Philosophy of Teaching

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Schools are the conscious embodiment of the way we want our next generation to understand their world and their place in it. –Deborah Meier

Introduction

With a sincere love for children and dedication to enriching the lives of all my future students, I have chosen the teaching profession.  Inspired by the first day I began teaching English to elementary aged children in Japan, I made a life-long commitment to having a positive impact on children’s futures.  I feel it is a privilege to teach children on a daily basis, providing them with the necessary tools in becoming responsible and compassionate community-minded individuals. My objective as a teacher is to guide my students to be confident, self-motivated, critical-thinking, lifelong learners who are responsible citizens that seek to understand biases and respect diversity. I believe learning is exciting, and I plan to teach my students to embody this excitement in their everyday lives and develop a thirst for new knowledge. Finally, my classroom will be a place where all students achieve success and feel safe, respected and supported as learners.  To achieve all these above goals, I plan to incorporate three guiding principles within all my teaching practices as follows: 

  • Provide authentic, student-centered learning experiences

  • Create a cooperative, inclusive classroom community

  • Maintain high expectations

Authentic Learning 

Student learning needs to be authentic and student-centered.  By ‘authentic’, I mean providing purposeful, ‘real world’ learning opportunities, and teaching skills connected to our student’s lives inside and outside of the classroom.  By ‘student-centered’, I mean teaching and planning culturally relevant, meaningful activities that students can relate with and actively engage in. As teachers, we have the responsibility to prepare our students with the tools to be successful adults in their futures outside of the school setting.  We also want our students to enjoy and have memorable experiences while learning. By teaching these necessary life tools and providing memorable experiences, we are helping to foster the development of life-long learners. I believe when students have opportunities to engage with learning in a meaningful manner, they are much more likely to invest in their own learning and develop individual intrinsic motivation. As Bruner (1977) states, “The best way to create interest in a subject is to render it worth knowing, which means to make the knowledge gained usable in one’s thinking beyond the situation in which the learning has occurred” (Bruner, p.31). If we want students to apply their knowledge to experiences far beyond the classroom, it is imperative to offer authentic learning opportunities.

During student teaching, my letter-writing unit truly embodied my belief in teaching through authentic, student-centered tasks. In this unit, I guided my students through the writing process from planning to publishing, and incorporated the Six Traits Writing during the revision stage.  My objective was to teach my students the five major letter components as follows: heading, salutation, body, closing and signature.  Through teacher modeling, guided practice and independent practice, students received the skills necessary to successfully write a letter.  This unit not only embodied an authentic skill, letter writing, but it also had a purposeful audience.  My students addressed their letters to my former students in Japan. Every letter was student-centered, and focused on sharing information about their own lives, while also asking questions of the Japanese students.  I also consistently infused cultural information about Japan and the small town receiving our letters. To complete the unit, every student received a letter back from the children in Japan. I know this learning opportunity was a meaningful and memorable experience for my students. As in this unit, throughout my career as a teacher, I look forward to continually providing engaging, student-centered authentic learning experiences that will serve my students in their futures.

                                             Student Letter.jpg                    Japan Student Letter .jpg          

Cooperative, Caring Inclusive Classroom Community

Like any type of positive community, the classroom should be, at all times, an invitational and supportive environment, where students feel safe, cared for and respected. I believe a strong classroom community fosters respect for self, others and the world. It is essential to student academic success and positive emotional growth, to create a classroom that is a cooperative, caring inclusive community. This community needs to be welcoming and an environment that builds self worth and positive risk taking. I plan to create and foster this atmosphere by showing students not only that I care, but also how to treat one another in caring manners. According to Charles (2002), we as teachers can demonstrate caring by talking with students, showing personal interest, providing opportunities to learn life skills and offering encouragement (Charles, 2002).  I also believe developing mutual respect amongst students and a teacher is necessary in creating a classroom environment that is nurturing and encouraging. I will foster this mutual respect by closely listening to my students, creating opportunities to have positive interactions with every student every day, and displaying their work on our walls in recognition of their talents and efforts. Implementing weekly classroom meetings are another effective way to promote mutual respect, cooperative communication and conflict resolution. According to Nelsen (1996), “Such meetings provide the best possible circumstances for adults and children to learn the democratic procedure of cooperation, mutual respect, and social interest” (Nelsen, p.132, 1996). Classroom meetings provide numerous opportunities for children to respect and understand differences, communicate ideas, and work together to solve problems.  I believe if students can develop these understandings, then they should find it easier to have meaningful communications with others in all kinds of communities. 

