Being Taught to Teach


Teaching Philosophy
September 7, 2012, 6:22 am
Filed under: My Papers, Reflecting

As we got started this semester, one of our professors asked us to write a short paper on our teaching philosophy.   I believe that while some beliefs should be rooted, like the idea that every child can learn, others will change as a teacher reflects on and refines their practice.  Below is the teaching philosophy I have come up with so far, but that I hope will be revised and edited many times on my path of being a reflective life-long learning teacher.

Being a teacher is like being an expert at puzzles, it is important to see the overall picture and find the pieces that fit together.  I always like to start these statements about my teaching philosophy with the idea that I believe all students can learn.  That being said, I believe that it is my duty as a teacher to help find the best ways in which students can learn, to understand them and their needs as a learner.  Another piece of that puzzle is getting to know the whole child, not just who they are during math or behind a book, but outside the classroom too.  What is the student good at?  What do they like to study?  How have they learned in the past and what has been successful for them?  These are all things that need to be asked of students.  Answers to these questions will be a good boarder to the puzzle, but really helping a student learn is dependent on more.  An authentic, caring relationship needs to be established.

Let’s take a look at my first statement: all students can learn.  Now I believe this to be true, however not all students can learn in the same way.  As Howard Gardner has discovered, there are eight noted intelligences: spacial, intrapersonal, interpersonal, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, linguistic, logical-mathematical, naturalistic.  By knowing a student well and which of these intelligences they fall under, lesson or projects can be tailored more to fit their style of learning.  I do not think that this sort of tailoring will make learning easier for the student necessarily, but rather it will make it more accessible and I hope allow for better retention of the over arching concepts.

Although tailoring lessons for student’s individual learning styles is ideal, it is not always doable.  In addition to attempting this there are other methods that will help.  For one, allowing students to construct their own knowledge will help them hold onto it.  This construction must also happen over time.  When an idea is introduced to a student as a first grader, that cannot be the first, last and only time they learn about it.  The first time they learn about a subject they will be getting the bare-bones of the concept, but they will need time to leave and come back to this idea to build on it again.  This is the idea of spiral curriculum (I am not really sure how to reference one of Anna Richert’s lectures from last year, but if I could I would).  Educators must communicate with one another across grade levels to help give their students a complete picture of whatever subject they will be tackling.  The younger grades have to lay the foundation, older grades will add to it, yet older grades will look at it in more complex ways, and even further along, students should revisit the “completed” puzzle under a completely different set of lenses.

Finally, with all these ideas about how to teach behind me, how do I actually get them to listen?  I have to create an authentic, caring relationship.  In order to do that I not only have to get to know the child, but I have come from a place of understanding who I am as well.  I have to be willing to acknowledge who I am and that I, as a person, have biases and beliefs that my upbringing has instilled in me.  My beliefs are not always going to match up with my students, but by knowing what they are, I can better assess and address situations; I can be authentic about who I am.

If I had to sum up my teaching philosophy in a few words, I would say that I am a constructivist teacher who is concerned about where my students come from, who they are and where they are going, so that I can help them complete the pictures that they are piecing together.