My Educational Philosophy


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My personal philosophy regarding kids.

"The mediocre teacher tells.
The good teacher explains.
The superior teacher demonstrate
The great teacher inspires."

William Arthur Ward

I believe that children are innately good, and seek to better and improve themselves.  However, due to the confusing nature of our society, their ideas of “improvement” might be skewed.  With that in mind, I will focus on the whole person of each child – both in and out of the classroom.  By going beyond the intelligences of learning, evaluating both their strengths and weaknesses, I want to get to know them as individuals to better understand them as a part of the microcosm of school and the macrocosm of society and I must also keep in mind their family dynamics and socio-economic background when possible.
Today’s children face an at times cruel world: single-parent homes, drug and alcohol abuse, violence, abuse (of all types) are the norm rather than the exception.  That is where I come in – I hope to instill in them an attitude that √† EFFORT = SUCCESS = PRIDE.  Thus, by giving them the tools and the support they need to succeed, I can tap into their innate desire to explore the unknown (and to show that learning isn’t necessarily painful).
 Although I realize that though not all children can learn to a high plane; specifically learning disabled/handicapped children, and there are those who simply do not want to learn; I believe that all children can be encouraged to achieve within their own limits.  By fostering support and concern for each and every child and showing respect for the individual, I believe that even the difficult trouble-makers can be reached – if only temporarily.  I believe that even the children who have “fallen through the cracks” because of bad choices or circumstances deserve another chance to succeed and to make something of themselves.
As I write this, I keep thinking back to some of the problems that I caused in school – nothing terrible, but certainly annoying to my teachers nonetheless.  Knowing what I know now, I was looking for a little guidance and direction beyond that of my parents.  With that in mind I would give my students the direction, discipline and focus they need, but will also allow them the latitude they desire to become successful students and eventually successful adults.  As long as teachers, children and parents understand that learning is a life-long journey and not a “one shot deal,” much of the pressures of school can be eased for all concerned.  Of course certain targets must be attained at each level and goals have to not only be set, but reached as well, if a child has a spark of curiosity that is encouraged by an enthusiastic teacher, they can look forward to a lifetime of worthwhile pursuits.


How I plan to build relationships with students.

Primarily, I will build relationships with students by being prepared, ready and excited to be their teacher.  I am a historian and anthropologist, and believe the best way to really understand and learn a subject is to teach it, so keeping that in mind, I intend on being the best History, Social Science teacher my students will ever encounter.  Being truly energetic and interested in the subject is infectious.  By showing my students that studying history is much more than learning a bunch of dates and other mundane things – although I believe these are necessary to properly teach history and the social sciences, I intend to make history come alive for them by making it up close and personal (a genealogy project comes to mind here).
Along with being THE subject matter expert, I will also build relationships with students by being approachable, friendly, and interested in each individual to the extent they are comfortable.  I don’t intend on being their buddy or pal, but along with Harry Wong’s plan of greeting them at the door with a smile and handshake I will make time during the class day to allow the students a chance to talk about issues that are important to them, and afterwards as necessary.
I intend to use humor to get my students to open up to me and relax enough to allow the learning process to start and the creative juices to flow.  As you saw with my CD, I do like to have fun while learning.  However, since I tend to have a very sarcastic wit, I have to remember to be very careful with my responses to avoid creating animosity between any of my students and myself.  For this reason, I doubt I would even consider using some of the nonsensical responses suggested by some theorists.  It would be far too easy to lapse into sarcasm, which (obviously) would be detrimental for everyone in the classroom.
I intend to encourage my students to develop “ownership” within the classroom by getting them to work with me to establish a code of conduct and logical consequences that they are willing to live with.  As a part of the ownership, I intend on restating that this classroom is a community built on trust and mutual respect, and by modeling proper behavior in such things as saying “please,” and “thank you,” as well as attentive listening and showing genuine interest in my students I hope to model good citizenship for my students.
Since I cannot assume that my students will understand my rationale for good citizenship, I will have to use encouragement at every opportunity coupled with humor and my force of personality – I will show them that I WANT to be in the classroom, enjoy teaching the subject and like working with each and every one of them.  I will reinforce good behavior by using appreciative praise, creating a “token commodity” and I will ignore bad behavior when possible (ala Skinner) in order to extinguish it.  I will re-direct students’ behavior as needed so they can focus on the task and provide “hurdle help” when needed to get them to do what I expect them to do.  In addition, I will also attend my students’ other activities and programs like sporting events, recitals and the like.  By showing students that I am an active member of the school and the community, it might inspire my students to participate more freely too.

