My philosophy on teaching is rooted in experiential knowledge, critical thinking, rational discourse, and praxis. Using these principles in my pedagogy, I actualize the desired outcome of my philosophy of education, transformative learning, and human flourishing. I believe that a critical analysis of a topic in the light of my personal experience or the experience of students leads to critical thinking. This opens the doors to reflection and rational discourse. In fact, learning does not stop with rational discourse; it leads to finding alternative options and pragmatic solutions to our problems. I strongly believe that as an educator, it is my responsibility to help students find solutions to the problems and actualize their goals in life.
A moment from my classroom: When a student commented saying,"Professor I never thought that way. You made me think differently, thank you!" (I get this a lot!)
Teaching students is a tremendous responsibility. It involves more than the dissemination of information to a captive audience -- it demands dedication, passion, and a commitment to the individual lives of each and every student. My responsibility to the students extends beyond the walls of the classroom, and my students know that they can seek my assistance with any issue or problem. I am extremely passionate about criminological/sociological issues and bring that passion with me into the classroom. In order to maintain interest and retention, I utilize my practical experience as a prison counselor and community educator to supplement theoretical perspectives. Professor-student relationships are the building blocks for our students’ futures. Positive experiences at the undergraduate level are likely to influence one’s decision to apply to graduate school. The more education our students have, the more successful they will become for themselves, their family, and their surrounding communities.
My philosophy on teaching is to help students grow beyond where they are when they come to me. This is done in the context of meeting learning outcomes for their courses. I believe progress is more often achieved through short incremental steps than through the less frequent giant leaps.
One online student who was generally having difficulty in understanding assignments sent me a note explaining her dilemma. Using a combination of Pronto (the instant messaging system), email, and telephone calls, we were able to discuss and address her concerns leading to satisfactory results. In the online environment, effective use of technology is essential.
As we culturally and educationally shift increasingly to transmitting and exchanging information electronically, I try to make my on-site teaching something more than a computer could do.
Possibly the most insightful student I ever had came up to me one day after class and said, "You know, Dr. Peters, you're not merely a teacher of the liberal arts but you are an intellectual performance artist." I took that as a license to keep attempting wild and crazy methods in the classroom to get basic ideas across to students in highly imaginative and engaging ways.
For example, I recently reconceived The Religious Experience course as "Rockin' Our Way Through the World's Religions." At the end of each unit I played a rock song that I thought encapsulated a major theme or two from each religion. For Hinduism, we watched John Lennon performing "Instant Karma" at Madison Square Garden in 1970, listening for not only the obvious references to karma but also the whole Hindu cosmological emphasis implicit in the lyric "the earth, the moon, and the sun." For the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, which deal with suffering and how to overcome it, the choice was the Rolling Stones, "Can't Get No Satisfaction." Contemporary music artists make the grade as well, such as Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga's videos and performances are full of striking goddess imagery, such as how she emerges from the water at the beginning of her "Pokerface" video, in a remarkable parallel to Botticelli's Renaissance painting, The Birth of Venus. Paul McCartney's "Hope of Deliverance" reflects the theme of prophetic hope and mutual understanding, which are key elements of Judaism, the mother of the other two Abrahamic religions, Christianity and Islam.
I also delight in the city-as-classroom approach. The architecture right down the street is another way to observe how religion manifests itself in everyday life. The apparently secular architecture and interior decor of many familiar New York buildings are full of religious symbolism and meaning if you know what to look for and understand what is staring you in the face. So Grand Central Terminal is presided over by a sculpture of Mercury, the god of commerce, the perfectly appropriate god for the city that to a great extent revolves around Wall Street and many other forms of commerce with its garment and diamond districts. Inside the terminal you see a night sky with stars and constellations but you are viewing these constellations from outer space, from God's perspective so to speak, not from Earth below. So imagine at Berkeley College, a business school, you can learn that New York City religiously rocks and spiritually rolls
One of the most important aspects of teaching is keeping students constantly engaged and excited about the subjects that we cover during the quarter.
One of the most difficult aspects is being able to address every student individually for their needs, abilities, and most of all their potentials. I am determined to stimulate every creative brain cell of each and every one of my students. I push them to aim high, to dream, and to realize that it could all come true with determination, passion, and hard work.
One of the most rewarding moments in our classes is when our students realize that design is part of them and show a spark of joy in their eyes when presenting their projects. They look back at when they started and could not even hold a pencil in their hands and are thankful for what you have done for them.