Teaching Philosophy

No two teachers are identical. Despite this, there are several qualities that good teachers share that help them to be effective in their profession. I believe that teachers should be leaders who connect with their students and continue to learn and progress throughout their careers.

Teachers should be leaders. They need to have a strong and confident presence in a classroom and take initiative. Strong leadership skills help the teacher to manage the classroom. They can maintain order and create a positive learning environment for the students. A friend of mine once said that a synonym for lead is serve. As such, teachers are there to serve the students. They are there to aid them in their pursuit of knowledge. A language teacher is much like a tour guide who must guide their students and help them learn from the journey and reach their goal.

Teachers should be able to connect with students. Some of my favorite teachers share a common trait that I really admire. They are able to look beyond the words spoken and assignments completed to truly get to know the student and discern his/her needs. As an administrator, mentor, and peer teacher, I have noticed countless instances where teachers simply do not connect with their students. What do I mean by connect? Well, I’m not really talking about this from a social approach but from a pedagogical one. Connecting with students means being able to read them well and identify what they are thinking and needing. Often times, students might make a face, gesture or comment that indicates there is a problem. Perhaps they don’t understand the nature of the principle presented in the classroom. Maybe there is something that is bothering them – something that is distracting them from learning. The idea is that a good teacher should be able to identify these flags and adapt the lesson easily. Too often teachers continue with their own agendas. They have to get through the lesson. They are teaching lessons and not students. A good teacher connects with students in such a way that they can adapt their teaching to better help those they teach.

Teachers should be lifelong learners. Fortunately, in today’s society, education is required to teach. However, it is not necessarily this formal education that I refer to; teachers should be lifelong learners. I had a wonderful high school biology teacher. I really admired this man because he shared with us what he was doing outside of class to increase his knowledge and understanding of biology. As a lifelong learner, he inspired us to learn for the right reasons and we began to desire to learn to improve ourselves and the world around us rather than fulfill school requirements. Being a lifelong learner not only benefits the teacher, but it also inspires students to be lifelong learners as he sets a positive example.

These are three attributes that I strive to have as a teacher. When it comes down to ins and outs of teaching, I am a big fan of Gange’s approach to learning. Granted, his work is built on the shoulders of the giants before him and many learning theories are based on his instructional model. He discusses the domains, conditions, and instructional events of learning. His nine steps of instruction are what my teaching and curriculum are based on.

  1. Gain attention
  2. Inform learners of objectives
  3. Stimulate recall of prior learning
  4. Present the content
  5. Provide “learning guidance”
  6. Elicit performance (practice).
  7. Provide feedback
  8. Assess performance
  9. Enhance retention and transfer to the job

Curriculum Development Philosophy

Not only are these steps important for the teacher, but they can and should be considered in all curriculum development.

As a technology enthusiast and teacher, I think that these steps are just as applicable to technology teaching as they are to any other subject being taught. However, helping students to develop digital products requires an ability to integrate other aspects of learning and design theory. Teachers should be familiar with the ADDIE model for design, developmental evaluation,  and rapid prototyping. Helping students understand the principles behind these instructional design and evaluation methods will help them become better creators of digital media.

Language Learning and Teaching Philosophy

From the time that I was young, I have been fascinated by other languages. As a young child, I found one of my mom’s old French text books. I wanted to speak French. So I proceeded to read the textbook; it was difficult. I decided to take another approach and began to write some sentences in English with the hope that I could use the dictionary in the back of the book to translate the sentences. I had no idea that the grammar of another language could be different and my translations were wrong if not also comical. I don’t remember how much time I spent looking at that book, but I can clearly see its pages that were burned deep in my mind.

From this experience, I learned a few key aspects of language learning that I found to be essential and whose absence makes language learning difficult if not impossible. First, there needs to be some type of intrinsic motivation in the student. This may seem like something obvious. After all, don’t students choose to take language courses? Granted, some take foreign language courses to fulfill graduation requirements in high school or even at the college level. My point is that there needs to be at least a small spark in the student that causes him to engage in learning a language. Without this self-driven motivation, the student will most likely fail to learn the target language.

Second, learning a language takes work. The spark is by far not enough and I have seen far too many students of other languages take a course because they want to speak the language, but do not fully realize the amount of work needed. Going to class isn’t enough. Reading a book isn’t enough. Language learners have to put forth great effort to learn and go outside of their comfort zones to develop language skills. They need to immerse themselves in the language outside of class. They need to be willing to speak with others who are native or who are also learning to speak the language. Going to class and doing the homework is generally not enough. Learning a language takes work.

Third, language learners should enjoy learning the language. My positive experience as a child led me to take French as a high school student. I saw first hand that class wasn’t enough. I learned that there is much more to language learning than vocabulary. However, I enjoyed learning French. That experience aided me when learning Spanish and Hebrew. I have also seen students who dread going to class and look for every opportunity to avoid doing any work. For whatever reason, they are not enjoying the learning process. Without loving what you are doing, the chances for being motivated to do work to reach a set goal are very small.

Teaching language is a challenging yet rewarding profession. Hopefully, by learning a new language students will progress intellectually and culturally. Learning a language develops new skills in the learner and helps them understand other cultures and other ways of thinking. Helping students to do this is difficult, but brings the teacher great satisfaction when language learning happens.

Among the many important aspects of language teaching, one principle stands out more than anything: teachers must encourage and facilitate language use. While studying French in high school, we didn’t use French as often as we could have. The teacher tried to get us to use it, but she was just as guilty as the rest of us. It was easier to speak our native language. Later, when learning Spanish, I was in a learning environment that demanded the speaking of the target language at all times. This was difficult, but the benefits were seen almost daily. My instructors only spoke Spanish and encouraged us to do so outside of class. I would lie in bed waiting for sleep to overcome me and in the meantime talk to myself in Spanish and try to even think in the language. This had a great effect on me. These and other factors helped me to learn to use more Spanish in a month that the French I could use after four semesters of study.

Another key principle when teaching language is to create a positive learning environment. Language learning requires the learners to be risk takers. You have to use the language and you have to not be afraid for it to come out wrong. The teacher, in many ways, is like the mother in a home. If mom is mad, things are happy at home. If mom had a good day, there’ll be loads of sunshine in the air. Teachers have a responsibility to come class with a good attitude and create an environment where learning can occur. The teacher should help each student feel good and safe so they won’t see using the language as being “risky.”

Of course, three pages is hardly enough to articulate everything regarding my teaching philosophy, but these are a few of the key topics that govern my philosophy. And, like many philosophies or mission statements, this one is also subject to change. As I teach and gain different experiences, my attitudes towards teaching changes. I become a better teacher and a better learner.