My focus in the classroom is on making learning both accessible and meaningful to each and every student without exception. I believe that literacy across all content areas is the key to students’ futures and I believe it is my job as a teacher to engage students in the learning process and help them achieve the knowledge and ability to choose their own path.
Below is my philosophy of teaching written during my second year of graduate school as part of the Chicago Public Schools student teaching application (with a word count maximum of 500, thus its succinctness!).
If you’re interested in reading a longer version of these ideas, also attached below is “Choosing a Literate Life,” a position paper I wrote on literacy during my first semester of graduate school.
My Philosophy of Teaching
I believe that the purpose of education is ultimately about possibility, opportunity and choice. Education is where we acquire the tools with which to see the possibilities that exist for all of us; to discern the opportunities we are interested in pursuing or to create them on our own; and to ultimately choose who, what, where and how we want to be. I believe that education is where we learn to understand and consider diverse viewpoints, making us better people, better citizens, better neighbors. I want my classroom to be a community that works and learns together. I want to instill in my students the ideas of rights and responsibilities—that we do not go to school just to learn to read or write; we go to school to learn how to participate and contribute and improve our lives and those of others around us. I want the education we achieve together to be a source of positive change in their lives.
I truly believe any so-called deficiencies, be they lack of financial resources or of background knowledge, can be overcome by education. But I want my students to understand that education is more than moving beyond the negatives, rather an outright striving toward the positives, to joy and satisfaction in our lives because of the choices we have made. I want every student in my classroom to have the opportunity to engage in higher-order thinking, to become critically literate, active participants in the world around them, and to make relevant and meaningful connections between what we are doing in the classroom and their own lives. Teachers are there to develop possibilities. The important thing is that our students see all the options, that we help them achieve the knowledge and ability to go in any direction.
I believe that the purpose of education, in general, cannot be narrowed to getting a better job or helping America beat other nations in some misled competition. I think that education is about something much more important than ultimately a job or your place in the workforce. You can always choose to do less than what you are capable of; you can choose a job with lower pay because you like it more—but without education, without being literate, you would not have the knowledge and ability to understand the different paths open to you. Being a literate person moves you beyond limits, beyond negatives, beyond financial status, to a place where joy and fulfillment are there for the taking.
As a teacher, I want my students to discover that learning is more than just the basics or getting through the school day, month or year. I want them to understand that learning is a way to live all of life, be it in school, in the workplace, in their homes, or in the larger global community. We always have the right to change our lives; we must be literate enough to see both the obstacles and the opportunities and choose our own path.