See Part 5 for previous version…
I was asked to bring it in to a single page and add a personal teaching story. I know that two of my biggest challenges are talking about my intentions and being concise about it… Well, I gave it a shot… I’m grateful for any feedback you can give me…
My Teaching Philosophy
James is a sensitive and loving child. He really wants everything to be perfect and often gets overwhelmed to the point of tears and acting out when he feels it isn’t. I wanted him to know how ‘good’ making mistakes could be to learning and success. I decided to do a series of portraits using messy materials like oil pastels, because perfection with this material is a challenge for even seasoned artists. I started by showing a collection of weird and imperfect portraits in various styles, then demonstrating how I make portraits; I exaggerated features and said “oops” a lot. I then asked them where I might have made a mistake and how I might fix it. From their answers I would say “Thank you, I learned something new.” When they started, James was quickly anxious, so I stopped everyone to get their attention and asked: “Were my drawings perfect right away?” I got a lot of giggly answers to say no, they weren’t. I then asked: “what happened when you helped me make changes?” … James shouted out: “You learned how to fix it.” Me: “Did I look happy that I could fix it?” Students: ”Yes.” I then asked James: “Why are mistakes a good thing?” He quickly gave an answer that became the mantra for the whole class, repeated everyday and for every other subject: “Because we learn from mistakes!” Now I had a class full of collaborative risk-takers who were happy to help each other learn. I had my class of co-learners and co-teachers, and they continued to teach me something new everyday!
I believe teaching is about exploring connections. To their students, a teacher must be an ambassador of learning opportunities and a guide through their unique explorations. To do this effectively I embrace the practice of co-learning; allowing my students’ individualities and experiences to be signposts on our mutual journey toward a greater understanding of our world and how we experience it.
The opportunity to feed our curiosities has never been more possible than it is currently. The use of the internet is increasingly ubiquitous in the classroom; teachers need to provide students with tools to successfully navigate an information-rich society, a safe forum in which to unpack the information, and a safer environment in which to connect the information to their experiences. Here, more than anywhere, we must act as co-learning-mentors in the development of critical thinking. We must start this at the elementary level and continue it through all ages with an environment of mutual respect and openness to both our shared, and individual realities. Together, we nurture the greatest gift of self-efficacy; a life-long learner mindset.
My Core Teaching Values
- Freedom to experiment and explore improves problem solving skills.
- Expression over perfection fosters meaningful intentions and understanding.
- Embracing perspectives and experiences over right or wrong answers nurtures open-mindedness.
- Defining mistakes as positive learning moments encourages risk taking.
- Nurturing self-efficacy instead of subject mastery creates life-long learners.