My Teaching Philosophy

Please excuse my English Major tendencies, I can’t help myself. To explain my teaching philosophy, I must first explain feminine narrative structure (this will make sense, hang in there). Everything in life is a narrative, school is no exception.

What are most frequently exposed to in education is the masculine narrative structure, i.e. beginning, middle, end. Looks like this:Maculine Plot Structure

Aside from the sexual implications regarding the climax and immediate “falling” action, this structure just does not work for me. It’s too linear, too limiting, and does not encourage continuity.

The feminine narrative plot structure, however, looks like this:

Feminine Plot StructureThe feminine narrative branches out in loops, always returning to the center; the tip of each petal acts as an individual point of excitement or pleasure or satisfaction. The shape of the narrative is a circle, cyclical. Everything is connected. The center point (a significant figure, place, or theme) propels each new narrative forward and supports it lovingly on its return back. Generally, it is a more nurturing, calming, yet dynamic plot structure as compared to the masculine (in my opinion).

My class will function as such. As an English teacher, the center of my educational daisy is expression. No matter what branches we embark on as a class– be it punctuation, sentence structure, essay writing, vocabulary– I will connect that lesson back to expression. It is important to me that my students open their mouths and speak, so I will require it of them: you don’t speak, you don’t get an A. Quite literally, my classroom will be a circle. On days designated for discussion, we will sit in a circle (Socratic dialogue anyone?). In the grander sense of content organization, I will also organize my curriculum cyclically. The last thing we study will connect to the first, and everything else in between. My job as a teacher will be to make those connections apparent to my students.

I believe in emotion, especially in the study of literature and poetry. It is important to me that each student feels comfortable to express emotion in my classroom. Since I intend to teach high school, a time when students are changing, exploring their sexuality, and embarking on their first tastes of adulthood, I think this freedom of expression is crucial and healthy for their development. One of my most memorable experiences in my education was listening to my high school English teacher read aloud (I still remember that it was Whitman’s Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand), her voice cracking, watching the tears roll down her cheeks. We all cried along with her. For that instant, we were all united and equal in the power of words; it was a shared experience (Dewey 1938).

Now don’t get me wrong, my class will be more than reading poetry and crying about it. I am a stickler for grammar and writing structure (I have strong beliefs about the power of writing and I insist that it be done correctly), and I am driven to help my students learn how to write properly. When it comes down to it, the only way to constitute and measure student learning is through evaluation. Aside from the lovey-dovey stuff, I believe in the entire grading scale. I will test my students’ grammar skills often, along with practices in more involved writing (essays), and I will grade according to results (not perceived effort or how much I like/dislike the student personally). I am certain that many of my students will think my class is “hard.” Good. Those who do not show improvement, will be required to see me individually for a grammar one-on-one lesson. (Doesn’t that sound fun?!)

I am already semi-aware of my teaching philosophy because of my experiences in the fitness industry. I have worked in a few gyms and personal training studios, and in each place I have consistently been referred to as “The Hard One.” I enjoy challenging people. Let me toot my own horn here and also say that I am usually the trainer with the most positive feedback. Students (humans) crave a challenge. There’s nothing wrong with being “hard,” being direct, having high expectations, and that’s just the person I am. My theory is you can be hard so long as you’re funny. And I’ve got that covered.

Now that I am delving into my own philosophies, I find myself understanding Dewey more, and agreeing with him. What I have expressed above, i.e. being free thinking and free feeling while maintaining my status as “hard,” falls in line with Dewey’s thoughts regarding educational plans and projects within progressive education. Which is to say, it doesn’t matter how progressive you are, you still need to plan, still need to have structure, still need to challenge the students; otherwise, to use Dewey’s words, “they [the students] are at the mercy of every intellectual breeze that happens to blow” (Dewey, 1938, p. 51). I hope to act as a windmill to these intellectual breezes; taking my students’ wild whims and channeling them into something productive. I want my students to leave my classroom feeling inspired, challenged, and with a good joke or story to tell. I want to see their minds bloom like daises before my eyes.

 

References

Dewey, John. (1938). Experience and Education. New York, NY: Touchstone.

Plot (narrative). (n.d.). Retrieved January 25, 2012 from wikipedia.org: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plot_%28narrative%29

Bellis perennis. (n.d.). Retrieved January 25, 2012 from wikipedia.org: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bellis_perennis

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6 Responses to “My Teaching Philosophy”

  1. […] a continuous experience. I hate to seem self-important, but I couldn’t help but think to of a blog post I wrote in my first education course (Foundations with our own Dr. Coffman). The post is entitled […]

  2. acrerie says:

    Jen

    I want to apologize if I seemed harsh in my “you don’t talk, you don’t get an A” statement. I can be a little harsh some times (I’m working on it). I’m also a huge believer in small group discussions, which (as you rightly stated) will make the more shy students comfortable enough to speak. Even then, though, the students are opening their mouths to speak… So my statement stands.

    Also, public speaking is an important skill. It is totally nerve-wracking/terrifying/awful for some people, and I recognize that, but it is an important life skill– gotta start somewhere.

  3. lhyde says:

    I agree with both you and Jen about the “hard” teacher being the best one. I like Jen’s additiona comment that when the hardness is “tempered with obvious care, concern, and respect for the students” the teacher is especially successful. I have the same opinion as I look back and assess the teachers that I’ve had and consider to be the best.

    Very articulate post! Nice!

  4. Jen says:

    I liked what you had to say about organizing your curriculum cyclically and making students aware of the connections. I think it’s important to make connections across the curriculum.

    In reference to your comment about making students open their mouths and speak or they won’t get an A, I think it’s important to remember individual differences. Not every student is an extrovert or comfortable speaking to the class as a whole. In addition, some students may be from cultures or backgrounds (American Indians and some Asian cultures, for example) where timidity is valued over assertiveness. I was a shy student who rarely spoke in class and it pained me to be called on by the teacher; however, that did not mean I was disengaged or unwilling to participate. I think small group or buddy discussions are an effective way to bring more introverted students, English language learners, and others comfortably into the classroom conversation.

    I also agree with you that “hard” teachers are effective because they set high expectations and demand the most out of their students. In my experience, those teachers were successful because their hardness was tempered with obvious care, concern, and respect for the students.

    You have a well articulated philosophy, but I don’t need to tell that to the English teacher!

  5. jacquie says:

    Reading your post made me visual your classroom and I thought about how I would enjoy being a student in it. When I ask my study hall students about their English class I get responses like “it’s boring” and “we’re not learning anything.” They are not feeling the excitement of a dynamic classroom such as yours. I think it’s great you will focus on emotion if you are going to teach the high school level, because everything they do is run on it. It also sounds like your students will thrive off the challenges you introduce and no one will be left behind – because you won’t let them! I can feel the passion for teaching in your voice and that makes for a great teacher.

  6. Your connection to experience – one that brought together a collective group into a moment of shared experience – is one example of developing experiences in a classroom. Connecting with the content in new and different ways, through a shared and collective experience – all to create an individual experience for the learner that they can later pull from and connect with in future experiences. Well said.