I feel like I should start this with my educational philosophy. The problem with that is that my educational philosophy seems to always be changing. The longer I teach, and the more students and other teachers I meet, and the more experiences I have with conferences and PD, the more ideas I take away and try to incorporate into my own philosophy. There are a handful of things that I've picked up over the years that stick with me, though as basic tenets.
The first is that no one is a perfect teacher, and everyone can benefit from learning more. I know that my shortcomings are numerous and probably glaring, classroom management and discipline and biggies for me. In that same vein, I know that there are other teachers who have great classroom management skills but struggle with planning real-world relevant lessons or think that the SAMR framework for technology integration is a fancy place to set up a computer. Since no one knows everything, and new ways to do things (not to mention brand new technologies) are popping up all the time, I believe that it is paramount that teachers constantly work at their craft to improve their skills. I look for as many opportunities as I can find to attend conferences, watch webinars, network in real life or via social media, and read studies and blogs to find things to borrow for my own classroom. If I can find one or two things to improve from each experience, then attending a two-day conference during the summer rather than sitting by the pool or watching silly movies on Netflix is well worth the time investment.
The second tenet of my philosophy that is pretty stable is my belief in the growth mindset. The Mindsets are ideas that were developed by Carol Dweck and introduced to me while I was working towards my gifted endorsement and educational specialist. In a nutshell, the growth mindset holds that a student who believes that he or she can develop his intelligence and in essence "get smarter" through hard work, will be more successful than a student who thinks that he or she is as smart as he will ever be, and relies on that intelligence. In my own work, I try to manifest my belief in this mindset by praising hard work from all students. I'll probably talk about how the mindsets work into my teaching more later on.
The third pillar of my educational philosophy is relationship building. Early in my career, I was afforded the opportunity to attend the International Center for Leadership in Education's Model Schools Conference. At the time I thought that it would be fun to go on a work trip, and I wanted to have some face time with my principal and colleagues. What I didn't realize was just how much the experience would shape my teaching. While the biggest takeaway for most of my colleagues, and myself to an extent, was the Rigor-Relevance Framework developed by Bill Daggett, I also latched onto the relationship aspect of the program. While relevance will help kids stay engaged and rigor will push them to do their best, in a lot of cases, it's the relationship between students and teachers that really pave the way for classroom success. To that end, I believe that relationships with students allow me to know ahead of time what will and will not work with many of them. When a particular concept doesn't land, a good relationship with a students can help me understand why and how to help. And when a behavior issue does arise, a good relationship with a student, and his or her parents, can help them to understand that while I HAVE to apply some discipline, it's only because I care about all of my students.
Finally, and this is probably the philosophy that underpins all the rest for me, is the idea that my job description is more of a suggestion. At the beginning of every year, my district provides me with a job description for a teacher with six to eight of the key functions of a teacher. And every year, I read it and sign off that I've read it, but I know that in truth my job description is simple: do whatever I have to do to ensure that every one of my students has the best educational experience possible and develop into successful, productive members or society. If I'm asked to monitor a hallway, supervise a study hall, teach a class I wasn't planning to teach, or even plunge a toilet, and doing one of those things will help some student have a better day, a better school year, and an overall better experience in my school, then I am more than happy to do any and all of those things. Although, I'm not sure that the toilets in schools even would need plunging. In any given school week, I wear the teacher hat, the custodian hat, the administrator hat, and the counselor hat. And that's usually before the final bell rings on Monday. The bottom line is, I understand that there are a lot of tasks that will pop up, and if I'm not willing to take them on, maybe no one will.
As of right now, that's what my philosophy on education is built on. As I continue teaching, it'll undoubtedly change, and as I continue with this blog, I'm sure I'll reflect and make changes. However, that's the beauty part of teaching, and blogging for that matter; things can change.