First Day Script

 “Good morning.  I am Mr. Woods and this is History/Social Science/…  I really enjoy history and hope to give you an appreciation of the subject as well.  I know that some of you are sitting there thinking this is going to be a class filled with dates, facts and boring stuff like that.  To that I answer, ‘You are only half-right,’ we will learn dates and facts, but this class will hardly be boring….”
More on that later – let’s talk about how we will organize and run “our” classroom.  With this, I would give the students a first day briefing about my beliefs and how much I appreciate their active involvement in the class and their community.  I want to focus on the need for everyone in our classroom to work together to a common goal of success.  I would have already greeted each of the students at the door as they arrived, told them how to find their assigned seats and begun the work they will find at their desks.  After the bell rang, I would greet the class again and re-emphasize how happy I am that they are attending my class.  I will take this time to tell them a little about what their studies will entail, and my own background.  I will also distribute a syllabus for the term and discuss the contents in depth.

Each Monday morning the class will have 15 minutes of warm up called “Comments for the Cosmos.”  Similar to current events, but in order to initiate a discussion, the student will not only have to mention a current event, but answer three questions about the event:
  1. How does this affect me? 
  2. What would I do differently if it were I? 
  3. What can (or should we) we do to change the event?
This discussion will undoubtedly become heated at times, so I will enlist a student to become the class recorder to take notes for the “Friday Follow-up.” This will allow students to select their own topics and panels for an in-class debate, conduct research on the subject and prepare a more organized discussion on the subject, all of which they will have to do after hours individually and in small groups of their own choosing.  To help facilitate orderly debates, I will teach them Debate 101 the first week of class.
As an incentive plan to help foster community spirit, I will also start a program to set sail on the “Citizen-ship,” in order to participate in this event, each student will be given a blank ticket with sections marked off for participation.  Class work and participation will count for a percentage, but active community involvement verified by a program director would count more towards booking passage on the “Citizen-ship.”  The exact details and rewards for successful embarkation on the “Citizen-ship,” would have to be worked out with the department and school administration.
I want to stress to my students that respect and dignity are not just buzzwords, but more importantly, they are the foundation of my teaching and management methodology.  I want students to know that I will not tolerate ridicule, harassment, or derogatory comments inside my classroom.  Along with that, I want them to know that I will not allow them to fail if I can avoid it and that I am available during the class day and after hours to help them succeed.  However, I will stress that although I am here to help them learn and to succeed, I cannot do it for them; they must put forth the effort, be self-motivated, and interested in excelling.
Along with these tenets, I will let them know that I will assign classroom duties along the way, not as punishment, but rather to help prepare them for being productive citizens.  I believe that in this classroom, students are not only responsible for their own well being, but also for their fellow classmates as well.  Each student is expected to treat each other kindly and fairly.  The students will also know that all actions have consequences – both good and bad.  With that, I will emphasize that I understand that mistakes happen and mistakes are a part of growth, but if we all can grow from them then they are not terrible in themselves.
* * * * *
Because I am a history teacher, and we will be discussing some very awkward issues related to history, I believe that a warning statement is necessary to get students to think in the right frame of mind when it comes to studying history.
“The subject matter we are about to discuss is a very sensitive issue for most people regardless of their beliefs. Keeping that in mind, I must caution you that many of the primary source documents we will use throughout the class contains references to racial and socio-economic superiority that are simply not true.  Therefore, as historians, I expect all of you to conduct yourselves as professionals and accord everyone the respect they deserve as individuals.”
· This is the delicate part of the class – it is imperative to show children that awkward subjects such as racism, prejudice, and similar issues can be and should be discussed in the open forum of the classroom so that the issues are analyzed academically and analytically, not emotionally.
The students will understand that during academic analysis, they must adhere to strict guidelines for discussions, and that if they use this as a vehicle for ridicule or harassment they will receive an appropriate consequence for their actions.  With that out of the way, I want them to walk out of the first class with the belief that I am a positive, sincere, and professional teacher who wants all of them to succeed.

How I plan to build relationships with parents.

