My Philosophy of Teaching

Reads: 1885  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
This was written as one of my portfolio assignments for my final graduate course, fieldwork -today. Read it and understand what kind of teacher I really am. I assure it that it is radically different than the original I wrote between 1997 and 2000.

Submitted: January 30, 2010

A A A | A A A

Submitted: January 30, 2010

A A A

A A A


Although I have spent a great many years studying education, I have always been rather independent in philosophy, even though there are certain theorists I agree with on certain points. In general, I believe that education is a universal tool for individuals to escape a life of poverty, depravity, and low self-worth. By no means is it a method that should be used to control the populace, or to force them to conform to society’s standards, rather, it is a way to teach every student to question everything with intelligence and knowledge. Yes, students need to learn how to get by in the real world and know the rules of the game, but not as mere players –as shakers and movers.
One of the earliest theorists whose ideals became enveloped by my educational consciousness was Mary McLeod Bethune. She set up a school for young, African-American girls with nothing, similar to how I had nothing for my first teaching assignment in West Philadelphia. She firmly believed that reading, writing and arithmetic were essential for everyone, in addition to practical skills for whatever career one wanted to pursue, even if it was homemaker. During my first years of teaching, although I was assigned to teach Street Law and World Geography, I developed transdisciplinary curricula that incorporated great deals of writing, reading, mathematics, science and the arts.
It was believed by my students that I truly was meeting the goals of Parkway Program, originally created in the 1960s to be an alternative school without walls for the academically talented. By the time I got to Parkway, the building was crumbling, the teaching was traditional, and the students had a wide range of intellect and ability. No one told me what Parkway was about, but my teaching showed that I did. Like Mary McLeod Bethune, I did not feel my students deserved a boring, watered-down curriculum simply because we were in the inner city, a clear contrast to my somewhat white supremacist colleagues. I gave my students the best, even at my own expense and trouble that went far above and beyond the call of duty. For example, my Geography students had no textbooks. So I went to the Greater Philadelphia Book Bank at 5th & Luzerne, no longer in operation, unfortunately, and loaded 100 World Geography textbooks into my trunk, weighing the rear to the ground. The next day, I had the students help me unload in shifts. I also bought all the supplies for my classes so they could be as creative in their learning process as they could be. I believed that they deserved as good, if not better, an education as their suburban counterparts. Sadly, my career at Parkway ended due to intense personal difficulties that began to infringe on my ability to effectively teach.
Another theorist whose ideals play a part in my philosophy of education is Pablo Freire. He believed that learning is a social construct, and socialization should be frequently used in the classroom rather than silent workings. My teaching often revolved around open-ended inquiry and problem-solving, student-centered in manner and requiring students to work in teams. Like Freire, I believed my students should be taught to be socially conscious, constantly questioning the world around them and working for positive change. Social justice plays a critical role in my teaching. I want my students to see how unfair systems really are, and to learn and utilize the inner workings of our systems. For example, we did a mock trial revolved around a group home being built for AIDS patients in a residential neighborhood where the residents were suing to have it removed.
Some of Abraham Maslow’s ideas also play a part in my teaching. His hierarchy of needs demonstrates that if basic needs are unmet, like safety, security, food, decent shelter, etc., then someone cannot move to the higher levels that eventually lead to self-actualization. I have always worked hard to insure that my students’ basic needs were being met. For example, I was teaching kindergarten last week when one of my students started crying. I sat him down away from the class to establish the problem, and he had not been fed before coming to school. The aide said that he never cried in school before. Knowing that the nurse had a stash of light snacks, I sent him there and he returned ready to work. I have always kept information available for my students, particularly when working in Philly, about locally available social services such as the Philadelphia Housing Authority, the PA Department of Public Welfare, Lutheran Settlement House, etc.  Of course, my own needs were often unmet, having spent several years living in a crumbling inner city house with 7 housemates where we functioned as a sort of commune. At one point, I signed on to teach in Baltimore, but arrived in the city penniless, homeless, and with no one and nothing but my car and teaching supplies. Had I kept in mind my own philosophy, I should have known that eating one meal a day at a homeless shelter and living with a drug addict who found me sleeping on a park bench my first night there was not going to help me be a good teacher. Thusly, I quit, knowing my unmet needs were interfering with my ability to teach and I was simply not teaching well. I regret the disservice I did those students.
Yet another theorist whose ideas play a role in my teaching philosophy is Howard Gardner. He came up with a theory that I thought I had discovered as a child –the Theory of Multiple Intelligences. It goes well with my philosophy that everyone is good at something, and it is our mission as educators to appeal to all types of natural abilities through our teaching methods. It is also our duty to get to know our students and find out what they are good at doing. By teaching in a transdisciplinary manner and appealing to all modes, all students can find success. If someone is a naturalist, it would be nice to have plants in the classroom for them to attend to and that student can be used to spearhead all plant and animal related inquiries. Allowing students multiple and alternative forms of assessment gives them a chance to decide what they are best at and what would be the best way to express their own learning. The classroom should give every student, including the musically or mechanically inclined, the visually artistic, the cooks, etc., a chance to shine.
In summary, I believe that every student should be able to find their way in the classroom, whether it be through socialization or isolation, art or words, whether they are poor or rich, black or white. In order for society to grow and change, we have to grow and change for our students as their needs change. Every student can be successful if given the proper tools and opportunities. Every child has the power within them to become a self-fulfilled, socially conscientious adult who seeks out to bring about positive change. As can be discovered through my autobiography, I am living proof of my own philosophy, and everyday in the classroom, I see eyes looking back at me full of hope and longing for knowledge that it is my duty to instill somehow.


© Copyright 2017 sophiaradcliffe. All rights reserved.