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BJones: Statement of Personal Pedagogy

BJones: Statement of Personal Pedagogy

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Published by Brooks Jones
This, in a nutshell, is why I've decided to enter the teaching profession. Written in Spring 2012. Copyright 2012 by Brooks Jones.
This, in a nutshell, is why I've decided to enter the teaching profession. Written in Spring 2012. Copyright 2012 by Brooks Jones.

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Published by: Brooks Jones on Apr 15, 2013
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05/28/2014

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Why I Choose Teaching

a Statement of Personal Pedagogy

by Brooks G. Jones
Salem College

WHY I CHOOSE TEACHING 2

Why I Choose Teaching
I tried to fight it, really, I did. For more than twenty years, I put aside my teaching
instincts to pursue a design and marketing career. And as a creative individual, I have no regrets.
I enjoyed twenty-plus years of gainful employment with a variety of good companies, learned a
whole lot about others (and myself), and created a strong portfolio of communication pieces that
continue to enrich the world today. But several aspects of my life kept me thinking about
teaching. I began writing software manuals at work (effectively teaching customers how to use a
product). When given the opportunity to put together and deliver training sessions for employees
and clients, I jumped at the chance. And I wrote and illustrated a children’s book last year,
something I’d always dreamed of doing. It was clear that a long-dormant part of my personality
was waking up and demanding to be heard, and I decided (after being laid off twice in nine
months) that perhaps it was time I listened.
So, why do I feel drawn to the world of teaching? What do I think I can offer kids in the
classroom? Like my intense need to create, I realize that I want to teach because I must. There
are certain aspects of the relationship between teacher and student that fuel my soul and, for me,
approach the divine. I have no idea why, but anytime I’ve been lucky enough to help provide the
‘light bulb moment’ for someone else, I want to do it again, and again. I want to help others in a
tangible, meaningful way. I love to share information, to empower, and to ignite sparks of
understanding. And as I’ve started my teacher education journey, I notice that my set of core
values have started to shape my learning, and I find myself formulating my personal teaching
philosophy.
First and most importantly, I believe all humans are more alike than different, and I
firmly believe every individual has something beautiful and meaningful to share with the world.
WHY I CHOOSE TEACHING 3

My job as teacher is to help every student along the way to begin (or continue) the process of
figuring out what that is. I also firmly believe that the constraints we put on ourselves are far
more limiting than any barriers we may encounter out in the world. Therefore, I want to
demonstrate to students that they are capable of accomplishing anything. I want to be a positive
role model, cheerleader, coach, mentor and guide.
I also believe that in American society, it’s far too easy for all of us to ‘just get by’
without doing meaningful work. If I do my job right, students will want to perform and achieve
not because I want them to, but because they want to. I hope to show all my students that
because I know they can achieve, that will be what is expected of them. My hope is that as they
come out at the end of a rigorous assignment, my students will say, “When we started, I didn’t
think I could do this, but I did! And it was fun!”
My teaching philosophy is rooted in constructivism, which states that all students are
capable of learning, that students build on their own experiences and knowledge when forming
new understanding, and that teachers have the huge responsibility of creating the conditions of
learning for all students. While this is a tall order, it is a progressive and inclusive strategy,
which has the potential to create classrooms in which students achieve, grow and learn at each
individual's highest level. This means that no student gains understanding at the expense of
another; that students build on their own individual experiences, strengths and weaknesses to not
only gain new knowledge but discover how to apply it in creative ways; and that students
appreciate and enjoy the process of learning and building on their knowledge.
Constructivism in its broadest sense suggests that students thrive in a learning
environment that includes active participation and learning techniques and encourages sharing
and collaboration in the process of seeking answers and solving problems. Instead of memorizing
WHY I CHOOSE TEACHING 4

facts and regurgitating them on command, students are taught to question their environment and
seek their own answers, a process that continues for a lifetime. Instead of relying on a standard
'one-size-fits-all' curriculum, constructivist teachers might make changes to a lesson or unit in
response to discoveries made in the classroom the day before. Students take on more
responsibility for their own performance in school, and learn to develop self-assessment
techniques. Constructivism fosters independence, encourages creative thinking, and honors and
incorporates diversity. For these reasons, the constructivist approach to teaching and learning
does a better job of preparing students for the shifting realities and challenges of the 21
st

century.
In the United States, there is a growing awareness that the traditional practice of
separating the elementary school curriculum into discrete subjects may not be the best way to
expose students to new information, and may not be the best vehicle for mastery learning.
Salman Khan discusses the negative aspects of this practice extensively in his book The One
Room Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined (2012): “In our misplaced zeal for tidy categories
and teaching modules that fit neatly into a given length of class time, we deny students the
benefit—the physiological benefit—of recognizing connections” (p. 50). After all, “by teaching
our students that they can use their understanding and knowledge of one discipline to solve
problems in another, we extend their thinking and enhance their creativity” (Koch, 2013, p. 300).
Some of the solutions mentioned in Khan’s book make a lot of sense to me; these include
allowing students to study and learn at their own pace, project-based learning unencumbered by
the artificial constraints of academic subjects, and students grouped by interest instead of ability
or age. Until these ideas are adopted by the public school system, I’ll be looking for as many
ways as possible to integrate instruction through my teaching.
WHY I CHOOSE TEACHING 5

