We are continually asked to set goals for our students, figure out how we are going to get each and every student across the finish line, but how often do you think about your own goals? Back when you were an undergrad you more than likely received an assignment to write a teaching philosophy, but that was before you were in the classroom. Maybe nothing has changed from those views, maybe they have changed so drastically you could benefit from blowing the dust off of that old assignment and rereading your own reflections, but more than likely you need to sit alone for a while and simply reflect on what you have learned from the past years, what works for you, and how can you express that in your own teaching philosophy. My challenge to you is to take the time to reflect and put your own teaching philosphy into words. It will bring back the excitement you felt when you first chose teaching as your profession, it will positively enhance your PDAS review; but moreover, it will define your most essential goals so you clearly understand why you do this job and the rules you prefer to live by in your own classroom. Everybody seems to emphasize different aspects of the job. When I recently rewrote mine, of course I viewed it numbered like a scientific procedure in my mind, so that’s the way it went down on paper and I love it. I glued it on bright purple paper and posted it above my desk. I decided I wasn’t going to laminate or frame it because I always want to reserve the right to think and change it if I choose to. Strangely, mine was very similar to my undergrad assignment, except I could not rank the importance of their order like I can today. What would yours look like?
My Philosophy of Teaching
Looking back over my years of teaching, I initially became a teacher because I thought it would be the best way I could make the world a better place. However, as time has passed, I still hold this ideal close yet have concluded there are seven personal guidelines which have molded me into an outstanding teacher.
Guideline 1: Make it significant. “Why do I need to learn this?” resonates from the mouths of students in classrooms today. As their chemistry teacher, it is my duty to ensure my students see how chemistry surrounds them in every aspect of their life. From the chemistry of fireworks, electrons producing light, ionic compounds and electrolytes needed for proper hydration on the football field, my students understand the relevancy of chemistry in their world. The labs and activities I choose to do with my students are intentionally chosen to enhance relevancy to my current group of kids.
Guideline 2: Make the kids laugh. I honestly feel laughter is a powerful tool in learning which is all too often quickly dismissed by even the finest of teachers. I quickly learned my students need to trust me and know I am emotionally invested in their success. Laughing is a crucial aspect of this bonding experience. I believe if you make them laugh, you get their attention in the process. They become emotionally connected and invested in the material and suddenly, like magic, permission is granted to teach and they will learn. Be cautious with this guideline, though, because more times than not they will make you laugh uncontrollably.
Guideline 3: Make learning fun and inclusive. Our class periods are 90 minutes long. In order to keep the attention of the students and to use every minute of class time, one must be creative. Creative techniques come in many forms. Sometimes labs are appropriate, other times there are hands-on activities, simple demonstrations, or activities which get the kids up and about, and most of the time, the use of technology is required. I love to use my Promethean board interactively with my students. Letting them interact, choose their own colors, and work problems allows the class to bond and become responsible for each other’s learning.
Guideline 4: Have high expectations. I have learned that children will rise to whatever expectations you set for them. Striving to push the kids to learn more and do more than they have ever expected of themselves is a very rewarding experience. Many expect students would love having a class that is an easy one. This is only true for a few weeks. Each year, when I encounter former students, I am always proud to hear them say, “I love Mrs. Cruze’s chemistry class. Even with the most difficult material, she made it so easy to learn!”
Guideline 5: Always try new things. This is a very important guideline more for me as the teacher than the students. To keep things new and exciting, it is imperative to frequently attend conventions, collaborate with other teachers, and research new ideas. This keeps the curriculum current as well as challenging for the teacher. Every year, I make an effort to change our hands-on activities, experiment with new project ideas, and try out new laboratory investigations.
Guideline 6: Be sure to share. On my kindergarten diploma, it says “You have graduated from kindergarten because you have shown the ability to share and play well with others.” This is one of those life guidelines which should have been ingrained in our brains since those early days in the sand box. Share everything! If you find a cool activity online, share it. If you make a new presentation, share it. If you create a new lab or game, share it. The benefits of sharing are immeasurable because when you share, even more students will benefit in the long run, and that is what matters.
Guideline 7: In my opinion, this is the most important guideline of all. The relationships you develop with your students are more important than anything else. The kids can tell if you enjoy what you do, and they can also tell if you enjoy being their teacher. I was talking to one of my former students a few weeks ago, who has been out of high school for about seven years. Some of the content we covered many years ago was not so clear in her mind, but she did remember the relationship we developed. She told me what made me special as her teacher was how I made her feel. She shared with me that I was always fair and decent to everyone. Moreover, I was genuinely concerned with each and every student’s success in class and always found a way to motivate them. She remembered a sticky note a laid on her desk the week of Thanksgiving which said, “You are one smart turkey and I am so glad to have you in my chemistry class.” She still has the note today. This is the most rewarding thing I have ever heard; well, other than “I became a teacher because of you.”
I have the gift of making students laugh. I have the gift of making learning fun and relevant. I have the gift of challenging students to love science. I have the gift of compassion, showing students that I care. So even if I have now discovered I cannot change the world in the ways I used to imagine, I do have gifts that allow me to influence the world, one student at a time. I have the gift of being able to do this every single day.