A caring classroom community teaches children the importance of positive communication and the benefits of helping each other inside and outside of the classroom. When children feel welcome and valued at school they are more invested in their own, and their peers, academic and behavioral success.  As Sapon-Shevin states (1998), “Being a member of a community can help us to understand that together we are better, together we are stronger.  Learning to be an effective community member within a classroom is a stepping-stone to being a productive member of other communities” (Sapon-Shevin, p.17, 1998).  Providing opportunities for our students to work collaboratively is essential to creating this sense of community amongst students. According to Evertson, Emmer and Worsham (2006), All students can benefit from the support they receive in a cohesive group and this support helps create positive norms for learning and achievement (Evertson, Emmer and Worsham, 2006). By working collaboratively, students can learn about one another, create deeper friendships and begin to healthily rely on one another for support and help as needed. My cooperative, caring inclusive classroom community will allow all students to have a fun, productive school year filled with positive emotional and academic growth. 

High Expectations

All students are capable and high teacher expectations result in high student achievement. Students achieve their highest academic potential when it is expected, supported and appreciated. I believe in challenging students to achieve their best in all endeavors and to be accountable for their academic performance and social responsibility.  To do this we must hold high expectations for students, not limit their potential and be willing to set aspiring goals for all.  As teachers, we need to create a positive environment where all students can achieve success. Vygotsky suggests that well-designed instruction should be aimed slightly ahead of what a child knows and can do.  This view focuses on the ideas of student self-worth, ability, and continual growth.  By letting students know that we expect them to succeed and challenge their own abilities, we will consistently garner positive educative results.  

While teaching, I will never underestimate my student’s abilities and continually find ways to differentiate my instruction to better meet their needs.  While student teaching in a team taught 3,4,5 multiage classroom, I learned solid instructional strategies by which to differentiate my instruction: provide open-ended projects with room for extensions, offer varied entry points on assignments, create collaborative project-based learning activities, and develop interdisciplinary lessons addressing the varied learning modalities.  Through differentiation, I can set my expectations to meet each individual student’s level, this lowers the possibility of limiting students learning capabilities. When students see themselves succeed at new challenges it excites them and increases their desire to learn.  Generating this excitement is key to creating lifelong learners out of our students.

Conclusion

As a teacher, I must provide authentic, student-centered learning opportunities to generate learning worth knowing.  My expectations must always be kept high as to never underestimate a student’s potential. Lastly, my classroom must be a cooperative, caring inclusive community so students feel safe, valued and welcomed. By incorporating these guiding principles in all aspects of my teaching, I will better ensure the success of all students while creating positive and memorable learning experiences for every child.

References

Bruner, J. (1977). The Process of Education: A Landmark in Educational Theory.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.   

Charles, C.M. (2002). Building Classroom Discipline. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. 

Evertson, C., Emmer, E., & Worsham, M. (2006). Classroom Management: For Elementary Teachers. Boston, MA: Pearson Allyn and Bacon. 

Nelsen, J. (1996). Positive Discipline: The classic guide for parents and teachers to help children develop self-discipline, responsibility, cooperation and problem-solving skills. New York: The Random House Publishing Group.

Sapon-Shevin, M. (1998). Because We Can Change the World: A Practical Guide to Building Cooperative, Inclusive Classroom Communities. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

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