I do not subscribe to one philosophy of education, but rather I hold an eclectic philosophy regarding education. First and foremost, I believe that education has many interrelated purposes, but most importantly, it is a diverse and intellectual foundation for students to continuously and comprehensively build upon. Students should be repeatedly taught a core curriculum providing them with a foundation in the liberal arts, and specifically in English, as both implied and literal boundaries exist for those who cannot communicate effectively in their personal and professional relationships. This foundation should continue to be developed and evolve as students mature and get older, while simultaneously allowing for them to explore elective areas which are not mandatory, but rather reflect the individual interests of every unique student in order to empower them and give them ownership over their learning. Education systems, teachers and students have a responsibility to encourage and promote social change and improvement, for by examining and learning from history and the trials and tribulations which were endured by many people of different races, ethnicities, genders, and generations of people, students should strive to actively improve the world in which they live.
After completing a comprehensive liberal arts public education, students will have achieved a variety of goals. They will be critical thinkers, possess adequate and basic skills in every subject area, be knowledgeable about a range of cultures and not just dominant Western culture, have a sound moral compass and have cultivated areas of personal interest in pursuit of a possible career path. Students should have a clear understanding that despite their personal background, socio-economic status, and other related factors, they can pursue anything they choose in life, with determination, perseverance, and hard work. Student roles and responsibilities include being active learners and completing work to the best of their abilities. They must rise to challenges, work independently and with their peers, yet also be able to function in the classroom under the authority of the teacher and her expectations.
Teachers have many roles in the classroom, from acting as a coach, a role model, a guide, a mentor and an observer. A teacher's role in a classroom is to provide a safe and welcoming environment and to educate her students in the most ethical and unbiased manner as one possibly can, even if that means putting aside personal values and beliefs. Teachers must ensure that despite very controversial information that circulates around all important topics, students are nonetheless adequately informed, rather than victims of censorship and ultraconservative practices. Teachers are meant to assess students’ individual capabilities, and then encourage, challenge, and intellectually provoke students to question and make sense of the world around them and help them to develop a sense of self, complete with independently developed morals and values, not ones that are a result of conforming to the dominant society. Teachers should use a variety of teaching methods in the classroom, including discussions, lectures, small group work, presentations, technology, role playing, socratic seminars, authentic projects and assorted class configurations. Further, teachers must utilize and incorporate different strategies and teaching methods that appeal to all different types of learners, including visual, auditory, read/write and kinesthetic learners. By using different methods, teachers are also learners, despite their position of authority in the classroom. Through these different teaching methods, they should be observant and able to develop strategies and reflections as to which methods work best with what classes and students. However, all ELA teachers should execute lessons that have real world value and emphasize or reinforce life skills and literacy skills.
My passion for reading and writing as a child, adolescent and young adult led me to this profession, and I think these passions will continue to evolve and grow as I have more experiences in the field of ELA education. I base my teaching philosophy, accompanied by best practices, on my own experiences as a student and teacher, for I adamantly believe that ELA teachers are a critical part of all education systems, as all capable readers and writers have a greater potential to succeed in other areas of subjects, out of school, in jobs, and on any required standardized test. My philosophy will continue to grow and develop, and I look forward to seeing where my career takes me and how I change as a person and as a professional. I can’t help but be curious as to how my philosophy will change depending on where I work, how long I am in the field, and the types of students, parents and co-workers with whom I will interact. Further, by having a philosophy prior to entering a classroom, I hope I will be steadfast in my beliefs and goals, rather than blindly adapt to perhaps the fashionable philosophy of the day. However, one thing will never change, and that is my passion for being a life long learner, an educator, an avid reader, writer, and believer in the power of education to be transformative to students and teachers alike.
Below (left): Desks are arranged in rows and students work with partners. Below (right): Students will work in small groups at the round table.
I employ several different techniques to implement an effective classroom management strategy. First, I try and be proactive in that I outline my expectations with students on the first day of classes, regarding guidelines for their behaviors. I also give them an opportunity to contribute to and/or edit our classroom rules if they feel there is an additional tenet that should be recognized.
Upon entering the classroom, all students need to enter into a structured environment on a daily basis, with clear directions in order to focus their attentions. Thus, I begin my classes with a “Do It Now,” or DIN, which is a short activity that introduces students to what we will be studying on a particular day or that is relevant to our on-going studies in class. Examples of DINs include reading a short article from the newspaper that relates to what we are studying in class and answering a few questions regarding a relevant topic. Or, if we are doing a thematic unit on courage, students may answer a question such as “What is courage? Who is the most courageous person you know? Why? Explain.” DINs immediately get students focused and thinking about the issues at hand.
Another classroom management technique that I exercise is having a daily agenda posted in the classroom. An agenda eliminates students’ anxieties about what we will be doing in class and allows them to anticipate our upcoming work, further emphasizing a structured environment. I provide them with a clear outline of what our daily schedule will look like, our objectives, the essential questions that we will cover, and my expectations of what work we can and will accomplish in our class time together.
Another technique that I utilize in my classroom is a general code of behavior with one main tenet: respect. Students must show respect for themselves, their peers and their instructors. Meaningful learning cannot occur in a classroom that does not consist of a community of respectful members. Thus, respect is the foundation of a classroom community where members feel comfortable and strive to collaborate and share.
As of supporter of Brian Mendler, my classroom management philosophies are closely related to the ideas that he promotes. First, I believe in keeping all kids in the classroom so active learning is taking place. When students are removed from the classroom frequently, they are essentially not getting the education to which they are entitled. However, students need to be removed in two cases: when the learning of others is disrupted and/or when physical violence occurs or has the potential to occur.
However, there is a way to ensure that students’ behaviors remain appropriate, and that is through active engagement and interest in the class work. To get and keep them interested, class work involves constantly implementing stimulating work that relates to the students’ lives, such as pop culture, current events, and music. Thus, I teach both ELA and life skills while maintaining their interest. These adjustments will result in fewer behavioral problems because students’ energies are focused on the task at the hand and they are interested and engaged, therefore minimizing potential behavioral problems.
When a student cannot focus, there are several procedures that I use prior to drastic consequences. First, I position myself around the room and am constantly moving around, using nonverbal cues when necessary. Thus, if a student isn’t on task, my presence usually alerts and refocuses him/her. If this method is not successful, I quietly address the student by name and remind him/her of the task and try to direct him/her away from the inappropriate behavior. Finally, if neither of these attempts is successful, a student is asked to leave the classroom. I briefly confer with him/her and issue one final chance to re-join the classroom community. If the student cannot, I ask the student to leave the classroom and meet with an administrator. However, this is a drastic measure that I seek to avoid, as I believe that all students have the potential to be positive contributors to our class community.