The Experiential Individual, A Teaching Philosophy
by Margaret Roth, written September 13, 2011, edited September 16, 2011
As a student, teacher, leader, individual, I believe that it is safe to say that I have a unique background and a unique foundation of experience. So does everyone else. My philosophy of teaching holds its heart in the assumption that every student has a unique wealth of experience, that they are an individual, and should be approached as such. Every student has an equivalent capability for growth and development based on their personal situation. Therefore, every lesson, every activity, every moment of our interaction should be focused on enhancing the growth and development of the individual student.
Coming into academic teaching in the public education system for the first time, I have had a few essential experiences that have influenced my development of this philosophy. I had a wealth of affluent opportunities and resources provided to me in my secondary education. I attended a university dedicated to both the philosophies of universal philanthropy and of the cognitive and physical development of the whole child, a modern higher education version of the Renaissance Man. At university, I was deeply involved in a program dedicated to developing leaders from students through experiential education resources. It is to this program and the great teachers I met there that I owe the development of my self as an individual, with my own hopes, dreams, and personal drive to make my desires a part of my reality. As well as my decision to become a teacher. In this program I developed as a technical leader, with organizational and tangible physical skills, and I developed as an inter and intra-personal leader, with an intuitive understanding of the workings of group dynamics and personal struggles to success.
I believe that with the utilization of these two stylistic approaches to the student, a teacher has the ability, and ultimately the responsibility, to become an educator. I see it is my responsibility to not only teach and to instruct, but rather to be skilled at teaching, to be always a student of the process of teaching, not merely a passive being playing through the motions. By approaching a student as first an individual, then equally as a student who must learn skills and as a student that already possesses skills, a teacher has the ability to guide the student to growth and success. The student as an individual has a series of worthwhile experiences that have made them who they are at this point in their life. It is the teacher's responsibility to facilitate additional experiences and to foster an understanding of how these experiences are valuable, and demonstrate how they will continue to further the student as an individual.
Ultimately, I believe that as a teacher, or hopefully as an educator, I will have the ability to encourage students to go beyond everyday meaning and enable them to reach into their futures and take whatever it is that they desire most. I do not expect every student to love reading or to love science, but I expect them to understand how they can use the messages and meanings of these subjects in their own life. I do not believe that it is my responsibility to make every student in my class a lover of my subjects, I do, however, believe that it is my responsibility to give every student the opportunity and the resources to become an individual, and to become a leader, through literary fluency and scientific understanding. If nothing else a leader of themselves, an individual who is devoted to their personal experiences and views their life as something worth experiencing. To make them active individuals and leaders, to escape a passive world.
In summary, I chose to become a teacher, and ultimately an educator, because I want to help students develop their self confidence in all aspects of life through the venue of academic success. I have chosen to focus on both English and Environmental Science because of my desire to share my personal love of these subjects with students of the next generations, the students who a comprehension of these subjects will be increasingly more essential for. At this point in my teaching career, I have chosen to teach in the urban setting of Baltimore City because I would like to experience the systemic problems which plague many of the major school systems in our country first hand. More importantly, I do not believe that things which are easy are always worth doing and I do not believe that things that are easy truly facilitate individual growth. I desire to be pushed out of my comfort zone and to be stretched thin, so that I may grow and change to fill in my personal gaps, to improve myself as an individual through experience.