Teaching Philosophy

Teaching Philosophy Statement

Teaching English is my life, but learning has always been my passion. My style of teaching is constantly being developed as I learn through professional development and by engaging and listening to my students. Finding out how my students learn is, to me, a large part of what it means to be a teacher.

We all learn in spite of ourselves. We can’t help it. It’s part of being human. You might say that should make my job fairly easy. I could stand in front of a classroom and let nature take its course, but that would be boring. One should never be boring in front of a classroom, one should always have style. “Style is the answer to everything”. Charles Bukowski said that; he was a poet. I am an English teacher. Broadly put, as a teacher I have a responsibility to ensure that my students are learning the English they will need to succeed both academically and socially. As students, they have a responsibility to do more than let learning happen; they have to be active participants. For not everyone who is a learner is a student, but everyone who is a student must be a learner.

The fact that we all learn, as an inherent quality of being alive, might be one of the very few qualities that we all have in common. Beyond this we are a colorful and diverse breed; animals with an individual uniqueness unparalleled. This has to be realized in the classroom, where there are students with many different learning styles and abilities. I like to play to this diversity in the same way that it plays out in society, through the building of community. In language classrooms, it is essential for the students and I to work with each other, to build rapport, and to create an environment that is comfortable and accommodating towards the diversity of the class. When I can relate to and empathize with my students I can better measure their success, and doing this is therefore essential to my own success. One way I make this happen is by being in class early and picking one or two students to have a short chat with. I’ve learned more about my students by doing this than any classroom observations have ever afforded. I also take class time to have students chat with each other and learn each other’s names. Just a few minutes before I jump into the day’s lesson is all it takes for students to understand who is sitting around to them. It is with mutual respect that community thrives and it’s within a thriving community that language prospers.

I once saw a sign in a café that said “Speak in your own English”. It was such a strange place to encounter this sign but its message stuck with me ever since. It encapsulates my core belief in English language teaching, that each student must find their own voice, their own English speaking identity. Having this level of independence in language learning can be scary and debilitating for some students, especially those who have deferred to the “authority” of textbooks in the past. Therefore I design activities that provide learners with confidence by giving each student the opportunity to teach their peers. For example, I use activities in my class where students can work individually on a feature of language and then report what they have learned in small groups. This allows them to both develop independent learning and thinking skills, and to give students the opportunity to take on the role of the teacher. Through adapting activities that put students in charge of their language learning, they access their inherent pragmatic competence, they make the language their own.

In my mission to develop independent thinkers, I also emphasize the importance of cultural awareness and appreciation. This does not only mean the sharing of cultural knowledge between me and my students, but also that we can take advantage of the global stature of English to absorb culture on a much larger scale. Using technology, I like to put my students in the global arena of English learning where they can actively use their language skills to share things about their own culture and learn new things about other cultures. Using social media websites and video chats are often skills that my students already have and I love to utilize those preexisting strengths. Exposing my students to global English gives them insight to the value of the language they are acquiring; it engenders motivation.

What I have described above is not an easy thing. It is not easy to take responsibility for one’s own learning. It is not easy to create community from diversity. Nor is it easy to maintain a level of openness that fosters cultural growth when it is so easy to find comfort in monotony. Monotony is a dull thing, but it’s safe. However, students won’t learn much with a dull teacher. The teacher must have style. I believe that my enthusiastic, global-community style of teaching English enables my students to acquire the academic and social language skills they need. I wouldn’t step in front of a classroom if I didn’t think I had style. “Doing a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without style; to do a dangerous thing with style, is what I call art”. Bukowski said that, too.

Teaching Philosophy Statement PDF: TPS_Barrett

 

“Style is the answer to everything.
A fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous thing
To do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without it
To do a dangerous thing with style is what I call art
Not many have style
Not many can keep style
Style is the difference, a way of doing, a way of being done.”

Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski

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