|a panoramic view of my classroom; spatial distortions courtesy of iOS|
Recently Mindy Dennison presented a challenge to those in Oklahoma who write blogs which address educational themes to compose a post on the topic of “Why Teach?”. Mindy is a friend, a current music teacher in Choctaw, OK, a former colleague where I teach, and an active #oklaed twitter participant. She has some wonderful posts over at her blog: This Teacher Sings.
A little over a year ago I was involved in a lengthy project to explore lots of my thoughts regarding education and my place in the "teacher world". This project, a lengthy portfolio-application, resulted in my selection as the Moore Public School District's 2014 Teacher of the Year. Several of the entries help to explore Mrs. Dennison's requested topic, but I think the "Philosophy of Teaching" entry as a whole best encapsulates her desired intent. So, rather than creating a whole new writing for this post, I'll just provide a sample of something that I've previously written...
Thomas Jefferson articulated, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be" (source link). While the basic core of education is to ensure that information is passed along from one generation to another, I believe that teaching’s ultimate purpose is to equip students to be productive members of society so that they can engage with others for their mutual benefit. I use the ideals of global education to focus my classroom environment so as to meet this definitive purpose of education; when students explore questions, respect multiple perspectives, effectively communicate ideas, and act so as to have a positive impact (source link), they become the educated citizens idealized by Jefferson.
While there is legitimate value in knowing the rules of grammar, the scientific method, the steps of a geometric proof, or the sequence of events in history, these lessons without real-life application carry little meaning beyond the test. Regardless of whether curriculum objectives are created by the teacher or externally by district, state, or even federal educational leaders, exceptional teachers know how to use their instructional goals so as to engage their students in real-life inquiry and to further develop the critical thinking skills which their students will need throughout their lives. Outstanding educators enable students to use the elements of the lesson so as to gain a greater understanding of the bigger picture of life. My ultimate desire is to facilitate the dialogue occurring in my classroom with the expectation that my students will take greater ownership of their personal learning and explore answers to critical questions for their historic or geographical understanding. I then want them to seek the most productive manner in which to turn those answers into meaningful action plans to assist their fellow citizens on this planet. Further, distinguished teachers use innovative technologies to enhance their students’ 21st century skills. The very nature of human interaction, especially within the workforce, changes daily due to new technologies. I believe that our ever globalizing world requires me as teacher to incorporate as many hands-on technology opportunities into my lessons as I can; teaching is not about my comfort level but about the needs of my students.
Personally, my educational philosophies are incorporated into greater opportunities for my students to interact with myself, their peers, and their global community. I share a host of relevant resources and lead test review sessions through my Twitter account and my Facebook page. My students’ desks are arranged in groups so I can facilitate their collaboration in analyzing historic primary source documents or global current events articles and enhance their understanding. Additionally, blogging, website design, video creation, and a host of other online technologies enable my students to interact with the world.
The rewards for teaching come in many forms. Throughout my career I have received numerous letters, cards, e-mails, and verbal accolades from both students and parents showing their appreciation for the impact that my class and I have made on their lives and education; gifts and mementos have also been given, including an original painting which continues to hang in my classroom. In similar fashion, my colleagues and administrators have recognized my efforts through the various letters of recommendation they have attached to grants for which I’ve applied and by naming me as Southmoore’s 2013-2014 Teacher of the Year. The variety of grants I have received, especially for international study tours, and my annual invitation to the reading/scoring session for the AP US History exam are further testaments to my teaching accomplishments. However, no personal reward in my career is as meaningful as when one of my students takes what he or she has learned and uses it to impact their world.