why teach?I decided to become a teacher in a rather surprising (even to me!) life U-turn in 2011. It was not something I was keen on previously, but I was certain when I changed career directions, and I've had even more time to think about my answer to "why teach?" since then. My teaching philosophy, then, is a work-in-progress: as life experiences shape me, they give me new perspectives. In its current form, it is premised on three beliefs that I hold.
three beliefs1. The Quarry Workers' Creed
We who cut mere stones must always be envisioning cathedrals.From a medieval stoneworkers' guild, this creed reminds me that I must not lose sight of the bigger picture of what my work will eventually do amidst the struggle of getting through the everyday tasks. I must therefore believe that my work is of long-term value, and keep the larger perspective.
2. The Book of Proverbs, Proverb 22, Verse 6
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.Parker Palmer's almost-cliche quote from The Courage to Teach (1997) goes: "You are who you teach." Accordingly, since my Christian faith deeply influenced my decision to become a teacher, it is no surprise that I hold on to Proverbs 22:6 as a reminder of what my ultimate mission as an educator is (or, to extend the analogy in #1, what my cathedral will look like).
3. "Every Child Needs A Champion"
Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connections and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.Finally, I am deeply influenced by Rita Pierson's TED talk from 2013, titled Every Child Needs A Champion. A veteran educator from an extended family of educators, she describes herself as having spent her whole life entire life "either at the schoolhouse, on the way to the schoolhouse, or talking about what happens in the schoolhouse."
I resonate with her background: I too come from a family of teachers, including my parents, and watching my mother spend her entire professional life in education deeply influenced my own decision to become an educator as well. In the talk, she speaks of relationships as being integral to the practice of education. From watching my family and their careers in education, I can remember incidents where I was impressed by the relationships forged.
Accordingly, I believe that I must build relationships as I seek to educate. I need to connect with my students and support them, that I can bring out the best (the "cathedral") in them.
teaching philosophyMy teaching philosophy therefore, is expressed in the following short statement:
I believe:I have intentionally bolded the words unwavering belief and relationship that conveys that belief. This is because the difficult part of this philosophy is not likely to be merely having a belief in the students: I believe all teachers have that belief in their students at some point. Therefore, being unwavering in this belief is essential. Beyond that, having such a belief without it being tangibly felt by the student is also not helpful: it must be expressed in a teacher-student relationship before it will have the desired effects on the students.
that I must have an unwavering belief in my students’ potential,
that I must build a relationship that conveys that belief in them.
what does this look like?Therefore, in practice, it would mean:
- That I must never give up on them, academically, socially, or otherwise.
- That I must cheer them on, and encourage them.
- That I must cling on to that belief even when no one believes it, even themselves.
- And that I will build rapport with them to make sure that they become the very best that they can be.