By John Page
My philosophy of teaching is that education should be an activity that brings joy to the student. If education is done correctly, then the student and the teacher will find learning to be something to look forward to doing and not as a chore that many seem to feel education has become. Too many students see education as something that must be endured rather
than helpful and exciting. Students start to dread school and only to work enough to avoid failure. This is a result of a misunderstanding of how education is supposed to work. To teach is to bring a joy of learning to the students and to guide them to a greater understanding of new information. Students will do best if they connect to the information and want to learn.
The way to fix this problem is to make the students excited to learn. This is something that can be done if the student is engaged with the material and sees the point of what they are learning. People want to know information that impacts their lives in some way. The way to do this is to have class be something that is student- centric. I have had classes where I just sit in a seat and do not move until the bell rings. I had to simply sit and absorb information, I could not engage with the information and had to simple memorize information for the test. These are classes that I did not enjoy and I know what not to do when I am a teacher. Readings, discussions and hands on activities help focus the student and makes the student do the work and not be a passive recipient of information.
Learning comes from using our minds. This may sound obvious but it is something that many teachers seem to forget when dealing with students. Information is gained when someone tries to understand a topic and is able to understand it in a way that makes sense for them. This can be done by reading, listening, watching or by doing. Too often people divide academic learning and “practical” learning from one another. This is wrong as learning is the same regardless of what is being taught. Teaching is about engaging the students’ mind and making them really think about how the subjects function.
Knowledge can be gained in different ways for different people. A student will be drawn to the way that they best learn without necessarily realizing what it is. There is no one way that is best for each topic. For example, in my field of history there are many ways to learn. Many want to read a book, others want to see maps and diagrams, others want to watch a video and there are dozens of other possible examples. All of these methods rely on the student making a connection between the information and something within them.
The best way to teach is to have the student become comfortable with the teacher. Students need to feel that the teacher has their best interests at heart and have something important to teach. Students will show the teacher what they need without telling the teacher. A teacher learns to observe his/her students and see what worked best with the student. Also, asking the student what they understand best empowers the students to take charge of their own learning.
My love of teaching springs from my love of learning. Ever since I was young, I have loved to learn. Reading about anything is what kept me entertained as a kid. I liked to tell my family about what I learned. Then, we would talk about what I learned and more information would come to me from my family. For example, I would read about the age of exploration and tell my father about sailors. He would then tell me about how sailing works or take me sailing. I got to see how boats worked and my understanding of the event improved. Another example would be that while I am learning about Japan, my mom would find me a video about Japan so I could see more of what I had read. Thus I gained a more complete understanding of a topic as I got to see information in multiple views. The positive reinforcement I received from my family built up my knowledge and gave me the confidence that I need to be a teacher.
The topic that I have also loved was history. History is something that I find endlessly fascinating. The past is alive to me and I love to find new information or perspectives on different subjects. Since the study of history has a strong reading component, this is something that is easy to study be one’s self. I am most to drawn to military history. Battles, heroes and warriors are exciting to read about and easy to visualize. While a concept like the commercial revolution is hard to depict, something like the charge of a medieval knight is something that one can see and hear. My other great interest is science fiction/fantasy so the two are linked. All kinds of history are interesting if given the proper context, just as anything can become boring and pointless if done poorly. History can be both. Most people have a great interest in the past, it is just a matter of finding which aspect of history will speak to which person.
Teaching history is both a challenge and a joy. It is a challenge as often students can be overwhelmed be dates and names. The student does not try to think deeply about the information and simply tries to survive the class. This is a danger in any history class. An exploration of history becomes a monologue of the trivial. The story of the past can get lost if history is not taught as the story of humanity. The way to avoid this is to show the students how the past makes the present. Draw the connections between the then and the now. Show how each event caused the next event and so on and so on. For example, the Norman Conquest affected our language to this day. If the students can see that the words we speak are shaped by battles a thousand years ago, then the student will see why the conquest is important in ways that are easy to miss otherwise. Present history as it was lived by those who lived it. Talk about art, science, humor, crime, sports and everything that humanity does. This makes the students see history as made up of people and not abstract ideas or a series of numbers. The triumphs, tragedies, kindness, cruelty, mundaneness and bizarreness of humanity comes center stage. If students connect with the people of the past, then the students will want to learn. They will ask deeper questions, seek additional information and know the past not just memorize a list of dates,
I have worked as a tutor and my time as tutor has shaped how I will teach as a teacher. I dealt with hundreds of students with different backgrounds, levels of expertise and needs. There was no one way that was guaranteed to help a student. Some students needed to be led to an answerer by telling them what to do, others needed to talk about a topic and others needed to be shown something visually. Since each student is unique, every lesson will have to be unique to best serve them. As a tutor, I learned how to identify what a student needed by having the student tell me what the need. While most people are not familiar with different educational terms, most have a sense of what they need. A tutor learns how to take a student’s slightly confused reply and take the information from that. As a tutor, I learned how to respond to the students’ needs. For every session, the student had something needed to be learned and within a set time. This encourages both focus and timeliness.
In a classroom setting, I will use the basic principles of individual attention but scaled up to fit the classroom setting. This will be done by using small groups and frequent feedback to let me get an idea of each student is doing and also keep the class going.
I try to teach in ways that make the information seem relevant to students. I do this by always trying to draw a connection between the information and the student. The link doesn’t have to be a perfect one, it just needs to be strong enough to work. For example, if I am trying to teach about World War 1, I would tell it from a humors perspective at first. The tangled web of alliances that sucked most of the world into the war can be told through silly voices that convey what happened in a way that will help the student. In this case, make it seem like a big bar room brawl where the two who started it and staring at each other for a while. This lets the students remember that Austria took a long time to mobilize while Germany went straight to war. Once the importance of the information is established, then we can go to a more serious way of teaching that will help the students in the class. I also try to be fair to students. I want students to understand there are no stupid questions, every questions seeks an answerer and I am here to help the student find that answerer.
The student’s conception of the past will play a major role in how I teach. I will try to challenge their assumptions about the past and make them see the complexity of history. Every student of mine will leave my classes with a true understanding of the events we discussed and be able to form their view of the past with correct information. They will then be able to take this knowledge and use it to shape the world into the place that they want it to be. For if one does not know what went wrong or right in the past, how will they know what to avoid or emulate in their quest for a better world.
My philosophy of teaching is based on how I learn. Learning is a process that needs the student to want to learn. Forcing learning will only result in route memorization and not true understanding. The concept of schemas is one that is central to how I plan on teaching. I try to relate information to other information that I have learned and look as many different ways at understanding information. If I connect with the students and I can share my excitement for learning, then my classes will be successful and history will be carried further by future generations of educators.