My resume as of February 2015
I am an English as a second language (ESL) teacher by training, but at least half of my teaching experience has been in the university composition classroom. These two general contexts have informed my teaching-philosophy about how to approach a diverse group of students with varying needs and preferences.
Regardless of students’ language proficiency, my most important goal is to see students engage with the material. I’ve seen that careful planning, coupled with enthusiasm, creates a safe, yet dynamic and enjoyable, atmosphere for engagement and learning. My ultimate goal as a teacher is that students will apply what they learn in my class to other areas of their lives. The best compliment is a former student recounting how something we learned in my class helped her with a later assignment.
Creating a space where students feel comfortable to try (and sometimes fail) is essential for me as a language and writing teacher. My students need support from me and from each other in order to take risks, learn, and ultimately gain proficiency. During every class, I try to check in with each student, even if only during an attendance question. It’s important to me that I treat my students with respect and curiosity. In my assignments and grading, I always try to set my students up for success through well-planned prompts, but I believe that students deserve a second chance.
Another way I set students up for success is through lesson-planning. Lesson plans should account for course objectives, student needs, and learning preferences. Working to meet course objectives is the top priority as a classroom teacher. Ultimately, students will be tested on these objectives, and will need the information and skills developed in the course to be successful at higher levels. Beyond objectives, accounting for student needs, at a class and individual level has yielded positive results for me. Personalizing material for students can help them connect and engage on a much deeper level. In addition, being responsive to student questions and concerns builds trust and contributes to the safe atmosphere I provide. To account for students’ learning preferences, I try to vary the mode and method of instruction from class to class. For example, teaching vocabulary through student-created actions (or skits) adds a dimension of physicality that may help the new words stick for some learners. On the other hand, drawing a picture to represent the new word may help other students connect new knowledge to existing knowledge. Through experimentation, students develop a repertoire of strategies that they can take with them to other classes and beyond.
Teaching students strategies for learning is an effective use of teacher time. I believe that by teaching strategies alongside content, I am building not only knowledge for now, but skills for later. For example, I identify and teach strategies for decoding new words based on prefixes, suffixes and stems. I also post various strategies in the classroom or online as a reminder to students throughout the semester. The critical part of strategy instruction is to acknowledge the individual differences in student preference, as well as the sometimes slow process of working a strategy into one’s routine. Building a repertoire of strategies helps students feel supported and prepared for assignments and assessments in class, and also in future tasks.
My favorite teachers have been dynamic and alive in front of the class. I believe that the best way to get energy from my students is to give them energy. I am comfortable to be animated, enthusiastic, and spontaneous in front of students because it results in animation, enthusiasm and spontaneity from them. The dynamic classroom has clear goals to achieve, but may diverge from the lesson plan depending on how students respond to the material. Comprehension checks and participation are important elements of my classroom. I try to plan partner and group work, along with individual reflection, into every lesson. I believe that the human elements of the classroom, such as teacher attitude, student interaction, and capitalizing on unplanned learning opportunities make all the difference in terms of student engagement.
Overall, student engagement, long-term learning, and creating a positive environment are some of my top priorities in the classroom. During every lesson, these core elements of my teaching philosophy influence both what I plan and how I think on my feet. I believe that these elements have contributed to my success as a teacher.