One of the unique aspects of my career is the intense familiarity with my profession; everyone has encountered teachers as part of their educational journey. As a result, they often have stories, opinions, and a personal narrative about my career. Most of the time this offers great conversation and exchange, however, being a student doesn’t mean people know the ins and outs of the teaching profession and one’s teaching philosophy.
I’ve molded my teaching philosophy from wonderful educators I experienced from a young age all the way up to college and graduate school professors. While there were probably teachers that were smarter than others, that never seemed to make them my favorite. So, what set educators apart? What made them my favorite?
First, they had to show they cared. Not only did they have to care about their subject matter, they also had to show that they cared about their students. When my teachers loved their subject it made me enjoy studying the subject in return. As a non-science major I took courses in college in geology and chemistry. Neither of the subjects were particularly interesting to me going in, but the professors made these subjects far more engaging than imagined. Specifically, Chemistry 105, allowed me to interact with practical information with a professor that was giddy with joy for his subject. Learning was contagious in that environment!
Next, when teachers demonstrated that they cared about me as a student I always gave more in return. It went beyond knowing my name or my older siblings (which wasn’t always a great connection), instead, I was hooked when teachers demonstrated that they cared about my learning and success in their classroom. In most cases, if I knew they cared, in return, I cared more about learning and performing in their course. Going to a small liberal arts college allowed me to have closer relations with my professors and served as a true value add to my educational experience.
Beyond demonstrating care, teachers that were fair, firm and fun were my favorites. In turn, those are the three adjectives I strive for when interacting with students. In my opinion, being fair means treating students equally on day 1 and at the end of the year, regardless of their background or performance. I attempt to construct a learning environment where assessments and daily lessons are fair to all participants. I certainly fail, but I strive to stay centered on fairness.
Being firm with students probably yields the largest payoffs in my classroom and beyond. I do my best to hold a line of high expectations and standards for my students. Students have to follow the rules of the school including dress code, honor, and respect for others in the classroom. In fact, I’ve always “written up” a great number of students for various offenses, but I don’t see this hurting me as a teacher. In fact, I think adolescents respect those that enforce the said rules. I’ve never cared if students like me, instead I’ve seen that remaining firm assures a mutual level of respect in the classroom.
Finally, while balancing fairness and firmness, I strive to be a fun teacher. Although sarcastic, I think I have a decent sense of humor and I try to share this with my students. But it isn’t cracking jokes that makes my classroom fun, instead it is probably my differentiation of instruction that makes things enjoyable. With a foundation of an environment that is fair and firm I can create learning experiences that push students to engage beyond the basics in the curriculum. That’s fun! I do some major projects as experiential learning endeavors that pushes students to learn more and do more. If I lose the zest for these types of learning objectives, I’ll probably stop finding fun in the classroom as well.
So what does this have to do with a blog related to confidence and cultivating change?First, these components to my teaching philosophy gives me confidence every day when I step into my classroom. At some level this confidence must be catchy. Likewise, I enjoy time with others that are fair, firm and fun. When I think of my closest friends the firm and fun qualities are obvious. They are firm in their worth and their standards and they are fun – they find joy in life! Related to fairness, how friends treat me and others in my presence shows me quite a bit about their character. Ultimately, I want my life to be full alongside people who show me these qualities and that genuinely care for others. Now doesn’t that sound fairly fun? Happy new year, friends. Best wishes to a better you in 2017!