My Teaching Philosophy
“All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it."
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
The Little Prince is one of my favorite titles because, as an adult, I hope I can always remind myself to be as curious and imaginative as my younger self once was. The Little Prince talks about going against the norm, the importance of creativity, and, most importantly, about being a lifelong learner.
A lot of students perceive their college career as a race to a degree, that learning ends when school does. By making degrees an end-goal and thinking of learning as a burden, students lose sight of the true reason why they sit through class every day: to acquire knowledge, apply that knowledge, and establish a habit of inquiry. This misunderstanding of the process of higher education is exceedingly widespread among today's students and, when unremedied, can really dampen students’ potential. For that reason, I strive to shift students' mindset in my classrooms: from being goal-oriented to being process-oriented.
Learning, as a process, requires a safe, joyful, and conducive classroom environment accompanied by meaningful instructor-student relationships. As with every relationship, there are two facets: respect and vulnerability. Showing empathy and respect to students is the first step, followed by modeling vulnerability. Modeling vulnerability includes acknowledging the mistakes I make and sharing stories of the hardships I have overcome.
Just as important, I am firm believer in science as a creative endeavor. I believe a lot of what scientists do require creativity: from problem solving to designing an experiment. I believe to teach without addressing this misconception would be a disservice. Students are generally taught from an early age that science is a rigid and systematic discipline. From the scientific method to a step-by-step lab manual, students seldom get to experience creativity in science. I strive to have students express their creativity in the classroom, and I do this by asking them to visualize and think of the concepts I introduced in new and exciting ways and by minimizing non-essential structuring in the coursework.
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Supplemental Instruction at San Francisco State University
The supplemental instruction (SI) program at San Francisco State University is a peer learning classroom with senior level undergraduates facilitating discussion between more junior undergraduates. It is neither a lecture or a lab, it is a supplementary discussion section for helping students master concepts offered in both the lab and lecture. The supplemental instruction (SI) program at San Francisco State University's aim is to help students succeed in introductory STEM courses, instill a learning culture that will help them succeed in their upper division courses, and raising the university's retention and graduation rate for STEM students.
Before graduating with my B.S. in Zoology in December 2016, I was an undergraduate supplemental instruction facilitator for SCI240; the supplemental instruction course for introductory Biology II; for four consecutive semesters. In Fall 2017, after starting my M.S. program, I returned to the SI program as a faculty liaison for Biology. I advise and train Biology facilitators, help ensure they feel supported, and confirm whether the content presented in the supplemental instruction classes are relevant to the parent courses.
Docent at the California Academy of Sciences
I first became a docent at the California Academy of Sciences in August of 2014. As a docent, I looked forward to engaging the public and having conversations with museum guests on the awe-inspiring and wonderful animals we share our world with.
The California Academy of Sciences asks their docents to be specialists on certain aspects of the museum. As a Herpetologist who grew up in Indonesia, their multi-story indoor rainforest exhibit was an obvious choice. I would spend most of my shifts in either the Borneo or the Amazon exhibit; talking to guests about the matamata turtle (Chelus fimbriata), the black tree monitor (Varanus beccarii), the flying snake (Chrysopelea ornata), or the assortment of boas the academy has on display in the Amazon exhibit.
My aim as a docent was to first and foremost instill a sense of awe and help guests engage with the exhibits, therefore making a larger impact. To a lesser extent I also try and correct misinformation and guide conversations towards conservation and the importance of research.
I left the California Academy of Sciences in August 2015.