Freire and Ladson-Billings have strong thoughts on what teaching is and should be so I've written a teaching philosophy, one of many to come, that will at least get me started as I figure out what teaching is to me and how I want to go about doing it.
My educational philosophy is based on the foundation that all students can learn, and that learning is best done through inquiry. People are naturally curious. Everyone naturally seeks out knowledge whether that be a baby experimenting, a toddler trying new foods, a primary student performing a baking soda experiment, and on up to cutting-edge researchers. Teachers need to encourage their student’s natural curiosity, so they become self-motivated learners. Effective education encourages curiosity and inquiry while pushing students forward; however, poor education makes individuals avoid learning.
Effective education takes advantage of humanities inherent curiosity. Lessons and curriculum should be tailored to consider student interest and prior knowledge while focusing on guiding students to develop critical literacy so they can become increasingly independent learners. Since an effective English Language Arts classroom should help develop student’s own discovery of knowledge, instruction needs to focus on giving students tools. We want to teach them to fish not give them a fish. Teaching literary theory is one aspect of this approach. Literary lenses are a “tool box” students can use when looking for themes and ideas in novels to help them process what they read. Another aspect of the “toolbox” approach is giving students reading strategies they can use that scaffolds them through more difficult texts. Some example strategies are re-reading, summarizing, note-taking, and more. Filling students’ “toolboxes” teaches them ways to understand and approach texts so they can work progressively more independently using the methods that they have learned.
To compliment this toolbox approach, the method of instruction should put focus on the student. Most of the classroom time should be spent on students tackling discussions, texts, and ideas themselves so they can practice utilizing the tools they have been taught. As the year progresses the teacher should do progressively less scaffolding and instead moderate as students produce ideas, create research projects, and discuss topics. Less is more when it comes to the teacher talking. A student focused classroom can be worked towards throughout the year by teaching students the tools and strategies they need so they can work with progressively less direct support from the teacher.
Keeping expectations high, guiding students to consistent modest improvements, and using materials and topics relevant to the student body keeps motivation and curiosity high. Since my philosophy rests on the natural inclination of everyone’s curiosity it means that every student wants to learn. While ability, speed, and areas of interests will vary it still should come as a relief to educators everywhere that what we want our students to do is a natural part of life. Every student can and should be taught up to their potential because they both deserve the wonders of literature and critical thinking and every person deserves to embrace their love of learning. In order to have students take intellectual risks, failure may happen when students push themselves, classrooms need to be a safe and welcoming place. Open communication free of abuse and ridicule should be at the forefront of any classroom’s norms.
My classroom will be a welcoming place that pushes students to take risks in order to learn and develop their skills and knowledge. Working together my class and I will make learning an active and ongoing process throughout the year with a focus on developing critical literacy so that students can continue to educate themselves even when they leave my class.