This philosophy of teaching and learning statement articulates my pedagogical vision of my work as a teacher and is centered on three key beliefs. Exceptional teaching involves knowing my students, knowing my curriculum and knowing how to teach.
By embracing a student-centered and strength-based philosophy, my students will be encouraged to pursue their passions, take ownership of their learning and be empowered to develop a strong self-awareness of himself or herself as a learner. Teaching involves educating the mind, body and heart and instilling in students a life-long appreciation and love for learning. It is important to set high expectations for all learners and to ensure each individual voice is heard and respected. As we learned from the work of Ayers, strong relationships are fundamental to creating a safe, respectful, community of learners that embraces diversity and is inclusive of all students, regardless of cognitive ability, sexual orientation, cultural background, or family circumstance. Strong partnerships between home and school are fundamental. Students are not empty vessels. The background knowledge they bring from home shapes who they are and learning that happens outside the confines of the classroom walls should be supported and encouraged.
The second pillar of my teaching philosophy involves knowing the curriculum. Starting with the front matter of the program of studies, I will endeavor to uncover the big ideas and fundamental understandings that my students need to master and look to principles of Understanding by Design for guidance in planning my lessons. What do my students need to learn, how will they make their learning visible and how will I assess what they have learned? Assessment, both formative and summative, will inform my practice and drive my instructional decisions. Curriculum planning must also take into account the principles of Universal Design for Learning. Due to the diverse nature of my learning community I need to provide multiple ways of presenting information to students, multiple ways for students to express what they know, and multiple ways to engage my learners. Knowing what competencies students need to be engaged thinkers and ethical citizens should be at the forefront of my curriculum planning. Students need to be able to approach their work in creative and innovative ways, be able to think critically about the problems they encounter and communicate their views clearly and coherently. This requires students having strong literacy and numeracy skills, as well as, digital and technological fluency. Students need to be stewards of their environment and have a strong appreciation and respect for the rights and responsibilities of others at home and around the globe. As they develop their identities through the curriculum they study, students will begin to discover how they can contribute to their communities in a productive and positive manner.
The final pillar of my philosophy of teaching and learning involves knowing how to teach. Dewey was an early proponent of a hands-on approach to learning. In my classroom, learning will be dynamic, not static and as a community of diverse learners we will be encouraged to collaborate and construct knowledge together. Moreover, students need to be actively engaged in projects and activities that are meaningful, challenging and involve real-world problems. By approaching learning through an inquiry-based lens, students can be actively involved in the learning process, formulating questions, investigating problems and building new understandings and knowledge. Through an interdisciplinary approach to teaching, student will be able to discover connections between subjects and begin to understand and appreciate the relevance of each discipline to their everyday lives. Learning is a developmental and gradual process, so it is important to have well-designed, research driven lessons that encourage risk-taking, connect new information to what my students already know, and allow for students to express themselves in a variety of different ways. As an inclusive education specialist, I have been inspired by the work of Carol Ann Tomlinson on differentiation and the importance of addressing learner variance. Personalization of learning is important since all students learn in different ways and at different rates. Knowing how to differentiate instruction begins by looking at the classroom environment itself and being intentional in how each learning space is designed and structured. By recognizing the importance of the classroom as the third teacher, I will endeavor to design a learning space that fosters wonder, discovery, exploration and a sharing of ideas for all learners. Having a strong reflective practice, being actively involved in professional development opportunities, and being transparent and accountable to my students and other stakeholders in my learning community will shape how I teach. As I continue to refine and develop my knowledge of teaching and learning I will always be a learner first and teacher second.
A constant in all three pillars of my philosophy is the learner. I believe that my students come first and what I do in my classroom will be driven by the needs of those whom I am entrusted to teach.