My teaching philosophy is constantly changing. My pillars remain the same but each generation of students presents new and exciting challenges. On this, the first morning of yet another semester, I find it appropriate to post my Teaching Philosophy in full.
“When the learner is ready, the teacher will appear.” I share this Chinese proverb on the first day of every class because it is imperative that my students understand that I am there as a guide on their educational journey but ultimately they must make connections to the material. If students are not prepared or ready to learn new skills and have knowledge imparted to them, then I cannot be as effective in the classroom. With that being said, the burden is on the student and the teacher as both parties seek academic growth. I believe that teaching is a continual learning process and that good teaching requires more than knowledge of a topic area, it also requires an understanding of instructional processes and methods and a constant refining of skills (Vangelisti, Daly, & Friedrich, 1999). My teaching philosophy is similar to my statement of core values. In all teaching endeavors I strive for excellence, I seek to be an advocate, I long to inspire, and I creatively innovate.
Excellence: Professors, and higher education professionals, must uphold a certain level of excellence. In research, and in the classroom, I strive to be excellent. I prepare thoroughly and seek to model dutiful preparation to my students. In crafting a lesson plan I want to leave no stone unturned. As students see my preparation I hope that they, in turn, will come to class prepared: Assignments turned in on time, reading accomplished, ready for discussion. I hold my students to high standards but they are standards that I also uphold. I firmly believe that instructors in the academy cannot hold students to standards that the institution does not maintain.
Advocacy: Many students seek someone, anyone, to believe in them and their abilities. Some have been consistently praised while others have been gradually marginalized and I want to be an advocate for all students. My goal is to teach, to lead, and to inspire. I want them to work hard and succeed. I try to be “for” my students and when necessary be their voice if they cannot speak for themselves while creating a sense of mutual respect in the classroom. Students understand that ultimately I am the authority figure and their professor but mutual respect penetrates my interaction with students. I strive to advocate for those who have tried their best and who have been excellent in their dealings in the classroom.
Inspiration: Advocating for students, and striving for excellence, should lead one to a charismatic presence in the classroom. I purposefully make the topics I teach relevant to everyday life. I create assignments that lend themselves to practical and applied communication techniques. If students are not inspired to learn and if they do not see the subject matter as relevant they will not appreciate or understand the material. I view inspiration as an opportunity to let students know that what they are doing in the classroom can also be used as a means to impact their world. I want my students to be leaders not observers and I want them to be challenged to stand for their convictions.
Innovation: As I seek to inspire students I also recognize that they must be engaged. If they are not motivated to preform, motivated to achieve their goals, then their goals will disappear. Through creative innovation, and effective/efficient classroom assignments and discussion, I attempt to bring their talents respectively in view of the world at large. Every student is different and every student responds to different methods of teaching. I try to structure my lectures, assignments, activities, and discussions in such a way that all learning styles are approached creatively and that students are engaged in active experimentation of the material (Kolb, 1984). Teachers have a habit of teaching as they were taught and I strive to rise above classical classroom lecture standards through an effective use of technology and innovative activities.
It is true that when the “learner is ready, the teacher will appear,” but it is also true that a teacher can be an educational catalyst along a student’s journey of knowledge and self-discovery. To be the best teacher I can be I seek to always remember what it was like to be a student. I try to create a classroom environment that employs excellence, advocacy, inspiration, and innovation so my students can lead and communicate in the 21st century.
Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc.
Vangelisti, A. L., Daly, J. A., & Friedrich, G. W. (Eds.). (1999). Teaching communication: Theory, research, and methods.New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.