At the beginning of this semester I was told that at the end of the semester I would need to write my teaching philosophy as an assignment.
Of course I haven’t touched it until today. Oh, did I mention it’s due today? Yeah…
But it’s not because I’m a procrastinator (okay, so, that does have something to do with it, to be honest). It’s because it has taken me all semester to even begin to piece together what my teaching philosophy is. It is a thought that has plagued me from time to time throughout the semester.Why do I want to teach? What does teaching mean to me? Why English? I love history, music, art, I could have taught any of those subjects.
Unlike some of my fellow teachers-to-be, I didn’t aspire to be a teacher from a young age. I didn’t decide pursue an education degree until 2013; when I was about to begin my fifth year of college. It’s hard for me to say what made me decide to become a teacher. But since I have begun my journey to become a teacher I have found myself, finally, feeling that I have a path and a purpose for my life (cheesy and cliché, yes, but it’s true). But that still doesn’t quite answer my next question.
Yes, it would seem the logical decision seeing as I had for four years been an English major and had already received my Associates with an English major. But I felt I was missing something. Some reason why English was so much more important to me than any of the other things I loved and could teach (and possibly easier to teach). I knew that at some point I knew exactly why I loved English the best of any subject and that this surely had something to do with my decision to teach it.
The answer found me again in the form of birthday gift.
My best friend’s baby recently turned a year-old. I agonized over what to get her. There are a plethora of toys and clothes that I could get a one-year-old, but I also knew that these things would be outgrown so quickly. I began to think back to my childhood and the things I had that I kept the longest.
The answer was books.
In particular, Dr. Seuss books. The first book I can remember reading all by myself was Green Eggs and Ham. Books were my constant companions throughout my childhood. I relished our weekly trip to the library. There were worlds contained in those words. Places and people I had never seen, nor would ever, yet they existed in the pages I devoured. My mother allowed me the freedom to read what I wanted, to inquire, to drink in the knowledge these books could give me. I leapt from genre to genre, following the rabbit holes so to speak. Writing, as it would happen, is something I didn’t come to enjoy until my college days, but by the time I got there it too felt like a long-lost friend.
So I bought baby Selah books, one of which was Green Eggs and Ham.
“Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.” -John Green
“The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.” -Alexandra Trenfor
As I think back to those early memories and as I look forward to my future as an educator, I feel that these two quotes really establish the cornerstone of what I teach, how I teach, and who I teach.
I am a product of words
Words, sentences, paragraphs, essays, novels, poems, documents, proclamations, drama: these things have defined people and cultures across time. We call the time before written records prehistoric. We know civilizations by the words they left us. The stories of cultures, both familiar and foreign, is how we share both the unique and the common threads of humanity. The way I think, the way I see the world, is based on the words I was raised hearing and reading. Some of these words I was given by those around me, and other still I sought for myself.
For this reason, I choose to be a teacher of words
It is not my job to decide what works of words are more valuable than others, it is merely my job to tell students where they can find the words they need to understand and to be understood. Teaching, for me, is not telling my students what is right and wrong. It’s to tell them how to find the information they need and for them to make their own decisions. I must allow my students the freedom to inquire, and explore, and seek knowledge– much the same way that my mother allowed me the freedom to do this in my youth. I don’t want censorship to become a part of my classroom, but I acknowledge that it’s still a force that will affect my classroom and I hope to work with my school and community to protect my students rights to read and write (“Right to Read” “Right to Write”).
I will respect the words of my students
As a teacher I have to acknowledge and create a safe haven for the words that me and my students have been defined by. We are all products of our culture and our culture is so often defined by the words it produces, for the better and for the worst. My students all have unique backgrounds with rich wells of prior knowledge and I want them to feel comfortable enough to bring their perspective to my classroom (“Supporting”). They may choose to hold tightly too the words they were raised with, they may desire to seek new words. John Green says that “great books” are the means for students to be understood and to understand. My students will all have their own ideas on what is a great book, or perhaps they may walk into my classroom with the opinion that a great book doesn’t exist. They will be allowed to develop their own opinions of what a great book is, without my interference. Who am I to say what a great book is? Because what that student believes to be a great book may be the way they feel understood. Or, it is the only way they know how to understand.
I must also respect the writings of my students. I once had a professor tell me that writing is thinking. Oftentimes it’s hard to share our inner thoughts about things. And this is of course hardest for those who haven’t decided yet how they feel about something. As I guide my students to make their own decisions I must respect the time and effort that may have gone into that student sharing their thinking with me. I may not always agree with their thinking, but my biases must never interfere with how I assess or judge the validity of their writing. If writing is thinking, then the best way for my students to figure out what they think is for them to write.
I would love nothing more than for all my students to read and write for pleasure as well as for mastery. However, I acknowledge that the student that walks into my classroom hating English may walk out hating it still. But I hope that those students will at least walk away with the tools they need to succeed in their future, to make informed decisions, to express their thoughts freely and responsibly.
“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” -John Cotton Dana
Life-long learning is one of the concepts that Northeastern State’s College of Education has stressed throughout my journey through their education program. The importance being placed on educators being life-long learners and to foster life-long learning in our students.
I have always been dedicated to being a life-long learner. I feel this comes mainly from my love of reading for knowledge as well as pleasure. Reading, writing, reflecting, collaborating. They are all things we think to have our students do, but they are so much more important to do as an educator.
After all, how can I ask my students to do things that I am unwilling to do myself? How can I foster life-long learning if I’m not also committed to being a life-long learning?
For these reasons, and probably for more that I haven’t discovered yet, is why I teach. Most importantly, a teacher of words. Without we would have no concept of our history, ideas, thoughts, feelings, culture… so many things.
Allison E. Hogue
Teacher of Words
“Conceptual Framework Overview.” Northeastern State University College of Education. NSU College of Education, 07 Aug. 2012. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.
“NCTE Beliefs about Students’ Right to Write.” NCTE Comprehensive News. NCTE, 01 Aug. 2014. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.
“Supporting Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Learners in English Education.” NCTE Comprehensive News. NCTE, 15 Oct. 2009. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.
“The Students’ Right to Read.” NCTE Comprehensive News. NCTE, 15 Aug. 2014. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.