“If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse: however, if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming,
I will help you become that.”
I’m sure many teachers remember doing this exercise during their undergraduate studies. I remember having to write my teaching philosophy after I completed my student teaching assignment and frankly, I was lost. What could I know after only a few weeks?
Certainly my ideas have changed over the past twenty-four years so I sat down to write and put some thoughts to paper.
Teachers see the potential in every student and work to nurture and develop every shred of ability within that student so that they may become all that they imagine he/she can be. Without knowing me, you may read this with a skeptical lens and view it as trite and favor-seeking; however, this is what I believe good teachers do. They embrace a set of beliefs and values which afford them this paradigm. I believe every person has value and wants to contribute and feel necessary and important to our society. Teachers have a responsibility to teach the curriculum, and to develop the essential thinking, reading, writing, and associated skills. But I also believe that good teachers develop appropriate and ethical relationships with students so that they can challenge, push, demand, develop, earn trust, and help them learn.
I firmly believe in the tenets of a liberal arts education. As a teacher at the middle and high school levels, my classroom approach has always included a humanities focus. For example, in my Advanced Placement European History class, my students learn about the rise of western civilization through the examination of primary sources, reading and analysis of essential texts, engagement of plenary discourse, use of Socratic questioning, and through critical thinking and writing. I have always believed in these essential methods to create scholarship and help students learn not only the curriculum, but also to learn more about themselves and their perspectives of history.
I think that to be an effective teacher you have to love your subject matter. I came into the profession somewhat reluctantly with a degree in Business Education. My thinking at the time was to give teaching a try, and if it’s not for me, then I will search for a career in business. I quickly learned in my first year on the job that I loved teaching, and I also learned that I need to teach content which I am much more interested in and passionate about; this led me to the Social Studies. I love teaching history and civics. History is the recounting of stories and the lessons which can be gleaned from them. The power of any story, however, is determined by the nature of the people involved and the quality of their ideas. History, at its best, illuminates human imagination and helps us understand the intersection between individual interests and the collective or public will; between the notions of “real” and “ideal.”
I believe in the education of the whole child. Academics, arts, and athletics serve as a fundamental recipe to help students grow in a way that affords them a well-rounded perspective of their role as a citizen. As someone who grew up in a small, rural community, I am particularly proud of the public education I received. I participated in three sports in high school, was on the speech team, had roles in plays, played in the band, and sang in the choir. While my academic course offerings were not as numerous as those seen in larger schools, I took advantage of the few choices I had to push myself and I was fortunate to have dedicated and caring teachers who took a personal interest in my development as a student and as a person. I learned much from my teachers and coaches, and the variety of experiences in the classroom, on stage, and on the field, challenged me in many ways. This is why I believe teachers need to find additional ways to contribute to their school community outside of the classroom. This practice provides teachers other avenues to build appropriate and ethic relationships with students and help them grow.
Finally, I believe teachers have a responsibility to develop a love of learning within their students. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will the scholarship of the student. Their learning will continue throughout their lifetime and the rate of that learning is often dependent on their curiosity and the skills they developed along the way with literacy being perhaps the most important skill of all. I believe that when a teacher is genuinely passionate about what they teach and they work to continually develop their own learning, this behavior provides a great model to develop life-long learning within the student. Rome was built ‘brick by brick’ and a person’s scholarship is developed through experiences, and in some ways, ‘book by book’, throughout their life.