In order to build a relationship with parents, I will send out a letter to each of them before the beginning of school that welcomes them and their child into my classroom.  I want to stress to them that my goal is to educate their child and to keep them informed as to their progress.  I do not want them to feel uncomfortable about calling me with questions and concerns about assignments, or consequences meted out to their child.  I do not want them in the dark about how my classroom will function.  I will attempt to eliminate the US vs. THEM mentality that is so prevalent when parents, students and teachers interact.
I will also use a class newsletter to convey information about class, the school and projects that students will be working on, since I will use the newsletter as a class project that is student written, edited, and published, this will also keep the parent aware of what their child is doing.  Along with the newsletter, I will send out periodic updates on their children’s progress and ask for parent volunteers to come to the class to visit, assist or be guest speakers for different activities.

Prevention and Support Plan

When misbehavior occurs, I must:
  1. Depersonalize the situation – recognize that the student is not attacking me personally, but is more than likely frustrated.
  2. Stay calm, (count to 10) – think of options.  RESPOND DON’T REACT
  3. Decide on the interaction style to be used – “should I walk away and allow the situation to defuse by itself?” OR “Should I remove the student [relocate] from the situation?”
  4. If the situation becomes physical – protect other students and get help.

I will deal with misbehavior quickly, consistently and respectfully.  Clear expectations are the key to identifying misbehavior and the student’s choice to misbehave.  I will use the following methods of classroom management to have a successful classroom experience:

  • Develop written rules and consequences – with student collaboration
  • Use non-verbal communication (cuing) to help motivate students to make the right choices (eye contact, physical proximity, gestures, etc)
  • Verbal warnings – quiet and respectful, not loud or aggressive
  • Redirect wrong behavior back on track
  • Provide “Hurdle Help.”
  • Avoid power struggles
  • Address the behavior, not the character of the student.  Use sane messages
  • “I” messages.
  • Prevent escalation by talking and listening with the student.  Focus on the problem, not the situation
  • Use a contract with the student
  • Corrective Plan:
    • Apply consequences consistently; ensure the student knows that they have chosen the consequences based on their behavior.
    • If the actions warrant, remove the student from the classroom
    • Create a lesson based on the misbehavior – aversion therapy(?)
    • Contact the parents as necessary
    • Use one-on-one counseling
    • Behavioral journals – have the misbehaving student write about their actions and why it was not the best course of action, what they should have done or will do in the future.
    • Behavioral contract
    • Involve the Administration if necessary – instituting the insubordination rule

Most importantly, I must follow through and be consistent with all actions.
How administrative and fellow-teacher support for the system will be obtained.
By approaching my fellow teachers, staff members, and administrators with a half-empty cup, I hope to learn from their institutional knowledge and mix it with my own experiences to come up with a workable plan for my classroom.

In order to do that I must be willing to ask for help; I am especially interested in seeking out a mentor as a role model so I can perfect my teaching style.  Some of the (Wong) ways I will use to attain my goals are to:

  1. Work in a collegial manner with my colleagues
  2. Associate with and learn from positive mentors
  3. Join a professional organization
Continue to learn through classes, workshops, conferences, in-service meetings, books, journals, tapes, and advanced degrees.
I will not forget the lunchroom ladies, custodians, and staff members during my apprenticeship either; I still have fond memories of the people who held these jobs when I was a student and how they commanded the respect and admiration of students, faculty and administrators alike.  By respecting and treating them as colleagues in education, I hope to gain their trust and respect in return.
As discussed earlier, I intend on discussing potentially difficult subjects, thus I will let the principal know when I am teaching delicate or controversial issues and provide him/her with a copy of my lesson plan as deemed necessary to avoid possible repercussions from concerned parents.

My plan for the first day of school.

