My Educational Philosophy
As a pre-service teacher, I have begun putting a great deal of thought into the type of teacher I would like to portray. I believe that a teacher is much more than someone who designs and delivers lesson plans. A teacher must not only serve as an educator, but also as a parent, peer, counselor, and most importantly, an example worth looking up to and following. An effective teacher should have the ability to look around and listen to students in a classroom, recognize problems whether they are academic, social, etc. and have the courage to dive in head first and address those problems to the best of his or her ability. Finally, an effective teacher must be able to use his or her creativity to relate academic lessons/issues/concepts to things outside the classroom.
Over my years in elementary, middle, high school, and even college, I have seen far too many teachers who have stood at the front of the classroom and lectured for the entire day/period. This is not a method of teaching that I think highly of, and this is not the type of teacher I intend to develop into. I believe that any individual, whether certified to teach or not, can step into a classroom and lecture in front of a group of students, but it takes a special kind of individual with the right methods and personal touch to really get the intended message across in a way that reaches every student. Instead of trying to get my students to learn the way I teach, I will do everything possible to teach the way they learn. My own thoughts on teaching and learning go hand-in-hand with Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory, which is centered on eight intelligences that every individual is thought to have. Once I determine each child’s dominant intelligence of the eight, the MI theory will help me to reach each student on a level that is most suitable to them. Because no child is exactly the same and because no child learns exactly the same way as another, the MI theory is a great way to teach students. By recognizing the dominant intelligence in each child, I can plan lessons accordingly and develop assessment techniques that will address the different intelligences present in the class, giving each child an equal opportunity to succeed in my class.
Now that constructivist classrooms have begun to emerge and are playing such a major role in schools across the country, I can design lesson plans that support my expectation that every student will be able to construct their own learning, when provided with the necessary tools, resources, and knowledge to get them started. I believe that a great example of teaching in a constructivist manner is through the use of manipulatives, particularly in a mathematics lesson (e.g. manipulatives may include geo-boards, pattern blocks, plastic money, etc.). In building constructivist lesson plans and developing a constructivist classroom, I recognize that learning objectives are the most meaningful when negotiated between the teacher and the students, instead of being demanded by the teacher to the students. In addition, I recognize and highly encourage cognitive dissonance (a.k.a. mental messiness) because I believe this is a fundamental building block in the learning process. If students do not experience mental messiness and confusion during the learning process; if everything comes easy to them or is “handed to them”, they are not really learning. Instead, students must be taught and given the freedom to construct their own learning experiences by combining the knowledge they already have with new ideas/concepts/knowledge to construct meaning and make sense of things.
I often hear people mentioning a productive learning environment. In order to create and maintain a productive learning environment for my students, I must provide my students with open access to manipulatives, tools, resources, etc. that will allow them to learn in a way that best suits them, no matter their learning style or dominant intelligence. The most important thing I will provide them open access to, is one another. Students need to be able to communicate with one another and have the opportunity to share ideas and assist one another when assistance is needed. I do not believe that “children should be seen but not heard” but instead, that children are the single most important tool in not only their own learning, but the learning of their classmates as well. Another aspect contributing to a productive classroom is a teacher who is a leader for not only his or her students, but also for co-workers, administrators, and parents. Students’ education will also benefit greatly from being in a learning environment where they feel safe, both physically and emotionally. For example, feeling emotionally safe may mean not being afraid to raise your hand and participate in class. In addition, I am a strong advocate for the use of anti-bullying committees at all grade levels, and believe they are necessary in every school across the nation. Being a victim to bullying can ruin any child’s experience in school and I see it as an unnecessary distraction (especially since there is so much we can do to decrease occurrences of bullying or put an end to it completely). When it comes to bullying in any form, I have a zero tolerance policy. People of all ages experience enough bullying outside of school without it being brought into the learning environment to interfere with what should be a comforting, supportive, and motivational safe haven. In summation, open access to a variety of resources and zero tolerance for bullying combined with attention to the various intelligences and a constructivist classroom, are among the most important contributors to a productive learning environment.I believe that every child has the right to learn and the right to be taught in a way that works for them. As for diverse learners, I intend to take the time to consider every possible learning style when designing learning objectives for each of my lesson plans. In addition, I will use books/novels in my literature/language arts lesson plans that can also provide knowledge about events in history, etc. By doing this, I can reach the students who may not have the ability to learn a particular subject using traditional teaching techniques, by relating that subject closely to a subject that does come easily to them. As for addressing cultural differences in my classroom, I believe that starting the school year by asking students what they “expect” or “wish” to learn about in any given subject will give me the opportunity to hold every student’s interest. Although I need to stick to the required curriculum and make sure that each of these topics are taught throughout the school year, I can do my best to incorporate the students’ outside interests into my everyday teachings. In addition, I will remain up-to-date on current events and things happening throughout different parts of the world and a variety of ethnicities and religions. This will help me to maintain cultural awareness and constantly show each student respect and teach my students to respect one another and appreciate diversity.