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Every teacher has his or her own reasons for wanting to take up the not necessarily enviable task of cultivating the minds of hundreds of students, each of whom has their own personal backgrounds and idiosyncrasies. In teaching, teachers give a part of themselves that is wholly immaterial, making a lasting impact on their students whether they know of it or not. These reasons (and how one would go about implementing them), summed up in a teaching philosophy, make a teacher what he or she is, giving them the will and determination to go on inspite of the difficulties the profession entails.
In his well-known article published in The Teaching Professor, Professor Richard Leblanc said that teaching is as much about passion as it is reason; that teaching students how to learn in a manner that is both relevant and memorable is as important as motivating them to learn. Teaching is about having passion for the craft, and conveying that passion to the students (Leblanc, 1988). That article summed up my own personal philosophy on teaching and reinforced what I’ve always believed: that to be an effective teacher, one must not allow himself to be constrained within the limits of the system, and that a student learns more if you allow them free rein and showing them how passionate you are with the subject you’re teaching them, infecting them with it so they cultivate in them the trait of being curious and critical to every subject such that they begin to ask questions and, in the process, learn more than if the subject was just hammered into them like data fed on a computer. A subject – any subject – regardless of whether they’re a part of a student’s major or not, can be interesting if taught in the proper way, engaging the student’s way of thinking by making them think, rather than just mechanically following the chapters of a book or the course syllabus. I believe that it is through this that a student develops a process of discovery and critical thinking that they will be able to carry beyond the classrooms, and into the world in their everyday life.
My goal is to create a classroom where discussion is openly initiated rather than forced, where ideas are freely given regardless of whether they contradict the majority or not, just as long as those ideas are relevant to the main topic at hand. I do this, for example, by introducing one particular hot topic for the day (current events, social news, etc.), and ask them how relevant it is to the subjects we’ve discussed so far. It is through these interactions that a student learns the value of one’s own opinion, and that they can learn from their own peers as well as they can from their own textbooks. I want my students to see others as a resource to reinforce their own ideas and realize that so much can be learned more from actively seeking out answers rather than sitting in a chair and having those answers fed to them. I hope to make them see that learning is a collaborative process, not just a one-way street. By stimulating a healthy discussion of interesting topics, I encourage my students to develop confidence in expressing their views. In this way, I hope to make even the most introverted ones realize their worth in a group, so they become active participants of an activity and, in the process, realize the potential that they possess.
I do not believe in a very rigid system of teaching. I am of the opinion that it is when a student feels that they’re limited in what they can do that they become less effective learners. Thus, a teacher who portrays himself as being too stiff and academic becomes someone that is, at the same time, both boring and feared. I would like my students to see me as someone who is there to help them learn, not as someone who will make them learn. I try and create an air of warmth and friendliness around me, making sure that they can laugh and discuss anything they want with me and with the class, so long as they do so with the knowledge that at the end of the day, I am still their teacher and, as such, be given the proper respect accorded to being one. In line with the idea of a non-rigid system of teaching, I am not adverse to the idea of using unorthodox methods to drive the lesson home. Indeed, part of my philosophy is that anything that stimulates the student’s interest is a good thing, so whether it means deviating from the given syllabus or going out on trips not usually scheduled on a school itinerary, as long as it gives the students the opportunity to see an otherwise oft-beaten subject in a completely different light, it is worth doing.
Lastly, I believe in personal interaction. Only when a teacher becomes a student’s friend can proper trust form, and the bond between teacher and student be strengthened. Most often, a teacher is feared because he is encased in this shell of authority and works in a circle that excludes the students out. It is only when a teacher learns the intricacies of how each of his students’ mind works that he becomes that much more effective in teaching them, as he can then be able to mold his lessons in ways that reaches through every nuance of his students.
Teaching is never a job. It is a calling for someone’s desire to make a difference on each and every person that comes under his wing. It is showing them that there is a big world out there and arming them with the knowledge they need to live in it, and doing so in ways that is both fun and rewarding. Teachers teach because they want to, not because they can.
Leblanc, R. (1988). Good Teaching: The Top Ten Requirements. The Teaching Professor, 12 (6). Retrieved January 3, 2008, from http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/ FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/topten.htm