Prepared by Laurie Goode

"To waken interest and kindle enthusiasm is the sure way to teach easily and successfully."
– Tyron Edwards

Education is an ongoing process that inspires people to fulfill their life’s potential. This inspiration is what I want my students to take away from the time we share in the classroom. There are three important areas that I use to frame my teaching philosophy based on this idea of education: 1) creating an environment conducive to learning, 2) encouraging motivation to learn, and 3) providing a fair education to all. When this triad is combined, it forms a whole that outlines my role as a teacher.

A classroom environment conducive to learning is a space that immediately feels welcoming to all students upon entrance. Students should feel safe in the classroom, and while this can be accomplished in an assorted number of ways, an underlying commonality in classrooms conducive to learning is the presence of a community of learners. Trust is an essential characteristic in this community in order for the students to openly confide in one another. Establishing a safe community is a daunting task but can be accomplished by giving each individual the respect he or she deserves while expecting the same respect in return. A foundation of trust and respect for individuality inevitably allows the students the freedom to be themselves, opening the door to a more rewarding learning experience.

In addition to establishing a community of trust, I have learned the impact of the physical classroom in the creation of a welcoming environment throughout my practica and student teaching experiences. First and foremost, the classroom must be accessible for all learners to enter and be able to comfortably move around the classroom. Also, resources must be accessible to students in order to foster independence in learning. This means materials to be used by students should not be out of reach on high shelves or guarded behind the teacher's desk, but available for all students. If students must rely on the teacher to provide resources, then there is not a balance in the community of learners because the teacher is necessary for learning to occur. Students need to feel ownership in the classroom to strengthen this community of learners and reinforce the value of the students. Two ways student ownership can be achieved is through the display of student work around the classroom and allowing student input in decisions such as classroom rules. These are all ways the classroom can be arranged and designed to establish a productive learning environment.

When an environment is conducive to learning, I believe we all have an intrinsic motivation to learn about subjects we are passionate about, emphasis on the passion. This yearning for and pursuit of knowledge about subjects we find relevant and interesting always exists, but spending any length of time in a classroom proves that students show different levels of interest in learning. While all students want to learn about certain topics, the difference comes in the varying degrees in which students apply this motivation. For example, if two students are interested in outer space, one student may be content learning from the information given to him or her about the planets. The other student may take that given information, expand on it and maybe even question it. I believe that the first student is a product of a teacher-centered classroom using the objectivist myth of knowing. The intrinsic motivation is there to learn, but the student has been trained to take knowledge, not search for it, and most certainly not question it. The intrinsic motivation is suffocated, and needs to be nourished and allowed to flourish in order to gain the most from learning experiences.

While idealistically all classrooms would be set up to nourish students' intrinsic motivation, I have seen the power of extrinsic motivations in fostering the learning experience time and time again during student teaching. I worked with students who were cold during one subject work through the lesson in order to participate in an afternoon activity in their preferred subjects. I have also seen the power of graded assignments causing students to focus more closely on the material. Therefore, I also believe that external factors can and should be established in the classroom to encourage learning along with the continual search for unlocking the intrinsic motivation that may have been suppressed but lies within students.

Students and teachers bring different passions into the classroom; my role as a teacher is to introduce and encourage my passion of subjects to the class in part through enthusiasm for the subjects. In a community of learners where the subject is the focus rather than the teacher or student, this enthusiastic approach to learning should be two-directional allowing the teacher to learn from the students as well. However, I believe the emphasis should be placed on the relationship of teacher to student even though there is undoubtedly the converse relationship’s presence in the classroom, as there should be.

The last part of the triad is a bit more complex to explain in writing. I believe that as a teacher I should educate students fairly and education should be the same for everyone. The challenging part of this comes from defining two key words: fair and same. A fair classroom gives every student the resources and chances needed to be successful. If a student with learning disabilities takes away more from a lecture when notes are provided beforehand thus enabling him or her to concentrate solely on listening, it is fair for the teacher to provide these notes to this student because it is providing an equal opportunity for all students in the classroom.

I have found that adults, myself included, tend to worry about the student response to these "differences" in differentiated instruction. Fortunately, I have found throughout my experiences that students do not dwell on these subtle differences in the classroom. Through careful planning, the attention on differentiated instruction can be minimized to reduce any student comments.

Turning the attention to “same,” all students are entitled to the same education. The goals and objectives set forth for students should be consistent and equal, with the possible exception of students with severe handicaps. Even in this circumstance, however, education should aim to achieve greatness and not settle for anything less. That, in essence, is what I mean by providing the same education for every student. I am not merely talking about the same curriculum from one school district to its neighbor or from coast to coast, but something much deeper and more fulfilling. Education should be the same by providing the knowledge, tools, and any other resources necessary for helping all students reach their potential as people, not just their academic potential represented by grades and test scores in the classroom.

An effective classroom is a place where all students are given the same chance to become themselves by learning and implementing the tools of knowledge. Every child should feel safe and welcomed when entering the classroom, which develops the groundwork for the process and exploration of learning. Education is more than exemplifying mastery of the curriculum; it combines this foundation of knowledge with a continuous need to learn while simultaneously providing the chance for every person to reach his or her potential.