Years ago, I started including my pedagogical philosophy on my letter home to parents. It is just a bullet pointed list that stated what I believe about education and the classroom. I haven’t revised it since I first wrote it, yet, I’ve grown so much since then. This is where I started…
- My pedagogical philosophy
- I believe children have to be the driving force in their learning.
- I believe children learn best by doing.
- I believe children learn more together than alone.
- I believe children maximize learning through application.
- I believe children learn through dialogue and reflection.
- I believe children learn more from the process than the final product.
- I believe parents play an integral part in their child’s education.
These are the principles I work from when planning my classroom structure, as well as my curriculum and instruction. Yet, they don’t paint the whole picture of who I am as an educator.
In reflection, I need to go back and add the “me” part. What do I believe my role is in this relationship? And more importantly, what do I believe about education beyond just the actually learning in the classroom. After all, in the classroom, it isn’t just the teaching and learning that drives my students or me towards success. We are driven by so much more.
It is time I revise this list. At the beginning of this school year, I worked closely with the other English teachers to develop a vision and mission for our department based on our current beliefs about what we do.
The SPMS English Department believes in inspiring and empowering all students to become empathetic and independent lifelong learners.
The SPMS English Department will foster meaningful relationships, promote innovative and creative thinking, and develop challenging, engaging and authentic curriculum in order to develop literacy and communication skills necessary for success in our changing world.
Although it doesn’t say it in my list or in that vision and mission, personally, I also believe in equity for all students. I’ve always held this belief and it informs everything I do both in and out of my classroom. I did bring it up with my English department as we were creating our vision and mission, but because this was a collective statement, not everyone was prepared to include this. Many said they felt it was a given (in which case, I didn’t understand not being comfortable including it) and many didn’t believe we had a problem with equity, so didn’t feel it was a necessary piece of why we do what we do. Since change takes time, I decided that the point had been made and that I would continue the conversation at a later time, in regards to the vision and mission, but that I would not stop having these tough conversations about equity with other teachers or with my students.
We know that equity is not a given when we examine the disproportionately low number of students of color in gifted education, while they are disproportionately represented in special education. We know equity is not a given when we look at the high percentage of discipline referrals attributed to students of color and students from poverty. We know equity is not a given when we see students of color and students from poverty underperforming their white and wealthy peers almost across the board. We know that equity is not a given when “poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong.”
In my classroom and in my life, equity means examining and reflecting on my own biases to ensure I am not creating barriers to student success. As educators we must actively examine our belief systems and work towards revising the biases that were ingrained in us as well as the ones that have formed over the years. We must become actively anti. ACTIVELY anti-racist. ACTIVELY anti-sexist. ACTIVELY anti-islamaphobic. ACTIVELY anti-classist. ACTIVELY anti-homophobic. ACTIVELY anti-any type of implicit or explicit bias that may stand in the way of every single student we teach becoming the best version of who they are meant to be.
What else do I believe in?
- I believe teachers must be the facilitator in the classroom, not the sage on the stage.
- I believe teachers must develop engaging and authentic curriculum.
- I believe teachers must model for students humility and empathy.
- I believe teachers must model a growth mindset and foster a lifelong love of learning.
- I believe teachers must stop fearing the results of standardized tests, and embrace their professional knowledge of research best practice.
- I believe education is about nurturing children through the growth process, in a way that inspires them, not drains them of their energy, curiosity or love of knowledge.
- I believe education isn’t about filling them up with what is needed to pass a test, but about inspiring them to fill themselves up with the endless world of knowledge awaiting them at every turn.
- I believe education is about challenging children to look at their world in new and creative ways.
- I believe education is about fostering creativity and innovation through failures and successes.
- I believe education is about preparing students to become part of a global society, full of people who don’t look like them, or act like them, and preparing them in such a way that they celebrate our diversity instead of disparaging it.
- I believe education is about our future. It is about preparing our children to lead us into the next generation in a way that leaves our world better than they found it.
I’m sure there is more. For now, this is a more complete picture of where I stand. I’ll remember to revisit often, and revise as necessary, as my vision for education changes and grows as I change and grow.