My Philosophy of Teaching
I believe instilling self-efficacy and self-learning in individual students should be the ultimate goal of education. The student of the future, increasingly interacting with technology, will undertake a much larger role as a self-educator, self-motivator and in a way self-counselor. I will not propose a prescriptive pedagogy for how self-education should be undertaken in the classroom, the future is nearly impossible to predict, but I will express a few brief observations I have made about how educators can in the present day nourish these self-educating qualities in students and build their self-confidence and self-efficacy. Obviously peer to peer interaction will always be important, and in person teacher-student interaction will continue to be important to cultivate socially intelligent members of society, but nonetheless the self-empowered, self-educator, will be the student of the future.
After a long conversation with a teacher recently I was told “do you ever tell yourself that you are an intelligent person?” And while we both laughed, this later got me thinking about the times in my educational experience--K through grad school--that a teacher had told me I was smart in some way, and how it always greatly motivated me. But I had never taken note of the times I had told myself that, or the opposite. I saw the point of her question and we engaged in a lengthy conversation about self-confidence and learning. I believe that positive messages to students from teachers have a huge impact on student’s sense of, self-confidence, self-efficacy and ability to self-educate. Educators should tell their students they are intelligent or compliment their effort more often, while urging them to try to figure out tasks on their own, so that they may develop a belief in their own innate intelligence. A simple encouraging message, and a little modeling or guidance, goes a long way. It did for me along my educational path. But, what about self efficacy, or self-empowerment type self-talk? Teaching students this will increasingly become more important as students learn increasingly via technical means.
I was a TRIO writing tutor for a sophomore at Portland State University years ago and remember being incredibly frustrated by this student’s almost complete inability to write in complete sentences. I felt that I would fail him because I myself struggled with grammar and punctuation and was no master of these rules. Upon seeing his abysmal first few papers I had secretly decided that this student was not going finish college. However, after a semester of meeting several times a week, reading and working through grammar books together, and also working tirelessly on his school papers, this young man’s dogged self-efficacy refused to stop working. I encouraged him greatly to research and study on his own time. I kept telling him the best teacher he would ever have was himself. He showed great improvement by the end of the term, he was even eventually teaching me about nuances of grammar I knew nothing about. He thanked me for my help telling me he could continue to grow as a writer without our frequent meetings. We lost contact, but I ran into him a few years later when I was in graduate school--he was about to graduate with a bachelors degree--and we had a profound conversation about how at the time of our grammar lessons he was in a great fight with his insecurities and feelings that he was not going to make it, but he had self-motivating message he would whisper under his breath to himself every hour of every day.
A teacher should tell students they are smart, encourage their innate talents, but most importantly through modeling show students they are bright enough to continue their education on their own once the scaffolding devices of a teacher and classroom have been removed. Some students really need this. I was fortunate to have had a few educators along my journey that guided me to the epiphany that I could learn on my own through learning from my mistakes, thinking for myself, critically questioning my environment, and most importantly just trying by believing in myself. I have also been fortunate enough to engage struggling students that eventually took their education into their own hands after being weaned off a teacher’s guidance. I am not sure exactly how to propagate self-efficacy in my students yet, but I feel that just leading them to the realization that they are smart, critical thinkers, who with technology can help themselves is enough. Most students already know they can effectively learn on their own, but some just need a reminder through a little extra attention. With all this said, how students talk to themselves is important. Positive self-talk can be taught, and as education becomes less personal and more digital, this form of education I believe will become increasingly more important as students increasingly learn or interact with technology.