My philosophy of education is akin to a living document, and has not remained static. It has evolved over the years, as I further refine my approach to teaching, so I can better serve my students’ needs. When I first began teaching, I was more focused on my ability to effectively transmit information in a very teacher-centric fashion. In the beginning, my students were forced to adapt to my style of instruction, rather than I adapt to their styles of learning. Now I am a much larger proponent of the gradual release of responsibility, and having students take ownership of their learning.
By building meaningful connections with my students, I draw upon their experiences, and create more inclusive lessons. It is imperative my students see themselves in what is being taught. This not only allows the students to feel like they belong in the classroom, but it also gives them a sense of agency. This goes beyond crafting lessons around their interests to engage them; it also includes making sure the students can see themselves in the curriculum. Schools in Ontario are centres for diverse learners, and this kind of representation is often lacking. When designing my lessons, particularly when using visual content, I am cognisant of the need to draw upon diverse sources, to represent the full range of what I will find in my classroom. Students need to have that connection with their learning material.
A significant limitation from my previous experience as a teacher overseas was my inability to actively engage students in the inquiry process. Teachers should show students where to look, but not tell them what to see (source). Celebrating the inquiry process allows students to use their inquisitive prowess and further their learning. Bringing in a broad variety of technological and traditional resources will help my students unlock their own paths. Having used the inquiry process in my practica, I am emboldened to continue doing so.
One of the more powerful tools for inquiry-based learning is the need for students to get over their fear of making mistakes. By creating a welcoming classroom, where each student’s voice is respected, my students face less anxiety. Mistakes are an indication of the thinking process, and each one made is an opportunity to learn and grow. By having my students organized in a way that facilitates their own thinking, they are more likely to feel comfortable to participate in the learning experience. Getting to know my students by recognizing them as individuals, I better differentiate their lessons, and encourage them to takes risks in their educational journeys.
An important guide on these journeys is frequent, reliable, and valid assessments. In my classes, I use a different set of tools to ensure students are benefitting from the activities they are doing. Although time-consuming, I place a great deal of importance in providing descriptive feedback on student work. While it helps inform students on their progress, it also drives home that I care about what they produce, and what they have to say deserves my time and respect. Frequent assessment allows me to alter my units on the fly, as I do not like them to be set in stone. The overall expectations are always in sight, but the journey to them differs as I learn more about my students.
My overall philosophy of education is to be as flexible and dynamic as possible. A rigid teacher does not survive long in today’s rapidly changing field of education. As practices get refined over time, I too adapt to incorporate them. My students will always be at the center of my philosophy, but how I best serve them will always be fluid.