Explaining my Philosophy

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At Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws, I shared with my family how excited I am to be student teaching third grade in the Spring. I stated my hopes that my co-teacher holds the same teaching philosophy as me, and that we work well together. And then the question was posed to me: “What is your teaching philosophy?”

Having worked on this blog, as well as several other projects and assignments on the topic, you would think that this would be an easy answer. Constructivism! Humanism! Social Reconstructionism! Sure, but how do you explain that to someone who has no background in education, and thus doesn’t know what any of those words mean?

As I tried to explain my thinking, I can’t help but think back to the Brooks & Brooks article I wrote about several posts back. I tried to explain my distaste for a “quiet classroom” and love of hands-on learning, only to be met with horror from my Mother in Law, who immediately brought forth images of students doing whatever they desired, with no curriculum, no structure, and no real learning. (Some of the criticisms mentioned by Brooks & Brooks).

Later on at my own Mother’s house, it got even worse when I began to speak about students having agency and voice, and was asked by my rather abrasive grandfather, “How will you keep the little punks under control?”

Well, aside from the fact that I would never refer to a group of students as “little punks,” I admit I did have to pause on that one. I started to give a reply about how we’ll work things out together and as I did I realized – I don’t want control over my students. I want to work together to build a classroom community where everyone feels valued and things run fluidly because it is best for all, not because “we have to follow the rules.”

Another thing that I mentioned, when prompted to share what kind of teacher I hoped to be, was social reconstructionsim. My husband and I both come from families with some fairly stalwart conservatives, so while they didn’t get the full meaning of the term it was enough to raise a few brows and roll several pairs of eyes. No one really had to ask me to go in depth on that particular topic – for many years now I have used my own voice quite persistently to speak up about what I feel is right and when I think something is wrong. Honestly, I think no one wanted to ask more about that because they were afraid what might come out next if they had!

Overall, though, it was an interesting experience, and one I felt I ought to share. Theorizing about the type of teacher and person you will be is well and good, but it is what happens when you are prompted out in the real world and when you are truly put to the test of living it that matters. There are some areas where I divert from that path somewhat (using time-outs, for example, as a teaching tool with toddlers) but overall I feel more and more confident in my philosophy every day.

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