My teaching philosophy is grounded in beliefs that educational environments and structures should be constructivist, filled with authentic opportunities for learning and assessment. Furthermore, classrooms should be models of inclusive and democratic societies. Finally, learning should be meaningful and emotive, based upon student interests and integral to larger societal needs.
Learning happens best within an environment where the teacher(s) and students construct understandings together. Students and teachers should feel free to ask questions of each other, and to try new skills and improve existing ones. Assessment should be inseparable from instruction, ongoing, and mutual (between student and teacher) from the establishing of expectations to final evaluation. It is the teacher’s role to facilitate, guide, and gradually release the responsibility for learning to the students.
All students, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic level, or ability, deserve a rich and holistic curriculum, and should experience learning in as inclusive an environment as possible. Teachers should model unconditional acceptance of and compassion for all people. A classroom should be democratic, allowing for mutual construction, negotiation, and assessment of norms. Every day should include time for class discussion about these processes. Teachers and students should work together to persevere through hardships and overcome adversities, regarding them as powerful learning experiences.
In a successful learning environment, the building of character/citizenship and the development of academic knowledge and skills are inseparable. When student interests and passions are the foundation of learning activities, motivation is intrinsic and students’ personal growth naturally emerges from that motivation. The learning process is as important as the content. Ideally, deep, authentic, service-based projects should be the vehicle through which students grow to understand both concepts and processes. Learning experiences should be purposeful, emotive, risky, and collaborative. They should cause one to personally reflect upon what is happening, and time for reflection must be purposefully and frequently provided. Instruction that is geared only toward “learning” new facts that lack depth, context, or are of little relevance to the student limits the potential to produce significant, positive change in people and society.
In order for classrooms to be places where students and teachers construct meaningful learning within a democratic and inclusive environment, there must be support for this philosophy. Teachers who have the artistry and ability to bring this philosophy to life must not only be allowed, but encouraged to do so by their colleagues, administrators, and community. The ideals of the kind of classroom I have described can only truly blossom within a larger society that reflects them.
"We are crew, not passengers." -- Kurt Hahn, Founder of Outward Bound