The first day of school is the most important day of the school year.  There is only one chance to make a good impression, and I will do as much as I can to make it as good as possible for the students and myself.
 I will ensure that my students never doubt where we as a class are heading and what our educational goals and objectives for the year are.  I will take the time during the first day to carefully map out for the students the organization and structure of the class.  By doing so, I hope to have every student clear on what is expected of them and me for the upcoming year.  I will also use this time to carefully map out the management plan for the year, but tell the students that they will have input on a daily basis.
 I will begin my first day as Harry Wong suggests, greeting my students with genuine enthusiasm and respect for them as individuals.  I will be professionally dressed and will show them that I am glad that they are my students.  I will do as much as I can to help alleviate the students’ concerns about the “big seven questions,” first by directing students to where they need to go – either into my classroom or down the hall to someone else’s room.  My students will find an organized well thought-out classroom with assigned seating and their first lesson on the desk, which they will begin working on after finding their seats.  I will use signs and bulletin boards posted in prominent positions in the classroom to keep the students informed and to welcome them into my classroom.  I want them to feel comfortable and to regard this as a place where learning is encouraged, takes place and where they can explore the depths of their curiosity, astonishment and discovery.  I will have an area of the wall that will have some of my accomplishments, diplomas and awards, but it will be quite small compared to the area I will dedicate for my students to decorate with their achievements.
 After our introductions, we will discuss class goals, curriculum objectives, grading criteria, and where we will be traveling together during the coming year.
I like the theme of a journey for my classroom, and I will implement that theme in many of my lessons and methodologies.
I expect that I will spend a good deal of time the first day explaining procedures for classroom dynamics, cooperation, demeanor, and most importantly, my expectations for their total involvement in their learning and also their classroom behavioral responsibilities.  These responsibilities will be presented on day one, reinforced each day for the first week and then periodically throughout the year.  I will also emphasize that these rules can be modified if they (the classroom community members) show me they should be changed.  (Another debate, court case or legislative session would fit in nicely here).
 I will also discuss the use of verbal and non-verbal methods to get the immediate attention of the class in order to pass out instructions or provide guidance in the event of a real emergency.  A raised hand or similar signal should suffice to get their attention, but we will have to practice compliance to this agreed upon signal.  This seemingly simple tool needs to be effective but not degrading for the students or for me; so it needs to be discussed and agreed upon by everyone.  After this attention-getter is agreed upon, we will practice it throughout the period and in later periods until the students’ reactions become second nature.
 Although goals and objectives are important, the most important part of the day will be the students’ evaluation of me and how I act towards them: my actions, my speech, and how I carry myself.  I intend on being relatively strict during the beginning of the term, and as I get to know the students and they understand the procedures in the classroom, I will ultimately be in the position to modify my approach accordingly.  I will show the students that I respect them as individuals by the way I treat them, and although I am the guy in charge, I know that they will constantly evaluate me too.
 I will use assigned seating arrangement and explain that until I learn all of their names I will continue to use it and that sometime after that, we may alter the plan.  This of course does not apply to the times we break down into “learning pods,” but even then I will guide students into the groups I desire by using numbers, colors or other methods to get the mix of students I desire.   After explaining the seating, I will discuss my list of class principles and give each student three copies – their first homework assignment would be to discuss these rules with their parents gather their input (and their signature) on one copy and the other two are for them to keep for later referral. 

Along with these principles I really like the phrase, “No one has the right to interfere with the learning, safety or well being of another,” as a basis for our class’ rules.  This quote along with the class rules will be displayed prominently, reviewed and discussed throughout the year.
The parents would have already seen these principles in the letter that I would have sent out before the beginning to school.  The reasoning for this is simple; I want all parties of this triad [Teacher – Student – Parent] to understand my behavioral expectations and the consequences for not following the rules.  I will also enlist the students to help draft and write class policies that could even be used as written contracts for behavior expectations.  The final version of this contract would also be displayed on the wall and a copy would be sent home to parents for them to sign along with their child to “seal the deal.”
Other thoughts about managing my class are as follows, some of them have been mentioned before.

I will begin taking attendance as the students arrive, and will finish it before or as the bell rings.  This will take a minimum of a week for me to learn the students by sight, but eventually I will be able to take roll without wasting any time.
Students will have assigned seats, they are expected to go to them and begin the bell work immediately.  Each day’s assignment/goals will be posted in a prominent location in the classroom.
The classroom will be arranged in rows for the first day of class, but I will re-arrange the chairs, desks, or tables as necessary depending on what activities are planned for each day.  I have seen it where the whole class’ attitude changes when the chairs are pushed to the outside and everyone sits on the floor.
 I will show students that if misbehavior occurred yesterday, that it is not going to held against them today.
I really liked the “get out of jail free” card to allow students a one-time bye for a non-critical assignment.  I think that would be especially valuable during a senior-level class.

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