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Teaching Philosophy | Ecology of Education

Teaching Philosophy

Teaching is an interesting act, let alone a profession. As such, trying to codify and standardize the craft of teaching leads to numerous disagreements, constant lists, and more theories than saving plays espoused by Monday morning quarterbacks. However, one thing that is universal and timeless in the realm of teaching. That is a personal philosophy of teaching. While this may seem to be the stuff which educational theories and developmental psychology claim as their proprietary realm. Yet, whether a classroom teacher is conscious of it or not, each teacher has a personal philosophy of teaching. The teacher with a developed, at any stage, teaching philosophy has a better handle of effectively engaging students, developing curriculum, and designing authentic educational experiences.

Before exploring some of the archetypal varieties of teaching philosophies, it is important to define what comprises a philosophy of teaching. First off, the question that immediately arises is regarding the necessity of having a personal teaching philosophy. Why should any, let alone every, classroom teacher have one. To claim to have utilize a philosophy of anything readily seems to be pretentious and to some limiting. These individuals cling to their skewed understanding of the “common man” ethos which we in the United States proudly claim. Yet, an individual, especially a classroom teacher, without a philosophy to practice is easily swayed and commonly lost.

This is one of the primary reasons why developing, cultivating, and nurturing a personal teaching philosophy is essential to effective and authentic teaching. A philosophy of teaching acts like a framework for all that we teachers do pertaining to the classroom. A teaching philosophy drives not only our approach to teaching and learning, but just as important, our attitude towards our students and colleagues. This in turn dictates the teacher’s attitude, both figuratively and literally, when approaching the content materials and the students in the same action…teaching.

So this begs the question as to what does a teaching philosophy contain. What is it comprised of? It is a difficult question to pinpoint an answer to. Coming up with any response will inevitably leave out some vital component. However, there are certain universal facets that should be present in any teaching philosophy. These include the following points: (1) the teacher’s understanding of education, namely teaching and learning; (2) the teacher’s perspective towards students; (3) the teacher’s classroom point of view.

The teacher’s understanding of education, namely teaching and learning, is a cornerstone of the entire process and product. This not only guides the teacher’s actions, but also directs their thought processes during the actual class time. It is a guidepost and beacon leading the teacher’s decision making process in planning, instructing, and assessing. The teaching philosophy also directs the outcomes in regards to classroom management, parent-teacher interaction, and all forms of communication. As such, it serves as the proverbial lynch pin of all instructional activities and more.

A teacher’s interaction with students is firmly based on their perspective of their students, students in general, and foundational beliefs in regards to classroom management. In difficult, triumphant, and seemingly ordinary times, the classroom teacher has their beliefs to sustain and support them. Among these beliefs is their philosophy of teaching. A teacher’s perspective of their students, and students in the general, sets the course for their instructional delivery and interactions with students throughout the instructional time, and day as a whole. Needless to say, the primacy of one’s teaching philosophy cannot be understated.

The last universal facet of a classroom teacher’s philosophy of teaching concerns how they understand and approach their own classroom. How they perceive the form and function of their allotted space to teach and learn in is of great importance. If a classroom teacher has either a negative, nebulous, or no opinion of the physical and psychic space that comprises the classroom, then it will come through in their instruction and expectations. A healthy, realistic, and dynamic perspective of one’s classroom encourages the students to grow, and the teacher as well. For classroom teachers, this is the location which the majority of their day is spent. Spend it wisely and well.

Given the primacy and palpibility of a classroom teacher’s teaching philosophy, it is of little surprise that we should all be admonished to choose wisely, and cultivate a kinetic one. A thorough and regular examination of one’s teaching philosophy will do wonders for instruction, interaction, and assessment. It is at this point that a good grounding in the Humanities is essential. Read the writing of those educators who have trod the path before us. Compare and contrast. Look at various fields such as Religion, Law, Art, and the Sciences for inspiration and encouragement. Most of all, look around and find the components to build your own. For that is what it is, yours. Make it, claim it, use it.

Author:R. Casey Davis

R. Casey Davis is currently a Secondary Social Studies Curriculum Designer/Developer for Flip Switch, Inc. Prior to this he taught Science, Social Studies, English, and Journalism, and was the Secondary Advanced Academics Facilitatory for Temple ISD for three years before returning to the classroom full time. He is currently working on his M.A. in American History through American Public University. He has a B.S. in History from Texas Woman's University and an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston - Victoria. Mr. Davis is as contract writer for STEMscopes out of Rice University as well as a freelance writer for SAGE Publications, ABC-Clio, and OnLine Learners, Inc. He has published a 10th World History textbook with ancillary materials through the American Preparatory Institue, a subsidiary of Central Texas College. He has a forthcoming book on secondary Social Studies classroom techniques to be published by Prufrock Press in Spring 2013. Mr. Davis's research interests include American History, Religion, Science, Instructional Design, Gifted and Talented students, and Second Language Learners. Follow him on Twitter @ProfTrivia.
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