Education Policy & Practice

Philosophy of Teaching

Philosophy of Teaching

Samantha A. Murray
August 15, 2008

My philosophy of teaching reflects the duality of my role as teacher and learner, neither of which should be disentangled from the other. As a facilitator in the learning process, one of my goals is to create and nurture a structured environment that is conducive to learning, a place where students feel comfortable, competent, confident and connected. I believe that the critical elements and indicators of an effective learning environment—student engagement, motivation, trust, team-work, high expectations, critical thinking—must transcend the seemingly impenetrable boundaries of the “teacher” and “student” roles and embrace human relationships. In other words, a learning environment can only be as effective as the nature and quality of those relationships (e.g., student-to-student or teacher-to-student) that support it.

I believe in the necessity of engaging in reciprocal learning and dialogue with my students. Establishing rapport and building trusting relationships with students is important for encouraging students to be comfortable and enthusiastic about learning. Far too often we are paralyzed by the fear of making a mistake, but making mistakes is unavoidable and therefore a prerequisite to learning. I seek to encourage my students to lessen their grip on that fear and to recognize and accept mistakes as a natural part of the learning process. We are natural learners, and I want to engage students, arouse their curiosity, and challenge them to go beyond the limits of their own imagination.

Teamwork is also central to my teaching philosophy. I attempt to convey the importance of this concept for the benefit of my students’ experience. From my perspective, a team consists of two or more individuals, which means that when I am working one-on-one with a student, we are a team. A team, when effectively developed and nurtured, provides a system of accountability, a network of support, and a source of encouragement. Teamwork requires a focus on individual growth and maturity as well as a sense of collective or shared responsibility. As an individual within a team grows, so the whole team grows. One of the quintessential elements of my teaching philosophy is my belief in setting individual and team goals (a tell-tale sign of my background as an athlete and coach). It is incumbent upon me to ensure that students recognize the interdependent nature of a teaching and learning relationship.

I derive great joy from being a teacher, and I have been called a “natural teacher” on more than one occasion. I am humbled by that distinction, but I am convinced that there is art and science to teaching. From that perspective, then, I continually seek to strengthen my skills and deepen my knowledge. The following quote, by an unidentified author, embodies what teaching means for me: “If they haven’t learned, you haven’t taught.”

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2 Responses to "Philosophy of Teaching"

Sam,
Your love and passion for teaching certainly comes across in your teaching statement. if there were an army of teachers, who like you operated with a similar vision, we may not be so concerned about disparity in education.

In a former position, I heard from both well seasoned and new teachers across public and private systems, that if it wasn’t for the politics, they may have a shot at teaching and helping students. The impact of obstacles are small qualification pools for employers, high-risk students and families, depreciated communities, and more.

What are your ideas about managing or seperating these issues for teachers and perhaps for the benefit of our republic.

Teachers Pet

Dear Moses,

Thank you for your comment and reflection. Education is political; there’s no denying that. Even a modest look at the expanding federal role in education and the proliferation of policies, legislation, and practices flowing from the No Child Left Behind Act will make this evident. And this certainly flows directly to the classroom, like river waters flowing downstream. Teachers and students are inevitably and systematically affected.

The politicization of education is nothing new, and my thoughts are informed by an examination of the history of education in this country, which was also quite heavily politically charged (let’s not forget the larger social and economic context in this country during the mid-to-late nineteenth century). Questions over financing public education, who should be educated (gender and race), and how, are just a mere sampling of the issues that were being addressed at that time.

In considering the question of “how” pupils were to be educated, take the large comprehensive high school, for example. It reflected the factory model of education, where a large number of pupils could be passed through the high school system as “units” rather than a whole child. It represented a growing popularity in wanting to have a form of schooling more advanced than grammar/elementary school, but not quite at the level of collegiate instruction.

High school education is but a reflection of the public school system and society writ large. The literature examines the beginning of high schools in this country in the nineteenth century, clearly explicating the hopes, struggles, politics, and other aspects of the debate (see Reese, 1995 and Labaree, 1988, for example). During that time, public schools represented mobility and prevented the solidification of social classes, which was particularly important to African Americans, and high schools became an increasingly important component of the public schools.

My suggestion here, is that one must thoroughly examine the history and development of the public education system in this country, in the social, economic, and political context, before we can begin to address present-day issues, such as the ones you’ve mentioned. If we are to truly benefit our communities and this society with a public school system that actually focuses on the child (the system is presently not designed this way), then the system we see today needs to be completely torn down and re-envisioned. Sure, reformers, parents, policymakers, and others have pushed for change; and there has been tremendous change. However, until we get to the very core and tear down old structures (physical and ideological), agree to a new way of doing things, our problems will continue. No amount of programming or policy change is going to make a real difference. The reality is that teachers CAN make a difference, even in the face of the myriad obstacles they face, but they make a difference in students’ lives, when the greater change needs to be structural.

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