I want to share my teaching philosophy so my future students can see how I view myself as an educator and can keep me in check. I think transparency is a beautiful thing and is necessary to gain respect and mutual understanding of expectations. I care so much about giving students a meaningful, enjoyable education and about educating the whole individual. I hope my current and (especially) future work reflects that.
I believe in educating the individual student, because a good educator teaches the students, not just the material. I’ve come to understand that everyone learns differently but that it is possible to reach everyone, if you have the patience and willingness to do so – which I do. Through my passion for the material and my readiness to grow as an educator, I know I can create an environment where my students can thrive.
There are many key components to a productive classroom. Everything from mutual trust to openness, acceptance, respect, and curiosity are absolutely necessary to create an environment in which students and teachers can grow and learn effectively together. But I think the most important aspect is dynamism. It can be easy for students to lose interest when they don’t immediately understand a topic. It’s a common coping mechanism to avoid frustration and “protect us” from failure, but it doesn’t serve us well in the end. During my time as educator, I have seen that all of us have our own unique processes through which we learn, so being a dynamic teacher who can explain and re-explain information in a variety of ways is incredibly important. It’s important for students to be flexible too, and I think this comes easily to most classrooms with proper encouragement from the teacher. This is especially important in the sciences, as much of the information being taught is best delivered through hands-on experiments and labs. This requires both students and teachers to leave their comfort zone at times, but in a classroom built on trust and flexibility, that shouldn’t be too large of an obstacle.
In addition to helping my students learn, I want to foster their growth as well. Secondary school is a transitional stage that coincides with a lot of potentially difficult changes, and I want my students to see me as an ally and an advocate for their success. I also want them to know that I am open to hearing what they have to say. If they feel something about our classroom isn’t working, I’m all ears. I will make it clear to them that not unlike them, I’m learning too. Learning to be the best teacher I can possibly be for my students, and that means giving them space to voice their concerns or confusions, and then acting accordingly.
I believe teaching the individual is the most effective way to get through to students. In order to do so, it’s imperative to understand who it is you’re standing in front of. For example, my middle schoolers at Audubon Zoo’s science camp learn very differently than the college freshmen attending my health programming. Perhaps they have some things in common, but for the most part the two groups require starkly different approaches to achieve the same goal. I found that my middle school students learned best when fully immersed in a hands-on activity that almost made them forget they were in a classroom, like learning about mitosis with sandwich cookies and sprinkles. My college students, on the other hand, preferred discussion-based open forums where we worked together to come to a unanimous conclusion or understanding. I embrace both structured and unstructured approaches to teaching. While I love bringing technology into the classroom and creating detailed Powerpoint presentations or worksheets, I also revel in the moments where I can watch my students learn by catching and identifying insects or by drawing and sharing their work.
I’m willing to put in the work to make my students feel comfortable, safe, and supported, but also challenged. I want to show them what makes STEM so interesting and to share my passion for science with them so that they can experience the wonders of science too. I plan to employ a wide variety of teaching techniques to strike a balance; allowing them to get the formal material they need and the opportunity to explore the real-life applications of the things we’re discussing in class. Additionally, I stay up to date on new scientific discovery and discussion so my lessons reflect the most recent findings. I will support my students in and out of the classroom and will advocate for their best interests whenever possible. I know there will be a learning curve when I first enter a formal classroom environment, but I’m ready and willing to do whatever I can to make sure I am correctly serving each student’s needs to the best of my ability.