I believe in two mantras: Be the Difference and Cura Personalis. These two beliefs, one challenges students to maximize their capabilities both in their lives and their communities and the other challenges me to care for my students holistically, are the guiding lights to how I approach teaching and my classroom environments. To see these come to fruition, I focus on characteristics of being a good teacher and finding appropriate and effect methods to help students not only become champions of their own learning, but also become effective and civically responsible members in 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, it is this idea from John Dewey that I draw must from in my educational endeavors. Dewey’s philosophies of the democratic student and tabula rasa drive my approach to providing students with the tools they need to succeed. It is because of this “clean slate” that my students can mold and grow through their experiences in becoming better-informed and democratic citizens. Additionally, as a teacher of media and cultural studies, 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. In Giroux’s method of thought, critical thinking and the media are emphasized 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 not only my daily instruction, but also my overall thoughts and philosophy. It is because of these ideas that 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 placing an emphasis on 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 style of learning will lead to an 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 participating in the learning. The teacher, in order to achieve the goals of my philosophy, must be able to organize and to 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 in student-centered learning. By being able to interact, entertain, and educate the students through a number of 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 my 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: the 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. In the end, 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. It is because of these traits my current and future students will see and experience my philosophy of education in action, and that 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 capabilities of helping students, lives those beliefs in his everyday life.
One of the most important things I’ve learned about teaching is the importance of research to the practice of it. How best to conduct research, how to effectively analyze and present results, and how to apply research to practical situations to improve classroom instruction have all been ingrained in me. By presenting myself as a teacher-scholar, I believe my teaching philosophy is only strengthened. 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 to the curriculum.
A future is only bright as long as 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 teachers, both good and bad, 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 philosophy of my teaching and learning 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. It is in these types of experiences that we learn the most not just about the content presented, but also about our most authentic selves in the process.