Associate Professor of Linguistics, Pranav Anand

April 04, 2016

Associate Professor of Linguistics, Pranav Anand

Associate Professor of Linguistics, Pranav Anand, has been selected as the 2015-16 recipient of the Dizikes Faculty Teaching Award in Humanities.

Named in honor of Professor Emeritus John Dizikes, the award celebrates the Humanities faculty’s commitment to excellence in teaching and its transformative impact for students. It honors the work of faculty and supports students who aspire to learning and critical thinking.

Students and colleagues alike offered high praise for Prof. Anand’s ability to inspire and engage students over the years, and for creating an inclusive learning environment that challenges and encourages all students.

Prof. Anand will be presented with the award during our Celebrating the Humanities event on Tuesday, May 31 from 4:00-6:00 p.m. at Cowell Provost House.


Prof. Anand's Teaching Statement:

Teaching is ultimately a form of praxis, and it is this fact that renders it so vexing to perform or discuss: both meticulously pre-planned and alive to the sprung rhythms of the moment, at once a public act and a deeply personal coming home, a process of elucidation which inherently resists explication. It is this last aspect which makes it hard for me to articulate a better personal philosophy than ``teach well.'' Like all procedural knowledge, learning to teach is less a matter of filling one's internal propositional granary and more an accumulation of instinct, of learning as a becoming.

The crux of what we teach is process as well -- how to deploy abstruse formal structures, how to find evidence, how to think critically, how to persuade -- and this procedural knowledge likewise can only arise from practice, from repetition and readjustment. The process of teaching thus involves enacting in others the same kind of becoming one has engaged in, and it is the sympathetic resonances between these two processes that makes teaching a kind of perpetual marvel, as one witnesses (precipitates?) moments of discovery that chime back one's own discovery long before.

For me, successful teaching begins in imaginative engagement, in divining the epistemic state of my students, both as I am designing materials weeks before meeting them and in answering questions in the classroom. To be sure, this process is partly atavistic communion with my earlier scholarly self. However, I have found that my teaching has improved as I have down-weighted impressions of my own experience and concentrated simply on understanding the psyches of the persons directly in front of me. Such a process is indelibly empathic, and it is for this reason that all the potentially tired analogies of teaching and parenting ring so true for me. Both cases are virtually unique in granting one the longitudinal privilege of beholding someone mature in real time over several years.

But beholding or induce? Which is it? When my first child was learning to crawl, I tried everything I could think of to help him understand how to balance the great weight of his torso on his spindly limbs. Of course, the moral of this vignette is plain: balance was his to learn anew, and I could neither rush it nor implant in him how his balance would be achieved. At best, I needed to come to terms with getting out of his way. So it is, ultimately, with all my teaching. I do not induce. In the ideal case, when all things are humming and I have read minds aright, I afford by clearing the room of hazards. Indeed, perhaps my teaching philosophy is simply this: to work stridently to render myself invisible, to disappear in plain sight, leaving only blazes to mark the trail ahead.

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