Reflection: What It Means to Teach

Teaching Philosophy

I believe that teaching is a noble profession. What we do as teachers is important and it affects not only our students, but also our local communities and our world. I enjoy being able to touch students’ lives positively by encouraging their intellectual development, critical thinking skills, personal growth through self-reflection, and natural curiosity. I enjoy getting to know my students as individuals, watching them learn and grow, cheering on their successes and guiding them past their failures. I feel a sense of pride when I see one of my students overcome an obstacle through perseverance, take a stand for what they know is right, accept a challenge head on, or step outside their comfort zone in order to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. It is important to me that my students all feel that they are welcome in my classroom and that I create an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding.

For the past nine years, I’ve taught freshmen; in my mind teenagers embody the essence of humanity. They’re just starting to figure out who they are, what they believe, and where they belong. It’s a tough time, but it is also an exciting time. They are bound to make mistakes and stumble on the way, but that is what we, as members of their adult support team, are here for – to guide them through the bumps and hiccups of adolescence. This is where my teaching style has its strengths. I am at heart a facilitator, a guide, a coach. I believe that students learn best when they are allowed to interact with each other, discuss concepts and strategies for understanding, and engage in questioning and supporting their claims with detailed evidence in order to demonstrate their knowledge. In order for these things to occur, it is often necessary for teachers to scaffold their approach and materials, model skills and metacognitive thinking strategies, and differentiate instruction for individual learners.

Literacy isn’t just part of what I teach, it is something I’m passionate about. Literacy has many different facets and is one of the cornerstones of success – in academics and in life in general. It is a skill and knowledge base that directly affects the quality of one’s life. Today’s students must be able to read and write effectively, speak articulately, and be good listeners to get ahead; however, there are other facets of literacy which are becoming more and more important in today’s global economy. It a world where we are surrounded by digital media, digital literacy is just as important as being able to read and write. Students must not only be able to locate information and read or interpret it, but also evaluate its relevance, accuracy, and reliability. It is essential for students to be able to think critically about what they read and view.

When it comes to methodology, I often favor a combination of class discussion, group work, and mini-lessons to keep students engaged and scaffold instruction for students who require more support. I use formative assessments to gauge my students comfort with new concepts and skills and to allow for review as needed. Summative assessments in my classes often include differentiated projects, essays, tests, and quizzes. Differentiated projects allow me to provide a challenge for students who are capable of digging deeper into content or are interested in demonstrating their knowledge via more creative means. It is also important to provide appropriate accommodations for students with special needs; it is essential to keep an open line of communication with special education teachers, guidance counselors, and parents in order to ensure the success of all students.

Reflection is the foundation of growth for me as a teacher. Taking the time to jot down little notes after a lesson or in the margins of a novel in order to improve my instruction or delivery the next time I teach a unit or a specific concept allows me to learn and grow as an educator. I appreciate student, parent, and administrative feedback because we all have our blind spots and they may see and bring to my attention something I haven’t noticed.  Afterall, we don’t stop learning just because we’ve graduated, earned a degree, or become a teacher. There are always new recipes to try, new books to read, new trails to hike, new hobbies to discover, and classes I’d love to take. Learning is an ongoing process throughout life and I’m a naturally curious individual. I’m a life-long learner and I hope to instill that desire in the students I teach.