EDUC 921 Pre Course Paper
November 5th, 2015
At first I had no idea what to write, it should have been easy, I should have known my personal philosophy in education. My personal philosophy in education is not really something that I have given a ton of thought. I balked at it because I found the task to be a daunting one, but ultimately this is good for me because I need to clearly think and write about my philosophy for my full application to the program at Framingham. I was not sure how to proceed, as we have not been given examples or guidance on what is expected. I looked online, read some examples and realized, hopefully correctly, that I should be writing about what I personally consider to be important in education and teaching. If I have incorrectly identified the objective, I apologize.
There are many things that I consider to be very important to keep in mind in regards to what I am teaching and trying to achieve in the classroom. As teachers, we have a responsibility to not only educate the children academically but to help shape them into responsible, ethical and good people. It is not just about imparting information and knowledge, it is about making sure that they understand the importance of honesty, integrity and a job well done.
It is very important to make learning engaging and exciting. I find ways to hit on students’ personal interests. If I can get them involved and excited about a topic it will have a greater impact on them. It is of the utmost importance to try to make personal connections with my students to help them feel more comfortable talking to me in and out of class. If they like me they will be more inclined to listen and learn, and if I take the time to get to know and like them I will be more invested in their future and comprehension. This is especially true in Taiwan where a lot of the kids spend the vast majority of their time at school with their teachers. It is important to make the kids feel cared about and safe in the class room. There is a culture of perfection here, it is not acceptable to not know or to be wrong.
An amusing example of this that happened often in the past was to ask for directions and have someone confidently explain how to get to a destination, only to discover that the person had no idea. Rather than admit it, they gave random directions hoping someone else help upon becoming lost. In the classroom this translates to quiet, shy kids that are extremely hesitant to speak up in class. They do not like to ask questions because that is an admission of ignorance. I make a point with every new class to emphasis the importance of asking questions, encouraging their natural curiosity and helping them shed their cultural inhibitions. I want them to feel safe to admit when they do not know something, and to realize that we all have questions and things we do not know. For this reason I always admit when I do not know something. If I make a mistake I own it, I correct it, and we move on. I lead by example and show that it is ok to not know or make mistakes if an effort is made to learn from it in the future.
Something I always strive for as a teacher is to ultimately make myself obsolete. I teach my students to be independent, giving them the tools to succeed on their own. I give them independent study skills, test taking skills, and the confidence to dissect an assignment on their own. I am always available to help, but I expect them to try to complete tasks on their own. They, eventually, are able to complete the majority of assignments with little to no intervention on my part. I also make my classroom student centered as often as I can, because it is important that they are invested in what they are learning. In my experience I have observed that students are more engaged and invested when we incorporate student centered learning into the classroom.
Communication is key to the success of any relationship. That is why I always have an open communication policy with students, parents, colleagues and even administration. With the students I am open and honest with them, as much as appropriate. If I feel sick or if a particular class or assignment is important, I simply take time to discuss it with them. They know what it is like to be sick or sad and are very understanding when time is taken to explain my mindset to them. If a class or assignment is important, and it is explained why, they will have far more respect for it and me for discussing it with them.
I have an open classroom, anyone is welcome to come observe at any time. In addition I often share plans, ideas, activities and classes that I plan to do or that have gone particularly well with my colleagues and administrators. This is an important attitude to have as an educator; I get a lot from sharing with others as they share with me as well. Sharing my accomplishments keeps me excited about what I am doing.
As for parents, I find that most problems often come down to misunderstandings or a lack of trust. I speak with parents often and am sure that they know they are welcome to ask me anything about the class or their kids. In addition, I started a class blog to share what we have been doing with pictures, worksheets, videos and even communications with the parents. So far this has been very well received, the kids love it and the parents are delighted to be able to see pictures of activities and watch videos that we have watched in our class. It encourages parental involvement and also helps the parents feel more confident in myself as their children’s educator.
Good instruction is made up of clear, understandable directions and material. It’s important to consider the audience, and make the lessons level appropriate. There is nothing worse than going to a class to have the book or teacher aimed a mile above students’ head. It is frustrating and discouraging to the students, and shows a lack of connection and possibly disinterest or even worse apathy on the part of the instructor.
Instruction should be succinct and meaningful. Assignments, lectures, readings and activities need to be useful, not just busy work. It is also important to keep things as interesting as possible, depending on the subject matter. If a class or lesson is fun, or personalized to the students, it will have a far greater impact. Student centered activities are a great way to get students involved and keep them interested in the subject matter. It can also help when trying to make potentially unexciting material more personal and interesting.
Good supervision is something that is easy to speculate about but to be frank, in my experience, a little harder to find. I would ideally like my supervisors to be fair but firm. Again, communication is extremely important, I expect my supervisors to communicate clearly and honestly with me. It is important to be able to talk to administration and that they are approachable, not kings on the mountain. It is also important to know that they will listen, trust, and be supportive in a conflict or dispute.
One school, that I ultimately did not work at but was really looking forward to the positive environment, the director of the English department was personable, open and easy to talk to. All the teachers that worked under her confirmed that she listened to the staff and took their feelings and perspectives into consideration. When it came to reports from parents or complaints she always supported the teacher, regardless of what was said. Her first take was that of support of the teaching staff, and she reserved judgment of the situation until after discussing with the teachers in question. I, personally, have not experienced that kind of support in schools in Taiwan. The usual maneuver here is to assume the teachers are in the wrong without even discussing it with them, and then trying to do damage control to clean up the mess afterwards. The party line for a lot of teachers is to constantly do everything you can to ‘cover your ass’ in case anything goes wrong. I have yet to run into problems of this kind at my current job, but I have heard that our administrator is quite busy but tends to try to trust the staff, which I hope is the case.
What helped me the most to become a successful teacher? Well, in part I would say that my own personality is the main driving force behind my success. I really enjoy teaching, I get excited when I reach the kids and get them involved in a lesson. I like to learn new things, but I have a short attention span and am easily bored. As a result, I am constantly driven to try harder to make my lessons interesting, to spice things up, which keeps me and the kids interested and excited.
Also, this program has been a large positive influence for me as a teacher. Not so much the courses themselves, they have been useful and informative, the most important thing that I have gotten from the program is a reigniting of my passion for teaching. I had lost the spark, and was seriously considering leaving education and pursuing a different career. I was extremely unhappy, especially after a very negative experience with unprofessional and shockingly poor management at my previous school. When I left, we had nine foreign homeroom teachers, and that year six of the nine left the school permanently, and one transferred to a different department. I attempted to transfer as well, but it did not work out. The coordinator left mid-year, and her replacement left in June, three of the teachers were so ‘scarred’ by the experience that they left the country, two more left the city. In the aftermath, I felt so disillusioned that while I changed schools, I was honestly considering leaving not only teaching but leaving Taiwan which has been my home for the past 14 years.
I decided to join the Framingham Master’s in International Education, to improve my resume and in the hopes to improve my situation if not now, at least in the future. I knew that I would learn new things, meet new, people and have new experiences. What I did not anticipate was the affirmation that I am actually good at my job, that I am a good teacher, and the realization that I still have a lot to offer. The interactions, shared experiences, and lively discussions that I have engaged in with my classmates have made a world of difference to me personally and professionally. I have learned about education and teaching, but most importantly I have learned about myself. I have also made valuable connections and hopefully have improved my prospects for the future.