23 February 2012

Before I was a teacher...

I just finished an online course, and the final assignment was to write a Philosophy of Education.  For the first time, I shared MY philosophy with my students--and I got a good laugh at reading what 22 year old Kristi had to say on the subject.  Here's what I shared with my students (and no, this would NOT be my philosophy today...I'd take some out, add some...maybe I'll do that when things slow down!):

A couple of years ago, I came across this in a box of college stuff.  It's my Philosophy of Education, written in August of 1997.  To set the stage, I'd just finished my fourth year of college and was getting ready to do my Student Teaching so I could graduate in December 1997.  What you guys don't know is that by this time, I'd gotten involved in Student Activities and had decided that I would finish my degree then go straight into a Master's program so I could achieve my goal of being a University Vice President by the age of 35.

Well, I'm 37 now...and I never did complete that Master's.  The Boy of my dreams proposed a couple months after I wrote this, and I went back to my original plan--to get married, move home to the Houston area, and teach.  There's a lot more to this story, obviously, but that's where I was.

Here is my philosophy in all of its untouched, unedited glory.  I'm not sure what the parameters of the assignment were, but I think it's pretty obvious that I had mixed emotions about teaching at the time.  I was patting myself on the back for not being TOO idealistic...then I read the last paragraph and had a little laugh at my own expense.  :)  Enjoy, friends--you guys are light years ahead of where I was when I started teaching...and I think this is a great example of someone who has the heart for teaching but had lots to learn about HOW to be a teacher.  A year after I wrote this, I started teaching...and a year after that, I started my second year of teaching as our district's Rookie of the Year.  I don't tell you this to brag, but to show you that YOU can do it, too!

Philosophy of Education

I have a very definite opinion about my role as a teacher.  First and foremost, it is not the students’ responsibility to learn how I teach.  It is my responsibility to teach how they learn.  I will always give students the benefit of the doubt.  Every day is a new day.  The problems of the day before are left behind, and everyone has a clean slate.  I will strive not to alienate any student by playing favorites.  All of my students will be my favorites, and will have the same opportunities.

I am not the only teacher in my classroom.  Each child has something to teach and share with the others, including me.  All of my students will be both learner and teacher.  And I will be a learner, as well as the teacher.  All students can learn.  I will continually challenge my students to test their limits and try to accomplish beyond their expectations (and mine).  My students will have a sense of “TEAM.”  Our team will be interdependent, supportive, and respectful of each other and our differences.  We will move at different paces, certainly, but we will all be moving toward the same goals. 

The best advice I have ever received concerning classroom discipline is:  NEVER THREATEN.  The first time there is a problem, take action.  Be consistent, and be fair.  Student responsibility is a key factor in the success of any discipline program.  Rather than deciding what students should and should not do, we will decide as a group what we want our classroom rules to be.  It is, after all, our classroom.  By setting the rules together, we can define terms and decide what is and is not appropriate behavior in the classroom, and the consequences for inappropriate behavior.  We can discuss what actions and/or situations are covered by each rule (“Being respectful means listening when others speak.  Being respectful means not touching other students…”).  I would like to experiment, and have each child sign a contract stating that they understand the classroom rules and are responsible for their actions and the consequences of their actions. 

One of the most important unstated classroom rules is:  be tolerant.  Students come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds.  My students and I will respect this, and use it as an opportunity to learn from each other.  No child is more or less important than any other in my classroom.  Socioeconomic status, race, ability, disability, personal hygiene, and other traits do not determine a student’s worth, or potential.  It is most important that I do not ever judge my students.  It is not my responsibility (or right!) to decide which of my students will and will not “make it” in the world.  The only assumptions I will make about any child’s potential is that every single one of my students has the potential for greatness. 

I want to be a teacher to make a difference in the lives of children.  For some, the classroom is the closest thing to a home and family that they have.  My job is to make sure that my classroom remains a safe haven.  A student has the right to a classroom where the rules and consequences are consistent from day to day, no matter who breaks the rule, how “badly” they break the rule, and what kind of mood the teacher is in when the rule is broken.  It is my job to provide consistency, and stability.  I will never draw the line…there is no such thing as being too nice or too supportive.  I will give the students what they need, and never less.  I will try to help students believe in themselves, so they can experience success outside of the classroom.  This is my goal.  And if I ever lose sight of this goal, then I should no longer be a teacher.  

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