Teaching PhilosophyMy philosophy on teaching is directed by five fundamental principles. In my role as a teacher, I will seek to do the following:
1. Address diverse student needs through authentic instruction based on constructivist learning and through the use of culturally relevant materials, active engagement and multiple, varied forms of assessment.
2. Develop a community of learners through self-motivation, self-regulation and cooperation while maintaining a high level of expectation from all students.
3. Maintain a well-managed classroom that exhibits thoughtful organization of time, space and materials and follows established routines and procedures.
4. Communicate a sense of “with-it-ness” and demonstrate a consistent, proactive management style that promotes individual responsibility and encourages consequences for our actions.
5. Teach with a high level of compassion, energy and humor.
First, I believe that authentic instruction (i.e., possessing real-life application and meaning) based on a constructivist approach to learning (whereby students help to develop their learning) is fundamental to developing intrinsic motivation among students in the classroom. Students are more actively engaged and motivated to learn when the content is meaningful and relevant to their lives, and the content naturally becomes meaningful and relevant when learning is primarily student-driven. Students also derive meaning from an integrated and culturally diverse curriculum that provides “windows and mirrors” for them to make meaningful connections to their lives and the world around them.
In addition, I believe that it is important to find ways to make the classroom interesting, stimulating and fun for all students while still providing content that is rich and provocative. This means that I will try to tap a wide array of resources and explore various multi-disciplinary forms of expression, at least some of which will appeal to each of my students. In order to generate such appeal and provide truly authentic instruction, I will seek to learn about and discover who my students are – what they like and dislike, what support mechanisms they have outside of the classroom, their obstacles to learning based on reports from former teachers and so forth. Finally, I will utilize multiple forms of assessment that will provide students with varying opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and will provide me with a range of tools to evaluate my own teaching, inform my teaching methods and provide feedback to parents, administrators and the community.
Second, to reach this level of engagement in today’s classroom, which typically contains a substantial number of students, I will seek to involve the students themselves as an integral component of the learning process. I can do this by demonstrating the value of, expecting and even demanding self-regulation, peer support, cooperation and overall classroom involvement, including design, implementation and evaluation of classroom instruction. However, this principle is fully reliant on the development of a community of learners in which each student values and respects the thoughts and opinions of his or her peers. I can only foster such a community through high expectations of student behavior and academic performance.
Third, I believe that effective classroom management, with consideration to the organization of students, space, time and materials, is a primary component for learning. Effective classroom management is reflected through preparedness, organization and establishment of routines and procedures. Every minute of classroom time should be focused on the process of learning, and a more organized classroom supports smooth transitions and results in more time on task for the students.
Fourth, I believe that effective teachers have a heightened awareness of their surroundings and are keen observers and monitors of student behavior. In short, the “eyes in the back of their heads” adage is exactly right. In this same line of thinking, then, teachers must have fair and consistent expectations from students and demonstrate a proactive management style, quelling problems before they erupt. I also believe that students should never be punished but should always experience the consequences of their actions. Consequently, I will encourage students to solve their own problems and take responsibility in the classroom and will always try to show compassion as I guide them to make decisions that are in their best interests.
Fifth, and lastly, I believe that a good teacher must teach with tremendous compassion, energy and humor. We are human, and the greatest gift that we can give to our students is to demonstrate our most human of qualities. We can touch souls if we can show to our students that we truly care, that we are willing to give ourselves to them and that we can laugh even when we are faced with the greatest adversity.
It is only by addressing the diverse needs of our students, developing a community of learners, maintaining a well-managed classroom, demonstrating a keen awareness and consistent, proactive management style executed with compassion, and teaching with one’s most human of qualities that any teacher can truly hope to generate a productive, stimulating and rich environment that provides ample opportunity for all students to grow and learn. All of these components serve as reminders that there are underlying requirements in classroom instruction – teachers are ultimately working to equip students with the tools and knowledge necessary to become successful workers, involved community members, responsible citizens, and tolerant and compassionate individuals. If I can achieve this, I truly believe that my responsibility as an educator has been fulfilled.