Teaching Philosophy

Prof. Burris made more of an impact on not only my future teaching career but my life;

she has been more influential than any other college professor I have ever had… 

she has been more influential than any other college professor I have ever had…

In a time where I am freaking out about actually becoming a teacher, 

prof. Burris made me feel confident. – Student Evaluation, Spring 2018

My goal as an educator is to help develop future teachers’ and leaders’ dispositions and skills as they become social justice educators across multiple fields and disciplines. This work is evident across the four courses I have taught: Embracing Diversity in Classroom Communities, Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Education, Seminar in Supervising and Teaching, and College Study Skills in a Summer Transitional Program. As I teach equity-oriented educators, I pursue three goals:

Education is a reflective practice. As educators continue to grow their critical consciousness in my classes, they engage in several reflective practices. My students journal in class every week, including the same prompts multiple times, such as “What is the goal of education?” and “What is the goal of your curriculum?” to see evolutions in their thinking. Through intentional conversations about intersectional identities and the role of power in the educational system, students learn from each other as they make concrete plans for their future classroom. In Embracing Diversity in Classroom Communities, students’ first assignment is an identity paper to explore their own experiences in education, and their last project is a culturally responsive teaching vision. This teaching vision empowers students to develop their personal creed for their classroom that defines their beliefs about teaching and learning while outlining steps to enact equity pedagogy. These assignments are developed through collaboration with peers and shared with the class to more deeply nuance how they will be social justice educators. 

Education is student-centered. I believe that modeling pedagogy is critical to educator development. During each class session, we pause to debrief pedagogy from both the student’s perspective and the teacher’s perspective to brainstorm how they can implement those experiences in the future with their students or staff. These moments specifically happen after active learning strategies like Socratic seminars, agreement settings, case studies, silent discussions, jigsaws, and gallery walks. One student noted in their final evaluation, “I appreciate the metacritical approach to this class as a learning resource. Having the time to recognize specific teaching strategies and seeing them modeled throughout the class was incredibly helpful.” Additionally, we analyze the role of student voice and choice throughout the course, including the students taking ownership of selecting specific course readings, films, teaching guides, news stories, and podcasts, along with collaborating to develop grading rubrics. Through my classes, students also engage with the community, including attending the AERA Brown Lecture, interviewing current K-12 students about their experiences in school, and attending events with numerous educational leaders, including former Secretary of Education John King. 

Education bridges theory to practice. Throughout my courses, I model reflexiveness, emphasizing the need to develop both skills and knowledge. This emphasis underscores linking theory to practice in classrooms and schools. As future educators, my students make explicit connections between my curricula and what they experience in schools. When my students explore educational policy, current events, law, finance, technology, pedagogy, and curriculum they also examine its real impact in schools today. After developing a culturally responsive unit plan grounded in theory, one student commented, “This was an excellent course because Jennifer went beyond what was required of her and made sure that she was teaching us not only as students but as educators. Not only did we learn about social justice and equity, but Jennifer continually gave practical lessons on pedagogy.”

In conclusion, I model life long transformative learning for the teachers and school leaders in my classes. Through my own continued professional development, I show students the power of education to recognize, respond to, and redress challenges in society. Throughout the three goals outlined above, I work to empower future educators as social justice leaders in their classrooms, schools, and communities. 

This was, hands down, the best education course I’ve taken at UMD. Professor Burris was engaging, knowledgeable, an active listener and conversationist, passionate about the topics, and flexible. The course content was relevant, varied, and informative for all educators. As an education class that was not content-specific, Burris did a fantastic job creating small spaces in class to discuss content–specific scenarios and ideas while also fostering cross-content collaboration. – Student Evaluation, Spring 2018