“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” – Issac Newton.
As a teacher, I stand on the shoulders of four professors who have deeply influenced my thinking and inspired me to emulate them. They are: Professor Harold Thimbleby, who taught me human-computer interaction at University College London; Professor Lynne Howarth, who taught me research methods at University of Toronto; Professor Sankaran Subramanian, who taught me theoretical chemistry at Indian Institute of Technology, Madras; and Professor Jutta Treviranus, who taught me the practice of inclusive design at University of Toronto and continues to guide me by example through the practice of inclusive education at OCAD University. The core values of Thimbleby, Howarth, Subramanian, and Treviranus, their deep knowledge, and their ability to inspire my learning are ideals I strive to achieve as a teacher.
Two great educationists whose ideas influence my beliefs and ideals about teaching are Paulo Freire and Lev Vygotsky. As a proponent of inclusive education, I acknowledge the influence of Freire’s critical pedagogy on my practice of teaching and learning. I focus on the empowerment of students and encourage them to be their own teachers. I work on co-designing individual learning outcomes with each student to suit their specific needs, within the ambit of the overall learning outcomes I set for the course. I motivate and lead students to achieve the intended learning outcomes in a self-aware frame of mind and with a sense of agency. I consider this important for bringing out their potential and leaving them with a feeling of accomplishment. Student feedback I received on the very first class I taught at OCAD University supports my faith in the value of student empowerment as an essential ingredient in teaching: “I think the biggest lesson that came out of this class was the value of my own knowledge and experience. I was very inspired and came to a very clear understanding of what I’m able to accomplish.”
In the MDID program, I have taught the INCD 6B06 “The Difference” (now revised to INCD 6006) for three years and I have co-taught INCD 6C02 “Experiential Research Lab” for two years. I am currently teaching the INCD 6013 “Research Colloquium” course in the final term of the program. I have been fully responsible (and jointly in the case of the co-taught course) for the development of the syllabus, selection of readings, preparation and maintenance of the online course management site, preparation and delivery of learning content, designing and grading of assignments, assessment of presentations, and student advising.
Engagement and personalization are two factors I hold as key focus for delivery. To students who have sought accommodation through the Centre for Students with Disabilities, I provide materials in the required format within the time specified. I turn accessibility accommodations that are required to be made for one or more students into an opportunity to transform the materials/delivery into a format more easily receivable by all. To give an example, when I had a student using screen magnification software, I designed the colour contrast and contextual positioning of materials on slides and notes such as to help the entire class. The knowledge I acquired over the past decade about requirements associated with different disabilities and the skills I developed in preparing accessible learning material prove very helpful in these situations. One of the students mentioned in their feedback: “Instructor’s respect and understanding of individual learning needs is very high, and the related strategy to enhance learning is very effective. Instructor was also very prepared and logistically efficient, making for an inspired and organized learning environment.” This, to me, is the true practice of inclusion.
I like to think of myself more as an educator than as a teacher. To teach is to deliver whereas to educate is to draw out. I enjoy enabling the awakening of the latent best in students and helping them achieve personal potential. When I approach students with an educator mindset, teaching comes naturally. I believe that the way I teach reflects the kind of human being I am—I cannot have one personality as an individual and another as a teacher. My teaching philosophy, thus, reflects the person I am: empathic, creative and rational.
 Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum. p. 54.