Teaching Philosophy

Michael Jones ETCV 510


The teaching environment is very important to how well students learn. With that in mind my philosophy on "environment setting" is this:

  1. Make learning the focus all the time, every time.
  2. Make sure every student knows that it is OK to try and especially that my room is a safe place for them to make mistakes.
  3. Make sure my students understand what is expected of them concerning behavior, effort, and peer interaction.
  4. Make learning fun!

Role of the Teacher

My role as a teacher is, quite simply, to teach. My job is to find ways to make students understand whatever material I am covering at any one time and also to make sure that they understand how this knowledge fits in with what they are learning in their other classes. So my role truly is to guide my students towards the understanding that I, my school district, and the state requires. The journey towards that understanding is where the "artfulness" of teaching comes into play - my role is to present the information to them in such a manner that they CAN learn it, but, just as importantly, to present it in a way that makes them WANT to learn it.

Role of the Student

Just as my job as a teacher is to teach. The role of the student is to learn. How they do that depends in a large part on how well I perform my role. But it also depends on several factors that I cannot control:

  1. Home life - I have no control of what happens to my students before they arrive at school and the time between when they leave and arrive again the next day. For most students this time is in a loving, nurturing, and caring environment where academic and personal success is valued. For many other students it is just the opposite. And for a few, but way too many, it is a downright toxic environment.
  2. Personal issues - Most students are happy and well adjusted. Some students however are suffering from anxiety, are being bullied, or have other personal issues that have an impact on how well they can learn.
  3. Academic deficiencies - I can't control if a student comes to my class unable to read or add, or any one of a myriad other academic deficiencies.

All of these issues conspire against a student and his or her success, it is their job to do the absolute best they can. Fortunately they don't have to fight alone - a good school has many adults to help and assist.

Educational values

I've been a teacher for close to 20 years and in that time, the values that our society has used to guide our educational system have changed quite a bit. When I began teaching there was great fear that we were teaching to the test. At that time, those fears were relatively unfounded, I look around now and all the discussions, in lounges, on the news, wherever, are all about accountability. How are we measuring accountability? TEST scores! My own personal values concerning education are simpler than that - I believe that all my students deserve my best effort - just as I expect theirs.

What values will our society embrace as we move forward? I don't have a crystal ball, but it looks to me like the movement towards requiring our students to show a deeper understanding of what they are learning is slowly inching its way to the front. Requiring our students to be critical thinkers and problem solvers rather than just rote memorizers is going to eventually transform what our kids are capable of doing.

Beliefs about learning

I stated this before but learning needs to be fun - not all the time and not in every instance, but it needs to be able to grab kids so that they WANT to learn. I do think that the "fun factor" part of learning does diminish as students get older; whether it should or not is another discussion.

I don't think there is any one best way or activity to teach with - I think the best method is the one that works - for the students and the teacher both. Hands on activities work really well for science teachers, manipulatives are amazing tools for teaching basic math facts, simulations and role playing are great for social studies. There is even a place for straight up note taking lecture type activities. The key to whatever activity or method a teacher uses is the teacher, my responsibility is to carefully design and implement interesting lessons and to modify or even scrap things that don't work.

Every kid can learn. Not all do it willingly. The challenge for me is to find a way to keep the engaged students engaged while at the same time getting the "non-willing" interested enough that they will at least give it a go. Once I can get them hooked then I can work on changing their entire view.

Principles & Theories

I hate sound non-committal but I don't think there is any one best learning principle or theory. There is no magic bullet theory that will suddenly change all teachers into master instructors or all students into valedictorians. What I do believe is that every single learning theory we have learned about has its place somewhere in almost every classroom.

I found a great quote by Peter Drucker that pretty much sums up my feelings and thoughts on learning theories and principles:

"We now accept that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn."

Learning theories will come into vogue and go out of style, so regardless of what is moving education at a particular moment, the teacher (me) needs to always keep in mind that if they can teach their students to think then how they do it is not the most important thing.