The English Classroom

A HELPFUL GUIDE FOR PRESERVICE AND GRADUATE TEACHERS

Reflecting on my teaching philosophy


Earlier this week, I was looking over an early draft of my teaching philosophy that I wrote at university. It was my first semester and I had this idealistic view of what my classroom would look like.

Here is a snippet, that I found to be nostalgic:


As an education student there is a particular amount of trepidation regarding what type of teacher I intend to be. Stronge (2010, p. 3) emphasises that “If we want to improve the quality of our schools and positively affect the lives of our students, we must change the quality of our teaching”. An area of discussion which constitutes improving the quality of teachers is identifying the characteristics of an ‘effective teacher’. The interrogation of these attributes has long been a subject of contention (Watson, Miller, Davis & Carter, 2010, p. 11). The literature suggests a number of definitions and characteristics of an ‘effective teacher’, each highlighting the importance of strong relationship between the teacher and student. Cakmak (2009, p. 75) suggests effective teaching is “a two-way communicative process initiated by a teacher who is well versed in the subject matter, caring, and able to establish and maintain classroom control and in such a setting students are continually attentive and progress in their learning”. Thus, effective teaching demands that teachers maintain a high degree of self-efficacy; teaching styles and approaches must be adapted to ensure that the learning style of each student is being appropriately addressed. 

In retrospect, it reads like babble. However, beneath the academic garble, I can see qualities that I enjoy. For example:


If we want to improve the quality of our schools and positively affect the lives of our students, we must change the quality of our teaching.”

It has always been apparent to me that teaching is organic and your output as a teacher changes from year to year. As you grow as a person, so does your maturity and personality in the classroom. You identify what areas of your practice need work and which areas need to be celebrate. Despite the vast challenges that you will experience, teaching really is a journey. The quality of your teaching is depend on your willingness to admit that you need to improve. If you are unwilling to admit that a lesson wasn’t that great and perhaps it was because their is a gap in your teaching ability, it is difficult to assess how you could ever improve.

The section quote that stands out from my teaching philosophy is describing teaching as…


a two-way communicative process initiated by a teacher who is well versed in the subject matter, caring, and able to establish and maintain classroom control and in such a setting students are continually attentive and progress in their learning”

Teaching is not the process of taking my knowledge and infusing into the brains of 30 students at the same time. I do not know everything. Teachers shouldn’t be expected to know everything either. For example, if you are teaching genre, it is unwise to suggest that you know all genres and all authors in a chosen genre. Sure, you might be “well versed on genre”, but there are always small nuances that you will catch you out and an answer may not be something that you can provide. Explore with your students the answer. Allow them to investigate and learn with them. Students should understand that it is okay to not know something. The goal should be to infuse a love for learning and discovery, regardless of the age and academic ability.


How does a reflection of my teaching philosophy help you?


As a graduate teacher, you will want to identify what type of teacher you want to become. Perhaps there was a math teacher from a distant memory that did not connect with you. A teaching philosophy helps you compartmentalise what you will bring to the table. What type of teacher will you be? What are you values? These are all very valuable questions and I highly recommend that you print your teaching philosophy and refer back to it every time you feel doubt in the job. It will take you back to an idealistic time where you had a vision of a classroom full of learning. Have you drifted from your vision? Or has your philosophy? Reflection should always be at the forefront of your teaching.

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