Sunday, March 1, 2015

Can You Describe Your Teaching Philosophy in a Tweet?

This week, I was asked to describe my teaching philosophy… and I was caught a little off guard. Can you believe it?  I stumbled a little, hesitated over words. Me, who is happy to talk about teaching any time, any day.

I think it was a hard question for me to answer because I haven’t tried to summarize it, to make it into a brief statement, for a very long time.  Probably, the last time I intentionally described my teaching philosophy was in a PSU class maybe 12 years ago. 

I guess it’s time to update, if only so I can answer this question without thinking, next time.

So… the 140 character, tweet might go like this…

Teaching Philosophy:  Encourage students to discover their gifts, to find joy in learning and confidence in self expression.

And the elevator speech… my one minute teaching philosophy, the what’s most important to express and impress upon the potential employer or customer would go like this…

I am an educator.  It is my job to create an environment where students learn how to learn.  I plan opportunities for my children to interact with ideas, and the world. I give them skills to ask questions, develop ideas, and test their theories. I establish a safe place for kids to make mistakes and keep trying.  I give students opportunities to create, and to share their thinking. I build a community of learners who trust one another and believe in possibilities.

And the essay question response, maybe to present in a class when I decide to go for my phd or my administrative license…

We are all learners, all the time and everywhere.
My teaching philosophy is rooted in the idea of learning as a life long pursuit and process, it is what we do every day as we interact with the world.  We are learning all the time! Some lessons are intentional and carefully crafted, some are sought after, and others are the result of luck or environment or accident.  It is my role as educator, to create a framework for this learning.  I want my students to have the skills needed to seek out and take from these life lessons what is important and relevant, for them to be in control of the lesson learned.
  1. Teach reflection (exit slips, learning logs, journal, blog)
  2. Make connections between home & school (communication, project based learning, invite experts, flexibility in making curriculum connections)
  3. Offer choices (maker space, free choice, discovery time)
  4. Act gently with patience and kindness (reflect on what students are learning about self-worth and identity while in my care)
Each person is unique and special.
I firmly believe that each person is gifted with unique talents and will contribute in a special way to the world we live in. It is my job as a teacher to help my students discover their gifts. I want them to see that they are important members of our community.  I want my students to know that we are better because they are part of this group.  Each of my students is missed when absent, and we are happy to greet each other in the morning, and share our day together.
  1. Teach with learning styles and multiple intelligences in mind (make it visual, auditory, interactive, kinesthetic, independent, quiet, structured, open ended…)
  2. Offer choices for showing how you know (write, draw, sculpt, act it out, answer questions, discuss, present…)
  3. Give opportunities for highlighting non-academic skills (sharing time, community building activities)
  4. Make time to connect with each student every day (confer, check-in, a hand-shake, a smile, keep the door open & make time to talk)
I can teach skills for inquiry and discovery.
I teach my students how to learn, and give them opportunities to practice skills in  meaningful and relevant contexts.  I teach students strategies for decoding and reading comprehension. I teach habits of mind and interaction for mathematic problem solving. I guide them in discovering strategies for making connections and for metacognition.  I teach them the process of scientific inquiry; and isn’t it wonderful that this applies to all of our learning about the world?  Observe. Question. Hypothesize. Research. Experiment. I want my students to find relevance at the end of all this, to tell why this discovery or idea is important to them or in the world.
  1. Integrated curriculum planning (read and write about science, use math to solve problems and answer questions, show understanding in creative ways)
  2. Teach skills explicitly (with guided & independent practice) and give opportunities for decision making about which skill is most efficient in this real context.
  3. Provide access (supports & scaffolds) and extension opportunities in projects and lessons.
We are social beings who need to communicate.
We live in a wonderfully diverse world full of ideas and perspectives, ways of being and interacting.  We want to be understood, and should seek to understand.  Literacy skills are fundamental to our ability to communicate with one another.  Students need to practice listening, speaking, reading and writing in everything they do.  
  1. Listen to students, parents and colleagues.  
  2. Watch for, listen and respond to non-verbal communication.
  3. Celebrate and value the multi-lingual and multi-cultural community in which I live and work.
  4. Share my perspectives, teaching methods & philosophy with students, colleagues and parents (in various ways & in the home language).