I consider myself to be a life-long learner, and I endeavor to inspire my students to follow suit. I am dedicated to the study of English literature and composition, so my students find my enthusiasm difficult to resist even if English is not their favorite subject area.
I teach a wide range of classes, so I do not subscribe to one pedagogical technique. Instead I utilize strategies that are appropriate for the abilities of my students and the objectives of the classes. When I teach upper-level literature classes, I use formal lectures to encourage students to engage in critical thinking when analyzing texts and to participate in class discussions and workshops. I also incorporate lectures on art, history, politics, etc. to broaden my literature students’ horizons as much as possible. In contrast, when I teach developmental writing courses, I use short lectures and incorporate real-world, hands-on practice time for my students. I teach my developmental students to write professional emails, resumes, and cover letters, skills they lack when they enter my classroom.
Even though I have a heavy teaching load, I spend a lot of time planning meaningful student-centered lessons and lectures, and I spend even more time providing prompt, significant feedback on student work. Although I keep my standards high and expect students to meet deadlines, I am flexible when the occasion calls for it. At my current post, I instruct many nontraditional students—older students who work two jobs and take care of families. These students frequently struggle with finding reliable transportation and affordable daycare and with accessing health care. Thus I am not adverse to granting extensions in certain situations.
To this day, I consider my greatest challenge as a professor to be the struggle against student indifference and apathy particularly toward English literature, but also to the world at large. Students, who often see themselves as customers rather than young scholars, understand the value of a degree in the current marketplace, but I do not think they fully appreciate the importance of an education. Therefore, I encourage students to engage their communities, both locally and internationally, to learn a second language, and to become accountable citizens. I also try to help students become creative and effective problem solvers, to accept responsibility for their learning, and to embrace the challenges that come with adversity inside the classroom and within the global community.
Dr. Rebecca M. Mills