Teaching children is an enormous privilege and responsibility. The environment, created by the teacher, must allow for true learning to take place. For this to happen, students must feel free to make mistakes, search for possible solutions, discover their own learning styles, be challenged to use higher-level thinking skills, and develop the ability to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses. Self esteem needs to be nurtured as students develop a relationship with their teacher, and he/she can identify any signs of growth and true effort. To accomplish this personally, I follow Howard Gardner's theory of the Multiple Intelligences and aim for discovery learning whenever possible. Overall, my philosophy honors each student as an individual; emotionally, academically, socially, and physically.
My classroom has an open environment where emotional safety is a priority. On the first day of school, I tell my students, “There are no real mistakes, only learning lessons.” I develop an atmosphere where students are not afraid to make attempts at learning. This is modeled for the students when I run into problems while conducting a demonstration, or if I make a mistake during group learning. During these times, we work together to develop the skills that allow them to learn from making errors. We also predict on how we can prevent a similar “mistake” in the future. Often, I thank students for making a mistake, because now we have something to learn from. These types of experiences help them develop skills to search for solutions themselves. They feel safe making guesses at problem solving. Just try. Keep trying. That's what is important.
As students feel safe to explore and learn within my classroom walls, I help them discover their learning-styles. Together, we begin to uncover the types of assignments they do really well on, and the projects they are uncomfortable with. I teach them how to maximize the use of their own learning styles, while growing stronger in areas they feel weak. Within each unit, I incorporate lessons that will bring the best out of different types of minds. Science units come loaded with labs, songs, outdoor activities, reading, movement, drama, visual art projects, games, poetry and written work. Graphing with illustrations is often used to synthesis information at the end of a unit. Assessments vary from a traditional test, to a student written puppet show that covers recently learned concepts. All students have an opportunity to be successful with the Multiple Intelligences guiding my instruction.
Throughout the year, I work to develop each student's ability to use higher-level thinking skills. Beyond knowledge, students are expected to interpret facts, summarize, estimate, apply, classify, analyze, synthesize, create, predict, and evaluate. They actually are introduced to the terminology of Bloom's taxonomy, and I praise them when they accomplish a task that requires more than simple knowledge. Hands-on activities are a must and drive my instruction on most occasions, creating opportunities for discovery learning to take place.
In addition to all of the above, I show respect to my students by using a kind voice and respecting their individuality. I hold them accountable, but do not punish them. Forgiveness and fresh starts are encouraged within our school system, and are both available in my classroom. By combining all of the attributes listed within this essay, one can see why teaching is such an enormous responsibility, not to be taken for granted. Each student is a beautiful individual that deserves opportunities for personal growth in a safe, inviting environment.
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