Teaching Philosophy: A Thank-You Note to My Teachers

As cliché as it sounds, I teach because education is undeniably empowering. I teach because I have been fortunate enough to have incredible mentors throughout my educational career—educators who have instilled in me a belief in the inherent value of intellectualization, in the absolute necessity of continual questioning, and in the inextricable relationship between thought and action. But none of these beliefs would hold if these educators had not also fostered in me a strong sense of self, encouraging and guiding me both explicitly and implicitly. If not for the genuine care these people expressed for my own interests and learning, if not for their candidness regarding their own vulnerabilities, if not for their extreme generosity, I would not be a teacher today. These educators shifted my perception of learning from one of perfectionism and grade achievement, to one of learning as taking part in an immense, on-going, meaningful conversation.

Before coming to CUNY, I taught in several capacities—as a peer-learning session facilitator, as a piano teacher, and as a formal teaching assistant—and all of these experiences inform how I situate myself in my classroom at CCNY. I conceive of my role as a facilitator: a co-learner in the class who provides structure and poses questions, encouraging student engagement and discussion rather than positioning myself as the omniscient bearer of knowledge. Some of my favourite moments as a teacher are also some of the scariest: when students ask me a question and I simply do not know the answer. These moments are scary because I must admit fallibility. I must confess that I am not all-knowing, and I feel as though I must risk respectability as an educator. But they are also my favourite moments because they prove to me, over and over, that a loss of respectability is—in my experience—never the outcome. The outcome is a conversation amongst students, a search for information that could aid us in finding the answer, and a distinct learning moment for both teacher and students.

In my classes, I want my students to feel the same empowerment I felt (and continue to feel) as a student. I want them to come away not only with a “knowledge base,” but with confidence in their interests, an understanding of the power and influence of their thoughts and actions, and a genuine belief in their capabilities.