I believe in being open and honest with kids about their own strengths and weaknesses.
Mary-Dean Barringer, Craig Pohlman and Michele Robinson, the authors of Schools For All
Kinds of Minds: Boosting Student Success by Embracing Learning Variation, claim that
“students who understand their learning strengths and weaknesses are better equipped to
advocate for themselves…students will be more likely to employ strategies because they will
know the rationale behind why those strategies were selected” (Barringer, et. al, 2010, Empower
Students, para 1). In many of the examples these authors provide, just being made aware that
their learning difficulties were solvable caused several of the students to exhibit a renewed desire
to stay on task and end disruptive behaviors. This makes students responsible for their own
learning, and brings a classroom one step closer to the ideals promoted by differentiation experts
like Carol Ann Tomlinson, who suggest that “if a community of learners could live according to
respect, hard work, persistence, and responsibility, the chances would be high that each student
could find in that classroom affirmation, contribution, power, purpose, and challenge”
(Tomlinson, 2003, p. 45).
Being a teacher also means teaching by example. I know I’ll need to model the behavior I
expect to see from my students, continue to fight for what I believe in, and be quick to
acknowledge my own mistakes and apologize for them. I also know I’ll need to be fearless and
not be afraid to make mistakes. Thinking too much about the capacity for a teacher to inflict
damage (knowingly or not) could immobilize anyone, so instead of dwelling on that, I intend to
try to focus on the positive, and keep moving forward!
I’m not naïve enough to think that I’ll adore all my students all of the time. But I will
always want all of them to experience true success, as often as possible. I’m hoping that
remembering that goal will help me get through the inevitable rough times ahead.
WHY I CHOOSE TEACHING 6

I believe that at its best, the public education system provides a beacon of hope for any
child, no matter what his or her socio-economic status, intellectual ability or home situation may
be. In elementary school, a child has the best opportunity for success when he or she enjoys
loving, consistent parenting in a stable, two-parent household; competent and caring teaching in
a supportive school; and a healthy community with easy access to its resources (parks, libraries,
enrichment activities). However, I believe any child can succeed even if one or more of these
elements are missing. As teachers, we have no way of knowing which of our students will go on
to do great things, so why not treat all of them as if they will? By forging personal connections
with students, believing in them and their abilities, and modeling healthy, caring relationships,
we can make a huge difference in a child’s life.
I’ve heard people say that a teacher can only do so much, especially if the student isn’t
able to get much support from the other adults at home. I like to look at the issue from the
opposite angle and say: if some of the parents can’t be counted on for help and support, just look
at what we, as teachers are still able to do to help students. Instead of throwing up our hands in
frustration and wishing all kids had involved, supportive parents, why can’t we as teachers spend
more time thinking about what we do have control over, and find ways to provide as much help
and support for these students as possible?
Technology has the potential to make learning more fun, efficient and accessible for all
students. Unfortunately, a number of issues make the reality fall short of this ideal in a lot of
cases. Too often, teachers must use their free time outside of the classroom to get training on
technology, including active white boards, student devices and even their own PCs. As a result, I
have seen expensive electronic equipment sitting idle in more than one of the classrooms in
which I’ve observed, which cheats students. In addition, even the most tech-savvy educator can
WHY I CHOOSE TEACHING 7

run into snags when running up against time and budget constraints, and no one benefits when a
teacher’s time is wasted updating software or checking for viruses. In a perfect world, each
school would have full-time IT professionals who could handle the maintenance issues and
troubleshooting situations that come up anytime technology is used, but I know this is not the
reality in most schools. I feel fortunate that I have both an interest and a background in
technology, and I’m looking forward to being able to use these in the classroom.
In the classrooms where I’ve substituted, I’ve noticed that the students aren’t the only
ones learning—I am, too! At my age, I see my own acquisition of knowledge as a desirable
luxury, so this will be a huge fringe benefit for me. Not only will I be learning a lot of the
material along with the students (or perhaps just a half-step ahead), but I also know I will
continue my study of human nature just from being around and interacting with the students. As
someone who truly likes being around kids, I look forward to getting to know the students and
building meaningful relationships with them.
I look forward to the challenges of teaching with hopeful optimism, a willingness to work
hard on behalf of my students, and a commitment to keep learning myself. I know I still have a
lot to learn, but I can’t wait!

WHY I CHOOSE TEACHING 8

References
Barringer, M.-D., Pohlman, C., & Robinson, M. (2010). Schools for all kinds of minds: Boosting
student success by embracing learning variation. [Kindle]. Retrieved from
http://www.amazon.com/Schools-All-Kinds-Minds-ebook/dp/B003C2SOVU/
Khan, S. (2012). The one world schoolhouse: Education reimagined. New York, NY: Hachette
Book Group.
Koch, J. (2013). Science stories: Science methods for elementary and middle school teachers.
Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Tomlinson, C. A. (2003). Fulfilling the promise of the differentiated classroom: Strategies and
tools for responsive teaching. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.



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