I believe in two mantras: Be the Difference and Cura Personalis. These two beliefs, one challenging students to maximize their capabilities both in their lives and their communities and the other challenging me to care for them holistically, are the guiding lights to how I approach teaching and my classroom environments. To see these come to fruition, I focus on the characteristics of being a good teacher and finding appropriate and effective methods to help students become champions of their own learning and effective and civically responsible members of a democratic society.
Starting with a clean slate allows for students to be seen as individualized learners, and differentiation becomes the center of student growth, activism, and change.
No good teacher can just draw everything tabula rasa; however, I draw most from this idea from John Dewey in my educational endeavors. Dewey’s philosophies of the democratic student and tabula rasa drive my approach to provide students with the tools they need to succeed. Because of this “clean slate, ” my students can mold and grow through their experiences to become better-informed and democratic citizens. Additionally, as a media and cultural studies teacher, I find joy in the arts and critical thinking. Both ideas are foundational in my philosophy of education. Maxine Greene, an activist of the arts and educational theorist, pushes for teachers to integrate art more commonly and effectively across the curriculum. Utilizing the arts will allow for more effective differentiation of instruction. Assessment and classroom instruction should not be focused primarily on the “three R’s.” Instead, students learn based on multiple intelligences. This puts a lot of support behind Greene’s challenge to teachers to place more importance on the arts in the classroom. Like Greene in the utilization of alternative methods of instruction, assessment, and critical thinking is Henry Giroux. Giroux’s method of thought emphasizes critical thinking and the media to generate a more informed student. He encourages teachers to push students to ask questions of production, intent, race, culture, audience, etc., when it comes to understanding, reading and producing media-based content. All three of these people have contributed significantly to my daily instruction and my overall thoughts and philosophy. Because of these ideas, I chose to enhance my curriculum with real-world writing applications, artistic and differentiated approaches to learning and assessment, and a more critical approach to media and cultural studies-based instruction. It is the thoughts from these three theorists that the rest of my philosophy is then framed.
Respectful and relationship-driven communities are built with compassion, communication, critical thinking, and culture.
A good teacher emphasizes four important qualities: compassion, communication, critical thinking, and culture. These four C’s, however, are not simply qualities or attributions that define a teacher’s character. Instead, these qualities are important to emphasize student-centered learning and instruction. My personal philosophy, enhanced by some of the world’s greatest educational thinkers, is driven by these four qualities. My primary goal is to help develop my students into informed, democratic citizens of the world. This is all done with a focus on experiential learning, providing the students with the knowledge to engage and discuss what is relevant to them; and how the exterior environment can shape, mold, and guide them. This can be seen through inclusive and respectful conversations and discussions; diverse and equitable curriculum, text choices, and experiences; and relationship-driven communities that are formed from conscientious interactions, student-centered curriculum, and a focus on the role students’ lives play in their learning and experiences. Ultimately, this learning style will lead to enhanced intrinsic motivation for students, self-advocacy, and a superior value of education and its place in society and culture.
The greatest theatre is headlined by the student, and there is no greater performance than the one in a teacher’s classroom.
The ability to put on a show is a priority in today’s educational environment. Students, and teachers, no longer want to simply sit, listen, and take notes. Instead, both need to be actively engaged and participate in the learning. To achieve my philosophy’s goals, the teacher must be able to organize and act. As Gail Godwin put it, “good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theatre.” This idea is crucial to be an active part of student-centered learning. By being able to interact, entertain, and educate the students through several styles of learning—changes in grouping to foster diverse conversations, using kinesthetic approaches to keep the students active, providing visual opportunities for students to express their knowledge as they may struggle with traditional methodologies, and focusing on learner-centered strategies such as graphic organizers and guided notes for students who may struggle with or encounter difficulties with the content—I see myself as being able to speak with the students, and not at them. This allows them to take the spotlight and me to coach them to their standing ovation.
Innovation is a product of experience; imagination leads to the most creative environment for learning.
Every good teacher will first give students the tools they need to learn and believe in themselves, or as J.M. Barrie once put it: faith, trust, and pixie dust. Every great teacher will allow the students to take those tools and experience how they generate the goals of the lesson or unit. Ultimately, the students, not the teacher, are creating a product. As a teacher, it is my job to ensure that my students are properly educated to compete, thrive, and think in the real world, and not just memorize the information or stories given to them. As a teacher of journalism and mass communication, it is important to be able to think on your feet, create active and engaging learning environments and lessons, as well as foster an atmosphere of critical thinking and cultural awareness—to teach students to fly to the second star to the right and straight on till morning. These are all traits I know I have. Additionally, my upbeat and energetic personality, superior organization skills, compassion, and ability to listen and communicate are all evident in my instruction and philosophy. Because of these traits, my current and future students will see and experience my philosophy of education in action, and they’ll never feel as though they are left to walk the plank alone.
Being introspective starts with confidence, and finding confidence comes from being a teacher-scholar — a person who believes in their knowledge and capability to help students. I live those beliefs in my everyday life.
One of the most important things I’ve learned about teaching is the importance of research to the practice of it. I have ingrained in me how best to conduct research, effectively analyze and present results, and apply research to practical situations to improve classroom instruction. I believe my teaching philosophy is only strengthened by presenting myself as a teacher-scholar. It is important to utilize data to better understand student success and recognize the impact culture and its various elements have on students and their learning. It is critical to remain theoretically and practically current to provide my current and future students with the best possible learning experience, and how to modify or accommodate that experience to provide all students with accessible and equitable opportunities in the curriculum.
A future is only bright if we’re willing to fail to get there. No teacher can lead students to personal growth if he cannot recognize the journey to authenticity himself.
I learned how to be a great teacher because of the many good and bad teachers in my life—both formal and informal. From my teaching idol—my third-grade teacher—to my mentors and colleagues, I have been shaped through my experiences, and it is this style of learning that I hope my students will experience the same in my classroom. I once was tabula rasa, but because I have learned from some of the best, my teaching and learning philosophy seems rather complete; however, that learning will never end. I recognize that growth cannot occur unless I am open and willing to learn from others, and I hope, if anything, to have this be the wisdom my students walk away from my classes with; it is in failing that we learn to fly. In these types of experiences, we learn the most not just about the content presented, but also about our most authentic selves in the process.