A PEDAGOGICAL STATEMENT
There is a mysterious process at work in teaching and learning. We are on a journey together as students and teacher, and I take this journey very seriously. Each semester is somewhat different in how a class comes to life. It emerges as important questions arise, as moments of sharing and mutual respect show themselves, and as we begin to realize that we are not only questioning a text, but that the text has begun to question us.
Teaching involves courting surprises, and recognizing special moments when they arise. In a close study of powerfully-lived lives, there inevitably come moments of recognition of the human frailty of the person we are studying, how difficult their life was, how they forged ahead anyway, flaws and all. The class develops a sense of being there with that figure when she or he grew in a significant way, and comes to understand something new about how we might grow as well. There emerges a real yet not uncritical respect for the figure under study, sometimes a thankfulness for their life, even a feeling of friendship across time.
And then there is the experience of being carried along by something larger than teacher or students. Part of it is the interpersonal world created in the classroom over time. Part of it is the inspiring or admonishing nature of the subject. And part of it is our own group history in motion. Like a wave it builds, and it is our job, and our joy, to ride that wave.
Note: In 2015 Philip Kunhardt took part in an experimental NYU series entitled "Teach Talks." In the short program entitled “Teaching In Depth” (shown HERE) he discusses his personal approach to teaching.