Teaching Philosophy

Crystal U. Davis

crystaludavis@gmail.com · PHONE 252-314-3711

 

My teaching philosophy is based on the critical discovery and celebration of each student’s personal history as it is expressed within his or her body.  I work to facilitate student awareness of their distinct gifts and talents as they are based on all of the unique life experiences had by each individual.  It is also important that students have the ability to constructively discuss those qualities seen in each individual and how those unique attributes may more fully be physically realized.

I can recall from my childhood my mother and I when walking from our car to my grandmother’s house passing a homeless person on the sidewalk.  As fear filled my body my mother calmly greeted the person as she would have greeted anyone else on the street.  Once we entered my grandmother’s house, I asked my mom why she spoke to the man?  My mother’s response was, “People just wanted to be treated like people and when you treat people like you would everyone else they tend to respond like everyone else would.”  That lesson on respecting the humanity of others has remained with me throughout my life and is now an essential part of my teaching.  It is part of my constant awareness whenever I interact with people and is a major part of my pedagogical starting point.

As I grow, I discover new and interesting ways in which I can better understand the humanity of others.  One way in which I have found better ways of understanding the humanity of others is to understand the culture of others.  When I speak of culture, I am speaking of culture from more of an anthropological perspective that best resonates with Paulo Freire’s notion of culture and Marcel Mauss’s “techniques of the body.”  Integrating culture into my teaching is important because it is a way of exploring and celebrating differences and similarities between humankind in order to find the human connections that we all have. 

I use culture as a tool to transform the world-view of my students from a self-centered view of the world to a world-view that is interconnected and interdependent with that of others.  I believe that this respect and appreciation for humanity better facilitates community in the classroom and abroad.  When individuals can learn to respect and appreciate others as individuals a sense of community is much easier to develop.  The sense of individuality is also nurtured when individuals can explore the culture of others.  The similarities between individuals facilitate community and the differences promote a sense of individuality for each person. The use of the body in dance is a great way to learn about others because the body holds both genetic, historical, and environmental characteristics that create an individual’s culture.  Dance is an especially valuable tool to explore one’s culture because dance uses the very object that has been present and active throughout one’s life wherein culture was developed for that individual, the body.

   
 

Improvisation is also a key element to my teaching style.  My responsibility is to be an involved improviser as it relates to exploring the most effective teaching tools for each class environment.  Providing the students with imagery to help the students make connections is one tool that I use.  Other tools may include anatomical exploration of the body, asking questions and providing time for reflection, incorporating topics of interest to individual students whenever possible, and allowing the students to use their own movement style as a tool.  These do not at all exhaust the possibilities of teaching tools.  I continue exploring new and useful tools for teaching students.

The use of improvisation by students is also a key element of my teaching philosophy.  Exploring new styles of movement can be an enlightening tool for both the students and myself.  I enable students to explore and make connections of their own through improvisation both as homework and within class jam sessions.  These improvisation projects are always thought of as structured. They are structured either in the sense that there are specific movement guidelines for the sessions or that some form of discussion or description of the improvisational movement be provided after the session.  So at all times, the students will be encouraged to be mindful of what their bodies are creating.

I use self-assessment, reflection, and grading as a mediator between my teaching method and student progress.  Self-assessment, reflection, and grading will be an ongoing process in my classroom where it serves to improve the students’ performance and my teaching method.  Journals also allow students to make connections between the movement they do in class and social concepts that they may feel are related.  Body stories are another great way to find connections between society and dance.  In this way self-assessment, reflection, and grading are the tools used to communicate between student learning and teaching method so that both can improve.  I hope that this ongoing evaluation process will continue to make the classroom experience more valuable than the final grade for my students and for myself.

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