Teaching Philosophy: A Retrospective
This post is a follow-up to Day 1 of the “Mapping” course’s unit on student-centered pedagogy. For homework we were asked to think about our teaching philosophy, a statement which tries to encompass some of the following:
- How do you situate yourself in the classroom?
- Why do you teach?
- What do you want your students to get out of your classes?
I was asked to write a teaching philosophy a couple years ago as part of another pedagogy course so I was very excited that this assignment gave me the opportunity to go back and take a look at it (the version below has been slightly edited from the original). Note – I wrote this before I had started teaching at the undergraduate level, imaging I was applying to a position in the future and had some teaching experience at that time under my belt. Some comments and reflections follow.
No matter the discipline of the students in my course, I strive to impart awareness of the past through connections to the present in order that one day they may have the tools to change the future. As a teacher my role is to bring an interdisciplinary approach to the study of Classics in order that my students be able to transfer the skills and discipline learned in their Latin or Greek course to whichever area of academia, or non-academia, they choose to ultimately pursue. This includes identifying Latin and Greek roots in their modern vocabulary, strengthening their knowledge of English grammar, encouraging critical thinking through the discussion of classical literature and cultures, and fostering an appreciation and respect for the humanities.
The languages and cultures of the ancient world are particularly approachable and I continually aim to make the Classics accessible to a diverse range of students. This includes recognizing the various types of student learners and demonstrating a willingness to adapt to unique student needs. For example, I give my students a choice in their final exam in literature courses. As an alternative to an written exam or essay students may select a passage of their own choosing as the basis of a creative final project. In the past, students have written poetry, orchestrated dance routines, and even composed songs with the lyrics in the ancient language. Students then perform their creations for the class and submit a write-up of their process to be assessed as a portion of their final grade.
Every student from every background has something to bring to the Classics classroom. For example, English as a Second Language (ESL) students often have much to contribute to Latin courses in terms of helping other students identify Latin derivatives in the vocabulary of the Romance languages. For this reason, in the classroom I am a facilitator, fostering an environment of peer-learning. Students will learn from students and no student will feel alone in his or her studies. Both students and teacher will share with each other tricks and tips on how to master these new languages or navigate these new cultures.
I strongly believe that the classroom should be a safe zone, a nurturing environment that puts students at ease to make mistakes. I foster this environment by including several non-graded assessments throughout the term. These formative assessments would allow the students to honestly check their progress and recognize areas for improvement. In addition, having students in assigned groups for group-work throughout the semester will mean that a student who misses a class can get notes and seek help from 2-3 others. In addition, homework will be discussed in class in a “think-pair-share” format. Students will first look over their work on their own for any questions they might have. Next, students gather into small groups to try to solve their questions amongst each other first. Finally, a recorder from each group will report to the whole class the challenges and solutions they faced and we, as a class, can address any lingering concerns. In this way, students are encouraged to learn from each other and vocalize their questions; learning a new language can be isolating when it seems everyone around you is picking up the concepts better and faster.
In summary, I am committed to transforming the learning of a new Classical language into an interactive journey. I treat my students as co-learners and explorers who have great potential to bring their own expertise ad experiences to Classics and to carry forth the benefits of Classics back to their own fields. I learn the names of all my students and show earnest interest in their education. In return, they feel comfortable in approaching me with questions and put forth their best effort in class.
I’ve bolded the parts that made me go – whoa, I wrote that before taking this “Mapping” course? I am amazed to see so many topics we have talked about in this course touched upon here: formative assessment, student-centered classrooms, think-pair-share!
Now, having actually begun teaching and having actually now used some of my fictive example activities in class, I am glad to report that what I thought was a very idealistic philosophy when I originally wrote this is currently quite the reality.