My Teaching Philosophy



                “There is a reason for all of this.  This experience is going to make you into the woman you want to be.”  My mother spoke those words to me when I was thirteen years old.  Prior to being that age, I had not a care in the world.  Life changed pretty quickly.  I was in an accident that put me in a neck brace for 6 months, and soon after, my hospital bed was being wheeled into a room, with what felt like eighty doctors and surgeons all around me, prepping me for my brain surgery. 


This pivotal moment in my life led to more doctor’s appointments, countless spinal taps, and a lot of days where I just wanted to give up.  At the time, I remember feeling scared, confused, and unsure as to why this was all happening to me.  “There is a reason for all of this.  This experience is going to make you into the woman you want to be.”  This was one of the responses my mother would always give me, in addition to all of her love and support, and it was not until I got a little bit older that I realized just what she meant.


These experiences shaped the way I view health care and the ways in which patients understand the, often scary, processes they are encountering.  I am passionate about this field because I’ve been right in the center of it – I’ve lived it, breathed it, and it has shaped who I have become.  In this sense, my study of health communication and other areas has been bolstered by my past.  Our understanding of the world, and many of our life experiences, becomes framed according to the media around us.  Rather than focusing on a textbook, or PowerPoint slides, the first way I teach my students about health care is by sharing my story with them.  In return, my favorite aspect of being an educator is learning from my students.  I feel fortunate to hear their stories, their experiences, and their opinions.  To put it simply, I think we can all learn quite a lot from one another, simply by listening and learning what it means to have empathy.  I also structure my lessons from a framework that enhances critical thinking on a global scale.  I believe it is important that my students learn what it means to be a global citizen, and that my instruction can aid them in future endeavors worldwide.


I remember how enriching and exciting the student experience can be.  At the same time, I know that being in college also offers unique challenges, hardships, and defining life moments.  These are things that I always keep in the back of my mind as I am approaching my students.  Paulo Freire’s views on critical pedagogy have helped to shape my perceptions on education.  Freire believed in a deep level of reciprocity between teachers and students, where teachers and students can learn from one another, as he wrote in Pedagogy of the Heart (1998).  I see my role as an educator as developing a two-way relationship with my classroom, where we can learn from one another while privileging the individual experiences we each have.  My primary goal is to teach my students to think about the world around them, because I truly believe that they can make it a better place.  This also means that I know I have a great deal to learn from my students as well.  And above anyone else, I know that my students are capable of doing amazing things in the world.


My hope is that my students will feel comfortable enough in the classroom environment to get to know me.  This is why I structure my courses largely around group discussion and active engagement.  If my students ever ask for any advice as they go out into the world, I will tell them: “There is a reason for all of this.  This experience is going to make you into the person you want to be”,  just as my mother told me so many years ago.                



University of South Florida
The Zimmerman School of Advertising & Mass Communications

Janelle Applequist, Ph.D.

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