Teaching has always been an important part of my career, and something which I highly value. As academics, I believe we have a duty to convey our knowledge to others and that being a successful teacher is part of what it takes to be a successful academic. My teaching philosophy encompasses three elements:
1. Convey my passion, enthusiasm and curiosity for cities and understanding urban change
2. Enable students to discover the art of observing the world around them
3. While observing, encourage students to see the world through a geographer’s eyes by critically questioning ‘why things happen where they happen’
Observation lies at the heart of my teaching. I design assignments and activities meant to stimulate this process. I encourage students to draw on their own experiences and observations as a starting point to a greater understanding of cities and urban space.
My teaching style is very visual. I try to explain complex theories and processes by providing relevant examples, often supported by photos. In addition to this, I use cultural references such as songs, poetry or TV shows to help illustrate urban change and urban dynamics (my personal favourite is the Albert King blues song Cadillac Assembly Line, which was written in the early 1960s. It describes an African-American migrant from the US South as he moves to Detroit to work in an auto plant.
I find it rewarding to supervise undergraduate and graduate students and enjoy working with highly motivated individuals. I set high expectations for my students and try to stimulate them to reach their full potential. During meetings, I ask students questions designed to challenge their own ideas and give them the tools to reach their own conclusions. I focus on constructive feedback, setting goals which are challenging, measurable and attainable.
I am passionate about teaching and sharing my knowledge and enthusiasm with students. For me, being a successful scholar is not just about publishing papers; it is about inspiring others to want to learn more about the world around them. That is what an academic should strive to achieve. I am inspired by an anecdote about the recent Nobel Prize winner in Economics, Jean Tirole, from Toulouse. After celebrating his prize, he was asked if he was going to take the day off tomorrow. His response: ‘there is never a good reason to cancel teaching.’ In my opinion, it is approaches such as this that will be essential to meeting the challenges of tomorrow’s universities.