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Teaching Philosophy?

That my teaching philosophy is continually evolving should come as no


surprise; malleability and responsiveness are crucial qualities of any good
philosophy. But I am also a brand new teacher, at least in the realm of secondary
school education, and my philosophy is, accordingly, intensely volatile and unstable.
At the same time, there are some stable, guiding principles which I do not foresee
ever changing. These make up the foundation of my pedagogy and practice, and
help me keep my wits about me in the midst of the maelstrom which is learning to
teach. These principles are (in no order) as follows: rigor, adaptability, engagement,
relevance, and justice.
Rigor means a commitment to educating and to learning for both teachers
and students. Neither teachers nor students can be complacent, or education will
fail. Transmission of information is not enough; conceptual understanding is a step
in the right direction; versatile application of understanding and skills is the goal;
lifelong interest and engagement is the ideal. Preparation and execution is the key
to achieving rigor, from a teachers lesson planning to a students effort and
organization in attacking their assignments. Standards must be high in the
classroom, relative to student capabilities; they can be adapted and modified to
meet needs, but never compromised. If rigor is sacrificed to efficiency or comfort, all
will be lost.
At the same time, a teacher must be adaptable. Its become a clich to talk
about the pace at which the world is changing, but behind dead words one can
often find important truths which have simply ceased causing people to think. The
world is changing, and rapidly; and it is imperative that teachers and educational
institutions pay attention and adapt accordingly. I cannot hope to teach my students
anything if I do not take into account their needs and the ways in which they live
their lives. Why should they invest their time in me and my lessons if I am not
willing to invest time in learning about the things that are most important and
necessary to them? Using a lesson over and over again because it is effective is
understandable, but teachers must always be looking for ways to improve and
change with their students. In todays world, this absolutely means incorporating
technology into ones teaching practices and developing multiple forms of literacy in
accordance with the prevalence of new media.
By engagement, I mean the level of connection between students, teacher,
content, and methods. Some students still respond well to traditional models of
education; many do not. Some students still read books; many do not. Teachers
must create lessons which negotiate these realities in order to facilitate the
connection between students and the materials they will be studying and the skills
they will be developing. Rigor will ensure that students are being challenged, and
adaptability will allow teachers to possess the knowledge necessary to match
lessons to students needs. But teachers must also create a living, breathing
learning experience, for nothing will be learned while students are prisoners in the
classroom. Teachers must convince students to invest their time and attention in
their education, and so engagement becomes a means of obtaining consent.

Everything can be made interesting if the teacher is willing to translate his or her
passion into thoughtful, innovative, and diverse practices.
Engaging lessons depend upon translating content into the contemporary
lives of students. This means understanding the skills that are important in todays
world and that will be demanded of students when they enter the workforce.
Teachers must also keep abreast of developments in teen culture, whether
technological, ideological, mythological, or whatever else. Good teachers make
material relevant to their students, because students should not be expected to
willingly invest their time in something which has no tangible or demonstrable
relation to their lives, either current or future. If we are to insist upon a corporate
model of education (and I do not see this changing anytime soon), we must use the
logic of business: would any of us invest our time and money in a product or
performance that we find both uninteresting and useless? We cannot expect
students to think any differently than the system in which they are embedded.
Finally, every classroom should strive to be just. Teachers must get to know
their students and try to understand their wants and needs. Power structures must
be made transparent in the classroom, and students must be taught the critical
literacy skills necessary to decode the world in which they are living. Social justice
discourse should be an organic part of every unit, and students should be
encouraged to engage with difficult issues facing them in their day to day lives. At
the same time, issues of positionalitydegrees of privilege and marginalization
must be made essential parts of the social justice curriculum. Social and emotional
learning, too, must be incorporated into lesson plans in order to help students
develop healthy relationships with themselves, teachers and students, and the
greater world around them.