James Conklin’s Philosophy of Teaching: July 2011
My philosophy as a teacher is one that I have used throughout my life and that is to help others to learn and to learn how to learn. As a teacher, I create an environment that fosters learning through discovery, mutual respect, and purposeful goal setting. I have high expectations of all students and feel this will motivate them to do their best. When students are reluctant to apply themselves, I encourage them to make bold but well thought out mistakes.
Current teachers have often been influenced by former teachers and one of my role models is Mr. Lawry, my junior high school Social Studies teacher. From day one in his class he told us the two reasons we are in school; to learn and to learn how to learn. This will also be what I pass along to my classes. My students will be able to master content and will also be able to take learning skills developed in my class to other classes and beyond.
In creating a safe and respectful classroom, my students will have the opportunities to master content and share their ideas and questions with their peers and their instructor. Every student is on a journey and I am responsible for their progression from one point to another. How far have they progressed when they enter my class and what is their achievement goal? How far can we stretch that goal? How rich can this journey be? I am a student too and I expect to keep progressing along my journey to become a better teacher which will only improve my service to my students.
I am inspired by Thomas Edison who tells of failing hundreds of times before inventing the light bulb. I will encourage my students to make bold, but well-reasoned mistakes. It is not acceptable to just stop or give up. Try something, but know why you tried that method. Not only show your work, but check your work. When my students can communicate about their problem solving methods, then they will be better suited to learn from their mistakes. I also believe that setting high expectations are important in expanding the confidence my students have in their own ability. My students will know that they have a champion for their success every time they are in class.
In my future plans for professional development I will continue to broaden and expand my math content knowledge. I will also revisit what I already know to deepen the ‘why’ of mathematics. Why does the product of two negative numbers yield a positive number? I would also like to expand my reach by adding on a computer science teaching license and perhaps a science license. Furthermore, I need to continue to study educational best practices and meeting the needs of the exceptional child.
As I begin my career in teaching, I am making the best change in my professional life. As I work to develop my classroom and students my philosophy will evolve. However, the core of my philosophy will remain that lesson I learned at Lincoln Junior High School about why we are in school. My students and I will continue to learn and to learn how to learn together.