remember: Don't panic, use your strengths to fly, and take the batteries out of your SEP Fields. We're going hitchhiking!
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
In our first session, I'm going to ask a lot of questions about you. I want to know what motivates you and what doesn't. Don't worry; I'm not nosy. I just want to make sure I'm talking TO you instead of AT you. When we write or give a speech, it's always a personal activity, no matter how disconnected we feel from the topic at first. Getting to know you and what makes you tick helps me find ways to help you succeed. For instance, if I learn you enjoy stand-up comedy, I know I can pepper in a joke here and there. If I find out you want to be in IT some day, I can ask you how to fix my old laptop...just kidding. I won't do that to you. I will, however, ask you to think about how whatever you're working on can benefit you in your field. The first session will be about you and what you want to get out of our sessions, including details about the assignments, your experience with speaking or writing , and your expectations from me. It'll be much easier to get results if we have this introductory session first.