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Fred Schafer’s Teaching Philosophy Statement

Students learn best when they actively construct meaning around their interests and experiences. Teaching in constructivist pedagogical methods, students gain a deeper understanding of classroom material that is useful in solving real world problems and projects. The use of worksheets, textbooks, and lectures designed only to fill students with information leads to passive learning and rote memorization, and places too much emphasis on short-term recall ability which is soon forgotten.

As an educator, I want to free my students from relying on the teacher for answers so they can begin to learn on their own and continue to learn after their school years are over. My lesson plans incorporate state standards, student interests, and their culture, as well as modern-day technologies that pique the interests of all students in my classroom. In my classroom students will create new knowledge from my lessons through different portals of knowledge devices that I will teach them, such as: a plethora of new computer software applications (in both PC and Mac platforms), Internet research, LCD projectors, Smart Boards, document cameras, wiki’s, class blogs and video blogs, social networking tools, just to mention a few. This will facilitate the development of critical higher order thinking skills. These web 2.0 technologies will help the student meet the academic standards of the future. My goal is to create lifelong learners who understand and appreciate that learning does not stop once the test is taken or school is over.

In order to reach all students, a teacher must use a variety of teaching techniques to meet the various learning styles of the students and must therefore be both flexible and approachable. Teachers should facilitate the learning process. Information should not just be passed down as if it is the last and all-knowing word. Instead, the classroom must be student-centered with a high degree of interaction between the students, and between the teacher and student.

I strongly believe that all students can learn when teaching takes this interest-based, differentiated approach. However, making connections to student interests does not mean the entire curriculum must revolve around the interests of the student, but rather, these connections must be made within a core academic curriculum that achieves the state standard. By applying this conservative curriculum through a liberal teaching methodology, we are combining what children should learn with how they should learn it, thus creating lifelong learners out of all our children. It is very important for kids to learn how to teach themselves because they are going to have to be life long learners. They need to be life long learners because the world is always changing quickly, and they must adapt quickly to the world's demands placed upon them.

Some philosophies that I espouse and bring into my classroom practices are the following:
1. Essentialism believes that teachers should instill such traditional American virtues as respect for authority, perseverance, fidelity to duty, consideration for others and their property, and practicality (Sadker & Sadker 1994, p. 369). 2. Progressivism has a respect for individuality. This theory stresses that people are social animals who learn well through active interplay with others and that our learning increases when we are engaged in activities that have meaning for us (p. 372). This approach to education is a perpetually enriching process of ongoing growth (p. 372).
3. Behaviorism states that proper motivation does not come from within, rather it is the reinforcing opportunities of the environment that serve to strengthen or reduce behaviors. (Cooney, Cross, & Truck, 1993, p. 220). An effective teacher will create an environment where appropriate reinforcers exist that facilitate learning and establish acceptable behavior within the classroom. These behavioral outcomes are just as essential as learning the curriculum (p. 212).
4. Constructivism constructs knowledge and meaning from students’ experiences. Social constructivism views each learner as a unique individual with unique needs and backgrounds. Social constructivism not only acknowledges the uniqueness and complexity of the learner, but actually encourages, utilizes and rewards it as an integral part of the learning process (Wertsch 1997). In other words, the background and culture is very important to the learning curve of the student.

Furthermore, it is argued that the responsibility of learning should reside increasingly with the learner (Von Glasersfeld 1989). According to Von Glasersfeld (1989), sustaining motivation to learn is strongly dependent on the learner’s confidence in his or her potential for learning. This coincides with Vygotsky’s "zone of proximal development" theory (Vygotsky 1978) where learners are challenged within close proximity to, yet slightly above, their current level of development. By experiencing the successful completion of challenging tasks, learners gain confidence and motivation to embark on more complex challenges.

Classroom management is not a system of rewards and punishment so students will act according to the teacher’s wishes. It requires the teacher to be pro-active rather than re-active to issues in the classroom. Failure to spark student interest and motivation contributes to student boredom that causes unwanted classroom behavioral issues. I address this by making connections between what the students are learning and what is going on in their lives. A strong instructional plan will, most times, deter classroom behavioral problems.

I also use critical thinking questions to spark heated discussions about the lesson objective I wanted to get across that day. The proper use of video at the beginning of a lesson to pique student interest is better than waiting until the end of a lesson also engages students to pay attention and participate. Behavioral problems arise also when students do not know what to do next or what is expected of them. From asynchronous video class sites to class blogs with today’s and the next day’s lesson objective, homework due, and expectations to be met in class that day, there will be no excuses for anyone to say that they did not know what to expect. Even when they are absent for long periods of time, they can go to the asynchronous video class sites to get abreast of class instructions and assignments. Special arrangements will be made for those without a computer.

Student assessment should not only focus on student achievement outcomes, but on the learning process itself that strengthens higher order thinking, produce rich world tasks, induces peer collaboration of materials and talents, and an instructor who will provide timely and appropriate feedback.

Students in the 21st Century need caring, competent teachers, but they also need the benefit of new methods, innovative technologies, and a renewed vision of public schools. We must make the most of our efforts to provide leadership for innovation, support for schools and districts, and a continual focus on student achievement and appropriate standards to strengthen North Carolina's competitiveness.

Not only should we teach the three R’s of academic pursuit, but also the three C’s of care, concern, and connection. Classroom climate, school routines and rituals, teachers’ modes of teaching, and children’s ways of learning should all be guided by a spirit of family-like affection. (Martin 1995, p. 359).
 
References
Cooney, William, Cross, Charles, Trunk & Barry (1993). From Plato to Piaget: The Greatest Educational Theorists From Across the Centuries and Around the World. New York: University Press of America.
Martin, J.R. (January, 1995). A philosophy of education for the year 2000. Phi Delta Kappan, 76 (5).
Sadker, M.P. & Sadker, D.M. (1994). Teachers, Schools, and Society. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc.
 
 

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