Friday, July 6, 2012

Philosophy of Teaching

           Teachers are  respectful, hard working, and dedicated individuals who dedicate their lives to motivating a student to reach their full learning potential.  Teachers must be on time, prepared, open-minded, approachable, and personable.  They must have these skills in order to communicate with their students, parents of their students, and other colleagues.  These professionals should listen to suggestions from said individuals in order to create a classroom that is connected and involved with their surroundings.  Teaching means being able to embody these aspects and using them to create a positive learing environment.  Each teacher has their own philosophy of teaching that reminds them of what their goals are for teaching in the classroom.
            My philosophy of  teaching science to elementary students is centered around student inquiry.  I will teach science in a way that provokes students thought processes and encourages them to ask questions on their own.  This way, students will be learning about things they are interested in and will retain the information they encounter.  Learning can be defined as the act of exploring, gaining knowledge of, remembering, and understanding intellectual materials that have been introduced or found.  As a teacher, it is my responsibility to create an environment where children can develop learning without restrictions.  I will foster personal achievement, knowledge, understanding, and growth through encouragement and hands on engagements.
            It is also my responsibility to set a positive example for students to follow.  I will be a role model for my students and I know my actions/attitude will impact them.  I will be very cautious in the classroom because young minds are very impressionable.  This means, I will need to control my emotions and negative feelings in order to create an environment where my students will not be effected negatively as well.  I will keep a positive environment so students will also keep a positive attitude and outlook for school that day.  My actions will help me to be a better facilitator of learning for the students as well because my mind will be focused on the students and daily material being covered.
            In order to be an educated professional, I will need to attend various workshops and continuing education classes.  The material that is taught in schools changes every year and new ways to approach student learning are also developed.  To teach science in the classroom, I must attend workshops and seminars because science is an ever changing field.  It changes because of developmental breakthroughs  in research and technology. I grew up with the understanding that Pluto was a planet, but since the definition of planet has changed, so too has this information.  This example is just one of the many reasons why it is imperative to continuously educate yourself for the benefit of your students.  Another beneficial technique I will use is to  keep an on-going reflection of my teaching practices.  I will need to know what lessons or labs worked or didn’t work with my students so that I can change them and make them better the next time I teach a similar lesson.
            The awareness of my students culture will also play a part in what lessons may or may not work.  I will be working with a multicultural classroom and one of the greatest challenges will be to recognize appropriate instruction and discipline that are congruent with each child’s community norms.  I will also need to recognize the importance of student perception.  As of now, I use implied directives to address students but in the future I would like to use more explicit directives.  I will find a balance between the two styles; this way students will not see me as a weak teacher and will respect and follow the rules I  set in my classroom.  In comparision, I must also respect my student’s, their culture, and understand their cultural use of language.  Students should not be disciplined right away just because I may not agree with something they do.
I must learn to access the situation, see how it may or may not be culturally accepted by their community, and discipline accordingly.  I intend to be critically reflective and conscoius of my social interactions with students in order to create a socially just classroom environment. Principles and elements that align with my ideals can be found in the Model Standards for Beginning Teacher Licensing, Assessment, and Development: A Resource for State Dialogue.  This publication lists six social justice related principles that I whole-heartedly agree with:
1. Priniciple 1: Appreciates mulitple perspectives.
2. Principle 3: Appreciates and values diversity, shows respect.
3. Principle 4: Values the development of critical thinking.
4. Principle 5: Understands how participation supports commitment, committed to the expression and use of democratic values in the classroom.
5. Principle 6: Values the many ways in which people seek to communicate, recognizes the power of language, appreciates the cultural dimension of communication.
6. Principle 9: Values critical thinking, reflection, and professional practice, committed to reflection. 
These six principles are what I am going to base my personal, professional self upon and will serve as the core values for the way I teach in my classroom.
            As a science teacher, I intend to create as many hands on activities as possible.  I believe that science is a subject best learnt through self observation and exploration.  Every lesson should be inquiry based (trusts all students to learn and every student is involved) and child-centered.  This will allow for students to become scientifically literate and make sound societal decisions.  To me, science is the exploration of the universe in order to gain knowledge about life. I will take every opportunity of leaning to educate the students  about all aspects of life.  I may be able to provide them with the knowledge they seek but they will not truly understand their scientific questions until they explore for themselves.  They must be willing to make predictions, ask questions, and articulate their understandings. 
            The best way for students to achieve this is by promoting inquiry in the classroom through the use of the Five E model.  Students will begin by Engaging; having a classroom discussion or small fun activity to get them interested in the lesson.  Then, students will Explore with hands on lab activities and experiences.  Next, they will Explain the knowledge they gained from the lesson.  The teacher will Elaborate on the main topic once again by showing a video/PowerPoint or doing another small activity with the class.  Finally, the students will be Evaluated through various forms of assessment in order to see if they understand the knowledge they gained from the lesson.
For students to clearly understand material, they must be taught in a variety of ways.  
Many children are tactile learners and prefer to complete hands on activities for their lessons.  These students retain information better when they are able to explore the topic by touching and feeling it.  Students who learn in the manner will excel at lab activities and science projects.  Some students are visual learners who like to read, complete visual charts, or watch videos.  When students are able to see what they are learning, they are able to decipher the information and remember it in ways that is best for them.  Visual learners will excel at creating graphic organizers and models that depict scientific processes and cycles.
Other students are auditory learners and enjoy listening to lectures, videos, and tape recordings.  These students process information best when they can hear it, think about it, and process it all in their mind.  Auditory students will succeed when a presentation is being made or their book is being read aloud.  E-learning is also a way to not only intergrate technology but to accommodate different learning styles.  This style would incorporate technology such as email, websites, PowerPoint, blogs, microscopes, and videos.  Students may prefer to have activities that involve all of these ways of learning in order to understand the topics they are dealing with.  The best classroom learning environment will include activities that will accommodate every students learning style.
I will create a learning environment that focuses on each students individual needs.  I will need to be flexible and have an understanding of my students needs in order to construct activities they will be successful with.  This success should not be determined through a formal assessment, such as a test, because some students simply memorize and do not actually learn the material.  I believe in informal assessments, such as checklists or conversations with students to truly find out what the student has taken away from the lesson.  I will still follow the Georgia Performance Standards for Science and align my instructional plan with that, but they will serve merely as a guideline for assessing my student’s performance and determining all areas of needed improvement. This guideline will serve also as an assessment for myself to see if I was truly able to foster learning in the student or not.

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