My teaching philosophy is closely aligned with sentiment my favorite H.S. teacher (Mr. Conley) wrote about on the same topic, and recently shared with me:
"We have to give some real thought as to what we are attempting to do as teachers. Our role is one of enlightening others to believe in themselves and help them to develop the confidence to “Go confidently in the direction of their dreams and live the life they have imagined” even to the point of making them aware that they have the right to have a dream. Then it’s a matter of igniting that dream and giving them the tools to make dreams a reality. Each student must come to realize that your class can be a route to accomplishing those dreams. Until students see the relevancy of what is happening in your classroom, to the accomplishment of those dreams, they will not buy into the benefit of attending your class every day. A teacher can catapult students from a life of mediocrity to one of endless possibilities. We must be prepared to meet our students where they are and show them the way to get to where they want to be. We can provide the springboard from which students can launch a life that will make the world a better place.
"When I accepted my first teaching position I had no idea what to expect as I had not spent any time as a student teacher. When I look back I am grateful that I had to forge my own path as this gave me the opportunity to learn what was going to work for me. Fortunately for me I would learn within the first few weeks how important a teacher could be in the life of his or her students. The aha moment happened when a parent walked into my room after school one day. I had no idea what to expect but with some relief she began thanking me for all that I had done for her daughter. No knowing who her daughter was I had no idea what she was talking about. She began exclaiming how after just a few weeks in my class, her daughter had come out of her shell and was earning A’s and B’s in all her classes. I’m sure I registered a look of surprise as I had no idea why my class had been responsible for this change in her life, to which she asked, “didn’t you know she has always been labelled as mentally challenged” to which I replied that I had not. In a short while I was to learn that her daughter was the little seventh grade girl who chose to sit near my desk on the first day school, the same little girl who I had enlisted to help me with all the administrative duties of organizing my classroom. She seemed to me more than capable as I had no reason to doubt her ability to carry out the tasks I had asked of her. Aha, what an incredible lesson for me to learn in those first few weeks, students will live up to how they are perceived. She rose to the occasion when somebody believed in her.
"Students respond to how we make them feel. How they feel about us and the environment we create in our classroom will determine their experience. They will see through us within minutes of walking through our classroom door. We only have a few minutes in which to assure them that their experience in our classroom is going to be a positive one. Somehow they must be made to feel that they matter to you, that they will have your love and respect and that what you have to offer is going to impact their lives in a practical and meaningful way. They must feel safe. Your classroom must become a place they want to be. They must feel that nothing they experience in your classroom is a waste of their time. They must think of every activity in your classroom as being relevant to helping them create the life they want for themselves. Because most of us desire immediate gratification, we need to keep in mind that they will not settle for some long range goal we might have in mind for them. They are going to be far more motivated by the here and now. They have to come to realize that what they learn in your classroom is applicable to their lives right now. Students act out when they are bored or when they feel they are wasting their time. They must all feel that they can contribute to the class; that they are valuable members of the group. They must all fee that they can succeed. Get rid of the bell curve idea when it comes to evaluating student performance; why must we accept that most students will fall into the “average” range? Adopt the idea that we can all reach our goal, accepting the idea that we all learn at a different pace. The focus has to be on believing that we can all achieve our goal and none of us has to accept mediocrity; it’s our job as teachers to make sure all of our students succeed."