Image: Hatnim Lee

Image: Hatnim Lee

education philosophy

Looking back at my favorite teachers, I can confidently say each one loved what they did. They loved their subject. They loved conveying their passion for it. They also thought their subject mattered and made it relevant to us students. I hope to achieve the same. I hope to enjoy the teaching of my favorite subject and the company of my students. Teaching has its frustrating factors such as unmotivated students and days when I will feel unmotivated as a teacher. However, despite the ups and downs, I hope that I will matter to my students and I hope the students will feel they matter to me. In class, we have discussed how caring teachers can make a difference in a child.

A favorite metaphor of mine for teaching deals with food. I love to cook and feel that cooking is how I express love to people. When you watch people enjoy their meal, you feel good about having made the food for them. Teaching is the same for me. I want to motivate the hunger inside my students. I know everyone is capable of being hungry to become his or her better selves and what I mean by better is becoming their more fully realized selves. Education can raise the awareness of a child and what a beautiful effect that can have. Whatever level my student may be at, I hunger for their engagement.

As a teacher, I will live for an awakening to take place in my student. I call that change the light bulb moment when he or she “gets” the new concept or worldview. These moments of catharsis are what I want to keep collecting.

To better explain my teaching philosophy--which boils down to having the love for teaching and love for students as well as having the desire to motivate and feed these hungry learners--I will address five guiding points. They deal with:

  1. my objective as a teacher

  2. teaching behaviors which I will use to exemplify my philosophical position

  3. my approach to classroom management

  4. the theories which I most identify with

  5. how I will grow as a teacher during my first five years and beyond

( 1 )

My objective as a teacher is to build a community of learners in a safe environment who will impact the outside world. Once I have the class’ engagement, I feel like I can lead them anywhere. I want to listen to each of my students to understand where they are and what they are interested in learning. Even if grammar is not their cup of tea, I want to find out what stories they are into now and use those stories as a vehicle to teach grammar. I might as well be smart about what I select to teach. I need to stay on top of what their hot button issues are so I can use them to lure them into grammar land.

What does a safe environment mean? It is a place where my students and I can share confidently our thoughts and stories without fear of ridicule or humiliation. We will not have to fear what we share will go beyond the classroom walls. It is a community where we share respect for one another and our thoughts.

I would like our classroom work to impact the outside world. In this way, I believe my students will feel their voice and thoughts will matter. We can share our work online through blogs. We can write to newspapers, authors, community activists, and politicians. We can write short plays and perform them for each other and for the entire school. There are ways to find an audience for what my students write.

( 2 )

The kind of teaching behaviors I will exhibit to exemplify my philosophical position will be giving respect and having fun through theater games. I will give respect to my students so they will return respect to me. I will establish respect through creating bonding and community. Bonding and community will create “safe space” for my students. A great way to establish class connection is through theater games.

These theater games can take from 3 to 5 minutes. We will probably stick to one or two each week. But I hope to get into the ritual of starting class perhaps with one and interrupting the middle of class, if it’s a 90-minute block, with another game. Theater games will require students to be on their feet. So hopefully no one will fall asleep. It will require concentration, cooperation, and fun. It will be a stress releaser and endorphin-raiser because of all the laughing that will follow.

Fun is important because I believe in the science of play. In order to facilitate learning, classrooms need some fun. During my field observation, an English teacher told me a colleague of hers held 30 second or 1-minute dance sessions to break up activities and lectures in class. I might consider employing that.

( 3 )

My approach to classroom management will have elements of traditional authority yet also have flexibility where I might be more of a facilitator more than dictator. It will really depend on the class I get. I have observed some classes having very attentive and respectful students. There is an air of quiet respect for the teacher. The students seem to care about what grades they make. In such a class, I do not think I will have to rule with an iron fist. However, I have observed classes where unconstructive energy is bouncing off the ways. The teacher spends so much energy quieting his students. In such a class, I will have to establish my authority quickly and maintain my authority.

Ideally, I prefer establishing authority from the beginning. I am all for community building but I also need the students to know who the adult is in the room. I will yield control to them for instance when they do Socratic discussions. However, the students will have to earn the privilege of having more student-centered activities. I would love the class to always be student-centered but am not sure I will be guaranteed students who can handle that.

( 4 )

The theories I most strongly identify with are the authoritarian approach to discipline, teacher expectancy effect, and building self-efficacy. The authoritarian approach as far as discipline goes agrees with me most. You need rules. But you also need some freedom, too—not just as a reward but as room to take risks, possibly fail, and grow. I want to give students freedom to choose what mode to express their projects in. For example, if they want to create a skit and perform it in class as their project, I am all for that. Some may want to write an essay and then accompany it with a painting. Some maybe want to do a comic strip. I would like to encourage different modes even though I teach English, which people traditionally see as words on paper.

As far as teacher expectancy effect goes, I want to expect exemplary performance from all my students. The ones who need more motivation, nudging, and validation, I will supply that for them individually as best as I can. I do not want to become the sarcastic teacher who becomes a “Debbie Downer” to her students. Teachers with positive attitudes are not only professional but their positivity can be contagious for students.

I am sure that I will inherit students of various abilities and motivation levels. I hope to build their self-efficacy. I would love to be the teacher a student describes as, “I used to hate English but this one teacher made it fun to read.” I want to demystify reading, comprehension, writing, and analyzing.

( 5 )

I will continue to grow as a teacher during my first five years of my career and the years following by taking more English and Education classes, traveling to take in other cultures and expand my humanity, and watch other teachers of various disciplines teach.  

Finally, I agree with the standards of how to be an effective teacher from INTASC. I especially find great resonance with the notion of creating learning experiences to make the subject matter meaningful to students. In our current culture where I feel students lead such distracted lives, especially with the rise in technology use, if we as teachers fail to make the subject matter meaningful then we will lose the students. It is their attention we need in order to motivate. Teaching almost seems like a seduction. We are luring them to adopt new philosophies and ways of living. We are not just shoveling information in and hope they will retain it.

When I looked over Virginia SOL standards for English at the secondary level, I saw how 11th graders focus on American literature. When I was in high school, I was an Anglophile and loved British literature. Interestingly, I am more patriotic now and would love to instill a love for American literature to my students. During my observations, we looked at slave narratives. In order to bring social justice to our children, we need to visit stories such as that. It is so important to plant the seeds of empathy in our young people.

I would love to be a teacher a student remembers and has fond thoughts of. I recall two teachers from high school. Interestingly, they are both not English teachers and English is my subject matter. One was a Spanish teacher who got us to debate about abortion in Spanish. No topic was hot enough not to bring into the classroom for her. The other teacher was a Physics teacher who always drew cartoon versions of problems we had to solve. He made physics entertaining with his sense of humor and live cartoon illustrations. I wonder what my students will remember of me.