I grew up in a highly competitive environment where the love for A’s and hatred for B’s was used as my driving force to get through school. Consequently, I was forced to be introverted because the fear of being wrong was overwhelming. I’ve come across teachers who never admit their mistakes, preventing me from feeling comfortable in the classroom setting. My peers believed that their teacher was always right, and that learning could only go from teacher to student. How do students truly succeed in an environment where no one cares about the learning process, but are more focused on the grades that followed? You can have A’s in school, but still flunk life. Late in high school, I had an inspirational teacher who was able to do what no other teacher was able to do for me. She fostered a love for learning, eradicated my fears, created a comfortable environment to learn, admitted her mistakes and unleased a new drive within me. To me, she is a wizard for doing what other teachers failed to do. She defined greatness by showing me where to go but didn’t tell me what to look for. The latter was my responsibility, but she was the secret to making learning enjoyable. The “Wizard of Oz” is a beautifully crafted allegory to understand my teaching philosophy and what I hope my students will learn from me. An exceptional teacher is like a wizard, who must eliminate fears and help each and every individual he/she may come across to appreciate the true potential that lies within them. Moving forward, I seek to be that role model for all my students. My goal is to teach the whole being, the emotional, cognitive and behavioral dimensions that encompass a human being, regardless of the subject. I always tell my students that it is okay to FAIL. In my eyes, FAIL stands for First Attempt In Learning. No one should fear failure when that’s what the word “fail” truly stands for. I seek to dispel this knowledge among students to help foster a positive mindset towards mistakes, in an attempt to motivate students rather than allowing them to hinder themselves as a result of their failures.
I decided to pursue a career in academia so that I could encourage and work with the generations of students to come. Teaching is at the core of all my academic activities. The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL) and the Interprofessional Education (IPE) standards helped me identify and utilize instructional strategies to ensure that students learn in the most effective way. It seeks to create an atmosphere that fosters a healthy learning environment which promotes social interaction. Higher education must go beyond simply “passing on” information. Teaching is multi-directional and more than a one way sharing of knowledge from teacher to student. Teaching can be student to teacher and student to student among various other combinations. If a student asks me a question and I don’t know the answer, how does that make me any different from my student? First and foremost, it exposes a gap in our knowledge, not just my student’s. This gap ultimately presents an opportunity where we can learn and grow together. I have no fear in telling my students that dreaded three-word phrase “I don’t know.” I admit the shortcomings to my students so they may realize that I don’t have all the answers but I’m willing to learn with them. Having that barrier taken down allows students to lessen fears of being wrong and empowers a close interprofessional relationship with their educators. I seek to help students realize that failure is sometimes inevitable, and in fact, it is through failure that we learn and grow the most. For me to teach a student anatomy, I need to know the anatomy, but I also need to know my student. I strive to understand my students and their needs so I can tailor my presentations accordingly. An important aspect of teaching is to identify the approach that works best for the individual. This approach revolves around the concept of humanism as the focus is placed on the individual student. As an educator, I want to help students reach self-actualization while providing opportunities to gain more experiences, through exploration and observations with their peers. This enables constructivism, so my students create their own understanding using what they know from past experiences to link new information. This combines connectivism, where educators identify where students need help and assist them without giving away the answer. I believe that connections are best made when students are taken through this process. This philosophy is best explained through Mark Van Doren’s quote where he describes the art of teaching as the “art of assisting discovery.” In forming connections between a plethora of concepts, teaching will extend well beyond the lecture room or lab. For many students, the most powerful lessons are learned in informal discussions, working through concepts during office hours, and encountering science hands-on.
Regardless of content, I hope that students leave my courses with skills that they will use in their everyday lives such as problem solving, critical thinking, and effective communication skills. Teaching is an art form and a lifelong process, where I will learn new strategies, ideas, and philosophies. I will evolve with my own philosophy, and as for my lifelong journey this is just the beginning.