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Kristen Palana's Teaching Philosophy

 

There are many qualities I feel are integral for a teacher to successfully educate and communicate with individuals from a multitude of backgrounds, cultures, abilities, and life experiences. Whether I am teaching MFA, BFA, or Continuing Education students in New York City and New Jersey, or non-English speaking adults and children in the Himalayas of India, my teaching principles and methods remain the same.

First I believe in setting firm goals that will spark interest and excitement among the students. Two examples are having a beginning Web Design class create their first personal online portfolios for future employers, friends, and family to see, or students new to art in general paint their first murals on the walls of their school in India.

Also, I believe it is important to be approachable and non-intimidating as a means of developing successful relationships with the students. Once a rapport has been developed, I encourage the students to focus on their strengths and interests when pursuing a project. This method produces more passionate and thoughtful work and helps to keep students trying when obstacles and frustrations turn up or they attempt to overcome their weaknesses in a particular area of study.

Secondly, I believe in presenting material in a clear, interesting, and easy to understand manner. Particularly in the Computer and Technology fields, the subject matter can at first seem overwhelming and intimidating. I believe that a combination of lecture, visual and audio examples and aides, demonstrations, critiques, and individual help not only benefit those new to an area of study, but also to those with more intermediate and advanced skills. Communication also goes beyond what is said to how it is said and the attitude of the speaker behind the words. By just using several words of Hindi, much body language and visual demonstration, I was able to effectively coordinate Indian students to create a total of five murals within three weeks time.

Other important qualities found in a successful educator are patience and flexibility. Whether a computer has just crashed, a demonstration gone wrong, a fire alarm keeps going off suspiciously too often, or goats in India have wandered into the classroom and stepped in a limited supply of paint, things will at some point run less than smoothly. While I can't possibly predict every mishap that may occur, I often find myself with a back-up plan and can react swiftly to a situation while still teaching the students.

Finally, one of the most enjoyable things about teaching I have found is that I am constantly learning as I go along. Students as well as colleagues will often raise an issue or ask a question I'd never considered before. Since one can never know all there is to know, and since new developments in the field of Computer Graphics in particular happen frequently, it is important to keep learning. I believe the most important thing a person can learn is how to learn. I hope to continue to discover things for myself as well as to foster this sense of discovery in others.