1. PHILOSOPHY OF TEAHCHING & PROFESSIONAL GOALS
As teachers, we have accepted an impossible task. We have taken on the responsibility of preparing children to meet the future. Nothing is so unknowable. My philosophy of teaching is based on this fact.
The goal that guides my teaching is this: to make fearless problem solvers of my students. This is one skill that will never fade into obscurity, and a fluency with problem solving will enable my students to succeed in arenas for which I cannot otherwise prepare them.
A skill closely associated with problem solving is the ability to seek out and evaluate information. Therefore, another of my teaching goals is that my students become adept at utilizing different informational resources. For example, when introducing a social studies unit on the Midwest, I asked students to examine maps and paintings of the region before reading, and listen to the traditional music of the Sioux people. The information and impressions garnered from these experiences guided their learning throughout the unit. Even in the structured setting of guided reading groups, I periodically take students on "Five Second Field Trips," escorting them to an area in the library where they will find materials to compliment the guided reading text. An especially gratifying result of this has been students proudly showing me their library selections and explaining the connection to what we have read together.
One important source of information that I emphasize in my teaching is experience. Tying instruction to real-life experience is not only an excellent means of motivating learners; it provides valuable practice in evaluating information as well. With this in mind, I have engaged students in activities such as: measuring out the lengths of various dinosaurs on the blacktop, working as an assembly line to complete a craft project, and interviewing a firefighter about his training and job experience. Having had these experiences, my students are able to make statements such as, "The brachiosaur was almost as long as a basketball court," " Ford was able to make cars more quickly because he used an assembly line," or, "Math is an important subject to a firefighter," rather than merely reading them or hearing them from a teacher. Providing authentic learning experiences for my students is another of my chief goals as an educator, and is directly linked to the goal that my students will evaluate information using a variety of strategies.
The evaluation of information is a skill that becomes increasingly important as information from disparate sources becomes more readily available to students. One need merely type a subject into a search engine to see the need for strong evaluative skills. As students sort through different types of information, they must be able to identify the reason they are seeking information, assess the appropriateness of the sources available, and decide how best to use the information to solve the problem at hand.
I cannot be sure of the future that awaits my students; however, I am convinced that their success will depend on their problem solving skills. Endowing them with these skills is my primary goal as a teacher, and the cornerstone of my teaching philosophy. Following are samples of lesson plans and learning activities. It is my hope that these will provide a clear picture of what I bring to the classroom as an educator, the expectations and standards I hold for my students, and the expectations and standards I hold for myself.
2. Designing Instruction