Devon McDowell

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Professional Philosophy:

     I believe the primary responsibility of today's teacher is to help all students develop talents to the best of their abilities and to develop skills that will enable them to cope with the rapid changes they will encounter in our complex ever-changing global society.  It is the teacher's responsibility to provide a non-threatening climate in which meaningful learning experiences will help children grow emotionally, intellectually, and socially--guiding them in reaching their goals and learning potentials.

     The role of a teacher has changed dramatically over the last several decades due in part to the disintegration of the American family.  Teachers, whether in the role of social worker, parent, advocate, or friend are often the most influential sources of encouragement and guidance in a child's life.  Therefore, they must respect each child's uniqueness and recognize individual differences; they must be sensitive to any physical or emotional needs the child might have while encouraging the development of individual skills and interests.

     I believe that in ascribing to the following tenets, I will be able to help students reach their maximum potential:

1.  Every child can learn.

2.  Children learn in different ways.

3.  Children must have a comfortable learning environment.

4.  Parents need to be involved in their child's learning process.

     Most importantly, I believe that all children can learn.  Every effort must be made to provide learning experiences that are challenging but within the grasp of each student.  From what I've read and researched, my philosophy of teaching would align most closely with the constructivist curriculum where the teacher proposes situations that encourage students to think and develop their own ideas.  Specifically, I like the ideas of problem-based learning, where "teachers act as guides or coaches and give great latitude to student interest, [where] students learn content and skills within the problem context, and [where] teachers spend time selecting problems that are compatible with student maturity levels and curricular needs" (405-406).  In this child-centered classroom, the teacher's role is to facilitate, to provide children with learning experiences and opportunities that will help them develop the necessary skills to become problem solvers.  The constructivist classroom provides students with integrated hands-on activities to help them uncover the mysteries of math, the secrets of science, and the joys of reading.

     In order to facilitate this type of learning, however, the teacher must determine each child's instructional level by assessing strengths and weaknesses.  This needs to be an ongoing process with the teacher constantly determining individual goals, creating and sequencing lessons, and determining appropriate evaluation strategies.  In addition, children must continually be given opportunities to succeed so that they are positively motivated by their successes, with the teacher constantly challenging the students to reach higher goals.

     Because children have different intelligences and different learning styles, teachers must make every effort to build on their strengths, learn their talents and interests, and develop materials that are meaningful for each child.  They need to help students focus on activities that draw from the student's background, and consequently, relate directly to their everyday lives.  By acknowledging students' interests and incorporating them into the daily lessons, children are more likely to find an interest in learning.  Although not all of the learning styles can be incorporated into every lesson, using as many as possible can insure that most of the students will find something they can do successfully.  Regardless of ability or achievement levels, I believe that every child is a genius in his or her own way.  One child may relate to music while another is an artist.  Encouraging them to tap into these talents can build self-confidence and enthusiasm for learning.

     Because students learn in different ways, teachers need to use a variety of techniques in instruction.  By making sure that each lesson contains visual, auditory, and kinesthetic activities (if appropriate), the teacher can insure that all learning styles will be addressed.  They also need to be given opportunities to work independently as well as cooperatively with peers and adults in order to respect the worth of others.  Therefore, I believe teachers should use cooperative learning activities in the classroom.  Because not everyone learns in the same way, it is the teacher's responsibility to present materials in as many ways as possible in order to maximize learning for the class.  The successes that students experience from learning will give them something on which to build.  It is easier for students to continue succeeding if they know that it can be done.

     In order for students to get the most out of their learning activities, they must have a relaxed, tension free environment that is conducive to learning, a climate that is described by Vito Perrone (421)  as a place where: (1) students have time to wonder, (2) topics have an "intriguing" quality, (3) teachers encourage different forms of expression, (4) teachers are passionate about their work, (5) students create original products, (6) students participate in projects that matter, and (7) results are not predetermined.  children must feel free to express their thoughts, feelings, and ideas without reservations.  Mutual trust and respect must be an everyday part of the classroom.  When students feel they can trust their teacher, their minds are most open to be filled with knowledge.  When children feel a sense of pride and ownership in the classroom and in their work, they will feel successful.

     To provide this safe, comfortable, and pleasant atmosphere, it is essential that teachers have pupil control.  My personal philosophy of discipline aligns most closely with the views of the interactionists who suggest that "students must learn that the solution to misbehavior is a reciprocal relation between student and teacher" (Glickman and Wolfgang 418).  Discipline with Dignity (Curwin and Mendler 419) also contains elements that I like--specifically helping children become decision makers and critical thinkers, helping them take responsibility for their own actions.  Without control, a teacher cannot teach and the other students suffer.  I believe that every student in the classroom has the right to learn without being disrupted by other students.  Allowing students at the beginning of the year to write their own classroom rules can sometimes make them feel more a part of the class, and consequently, more willing to obey the rules.  But whatever rules are established, the students need to understand what is or is not appropriate behavior in the classroom and school.  The teacher needs to be firm, fair, and consistent when disciplining is necessary.  The ultimate goal, I believe, is self-discipline.

     In addition to helping the children, teachers must also attempt to reach out to the parents and the community in order to develop a network of support for the child.  Parents are a vital link in a child's education, and they therefore need to be included in the learning process.  There are many ways to help parents become involved in the child's work.  The most important is communication between the teacher and home.  This can be done with frequent phone calls, weekly notes, interim reports, conferences, etc.  A teacher needs to develop a positive relationship with the parents, communicating successes as well as challenges to them.

     Parents should also be kept informed of the teacher's goals in the classroom.  They should be encouraged to work with the school to set high standards and then to help their children achieve them.  It is also important that the teacher explains the reasons for assignments, emphasizing the importance of building self-discipline skills and study habits that will be used throughout their lives.  Making sure that the parents know what their child is doing everyday at school can also help them feel more involved.  Weekly newsletters are a good way to do this.  This can give the parents a sense of importance in their child's education, encouraging them to offer additional support to the child at home.


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Copyright 2005 Devon McDowell. All Rights Reserved.