I started my teaching career 3 years ago as a Teaching Associate for Cal State Fullerton. At the end of my studies for graduate school, I completed a practicum which required me to compile a teaching portfolio, including a teaching philosophy.
“By plucking her petals, you do not gather the beauty of the flower.”
Through my teaching of English and critical thinking, I want students to engage in society in every aspect of life through claiming their voices and not abdicating their personal power. Through a Socratic, communicative method of questioning students’ beliefs about authority and the right to speak (Peirce), professors and students can co-create knowledge and process in the classroom (Freire).
Through the MS TESOL program, I have gained much experience from my practicum teaching experience as an English 101 instructor, as well as my tutoring experiences at Coastline Community College’s Success Center and the CSUF Writing Center. In each of these positions, I have learned and applied the theories from Bonny Norton Peirce to Paolo Freire that I learned in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching Adults in an ESL/EFL Context. I also have modeled much of my syllabus after Ferris and Hedgecock’s recommendations.
Students are regularly subjected to the whims of teachers and other authority figures; their student knowledge and experience valid only if validated by authority. Paolo Freire’s banking concept of education applies quite well to today’s education system. In this philosophy, teachers give the gift of knowledge to eager students. Students lack knowledge, therefore they sit in class in order to absorb the knowledge that the all-knowing teacher bestows upon them. But this philosophy ignores the basic humanity of students: no one enters the classroom tabula rasa.
A new metaphor, rather than the negative, capitalistic definition of banking, is more apt to describe the classroom I strive for: a garden. The professor should act as a gardener, working with the natural inclinations of students for them to flourish. It is vital to consider students’ interests as “any gardener who should attempt to raise healthy, beautiful, and fruitful plants by outraging all those plants’ instinctive wants and searchings, would meet as his reward—sickly plants, ugly plants, sterile plants, dead plants” (de Cleyre). Ignoring that students bring their experiences and personal knowledge into the classroom is misguided. It is also important to give students the chance to grow in autonomy or “beauty” rather than “plucking away” at them so that they can fit into our educational molds. It is easy as teachers to engage with students on a purely transactional level rather than a human one. Each class brings different ethnicities, age groups, and social classes teaching the professor much about the world outside the classroom. Nothing happens in a vacuum.
Professors should act to encourage students to share their knowledge in the classroom and critically evaluate it. Critical thinking skills are integral parts of any English class. In doing so, the professor helps the student to become a critical thinker as well as a co-creator of knowledge. We learn how to interact with the discourse in society through our classrooms and our professors. Giving students the tools to go out and engage with society facilitates not only great English skills, but also social change. As a professor, I want to encourage my students to dissent and look for solutions if they see ills in society.
I wrote this two years ago for my practicum. Since then, I feel like I have lived many life times. However, the foundations of my teaching philosophy are still present in my mindset today. The garden metaphor is apt to describe the classroom, in more ways than one: a gardener can only control so much, plants thrive best in different environments and conditions, some plants need more or special attention from the gardener.