MY TEACHING PHILOSOPHY My Teaching Philosophy Ryan McCann Westminster Choir College of Rider University


Introduction Throughout high school, I was in a friend group where most, if not all of my friends were taking every honors and advanced placement class they could come by. For some reason, I felt like I needed to take all these classes too. In my sophomore year, I decided to take Algebra II Honors. I have always loved math and I had thought my math classes in the previous years were too slow for my likings. I figured not only would the Algebra II Honors class be a good thing to have on my transcript for colleges, but also make my sophomore year math class a little more enjoyable. I do not think I could have been more wrong, the class was the most difficult and least enjoyable class I took throughout all of high school and I did not do well in that class at all. At the time, I did not know why, I had just figured that Algebra II was not a good subject for me or perhaps I just was not smart enough. It was not until I took Critical Pedagogy II with Dean Abrahams in my sophomore year at Westminster Choir College that I realized how the class had been taught and why it did not work for me. The teacher only showed us how to do something one way, and than that was it. If a student was confused, she would say she is showing us a different way but it would end up being the same concept just reworded differently. After taking Critical Pedagogy II, I realize that my Algebra II teacher was only teaching in one way

MY TEACHING PHILOSOPHY and thought that rewording the concept would help all of the students in her class. She did not help bring her students through the learning process in a way that accommodated all of the different types of learners in her class. They were confused on where to go and how to understand what they were supposed to be learning. Individualized Guidance


As children, a lot of us were told that everyone is different and unique and that we should embrace our differences. It is my belief that teaching should do the same. I believe teaching should attempt to make the lesson understandable in multiple ways in order to help each student to individually find a way to learn the material. Additionally, I believe teaching is something that must be done by both the teacher and the student. The student‟s role is to learn in a way that connects the most to them and fuel their desire to learn. The teacher‟s role is partially to present new information, but mostly is to act as a guide for the student through the learning process and to guide them to a point of understanding where they can experience success and achievement. I have been strongly influenced by the ideas and studies of Bernice McCarthy, John Dewey, Carl Rogers, Lev Vygotsky, Frank Abrahams, Joan Wink, Deborah Blair, and Paulo Freire. Finding the Individual’s Path Before a student can truly learn and be guided to understanding and achievement, the student needs to find out how they are going to get there. In other words, which path they will take. Teaching must be something that helps the student find their path but also realize that no two paths are exactly alike. Every student learns differently so, the path the students take and the way they travel this path will be different. Therefore, the lesson needs to be presented in a way that each student can learn in way that is comfortable for

MY TEACHING PHILOSOPHY him or her. McCarthy (2012), who discusses the importance of different learning styles, states that as students, “…we form comfort zones over time that become learning


preferences, come more than others” (p.17) which shows that everyone forms preferences even if we use every learning style. This shows that every student learns differently and must find a path to follow through the learning process, in order to know they have truly learned. Teaching cannot emphasize one correct answer and only one correct way because not everyone can understand or follow that “one right answer”. McCarthy (2012), also believes that “as long as school testing remains so confidently dedicated to the one right answer, the balance needed for our learners to grow their brains into minds is simply not there” (p. 37). This shows how teaching cannot be a “my way or the highway” method or else not every student will actually learn because everyone learns differently. Not only should teaching be about individualizing the lessons for the students, but it should also be centered on the student overall. Rogers‟ (1979), believes “that the individual has within him or herself vast resources for self-understanding, for altering the self- concept basic attitudes, and his or her self-directed behavior” (p.1). Teaching should bring out these vast resources from each student so we see who they truly are and what they are capable of achieving. Teaching uses this to help find the right path to guide the student towards achievement and success. Martinez (date unknown), concurs with this by claiming in Freire‟s methodology that “the learners are the subjects in the learning process and not the objects” (p. 2). This also suggests how the students are a major part of teaching because they are the major part of the teaching and learning experience. Since



the students are so important, it seems like a good idea to cater the learning towards their needs so they can stay on their path to learn and succeed. Helping Guide the Student Through Their Path In the class, the student is the one who is learning the material being presented by the teacher. This means the student is responsible for the learning to be done. However, this does not mean they have to be the only one working towards the understanding of the material. Dewey (as cited in Simpson, D. J., Jackson, M. J., & Aycock, J. C., 2005) states that “since learning is something that the pupil has to do himself and for himself, the initiative lies with the learner. The teacher is a guide and director; he steers the boat but the energy that propels it must come from those who are learning” (p. 59). This analogy is a great example of how I belief teaching should be done. Teachers should be the ones presenting information and guiding the student in a direction that will lead them to a better understanding of the material as the students are taking the information and learning in a way that fits best for them. This way, the student truly understands the concept because they are figuring out the information themselves. This way they think and learn, but still have the teacher to guide them and make sure they stay on their path towards learning the content. Dewey (as cited in Simpson, D. J., Jackson, M. J., & Aycock, J. C., 2005) concurs by stating that “…this „own understanding‟ implies ownership or control within the learning process” (p. 180). The student gains a sense of ownership or control over the material because they learned it in a way that made sense to them instead of simply being told facts. This idea of control and ownership is a great example of metacognition. Abrahams (date unknown), defines metacognition; “Metacognition happens when the

MY TEACHING PHILOSOPHY apprentice takes control of his or her own learning” (p. 18). Metacognition is a great definition for what I believe the students should do in the learning process, and what the teacher should hope to see from their students. This way, the student learns in a way that is advantageous for them and the teacher has worked with the student so they have learned the concepts. Metacognition is also beneficial because it leads the students towards a desire to learn and grow. Blair (2009) states that “…students desire to enable and further their own understanding, or more simply, to grow as learners and to accomplish that learning by discovering things for themselves” (p. 180). The combination of metacognition and


the desire to learn is something that leads to the students learning the material, and can be something that they will remember for a longer time than they expected because they are making it a very personal experience for them. As much as the students can make the learning personal and learn for themselves, the teacher should still help guide the student because as they are learning, they are traveling through the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). Briggs (2010) states the definition of Vygotsky‟s creation, the Zone of Proximal development; “The Zone is the distance between the collective group problem- solving possible for a child today and the independent problem-solving emerging from that context that will be possible tomorrow” (p. 64). This idea of ZPD states that this zone is the distance between what you know currently and what you could learn with help in order to have that knowledge for the future. The teacher acts a guide through this zone in order to keep the student on track and to provide the help the student may need in order to fully learn the concepts being presented. I believe that this is how teaching should happen because the teacher and

MY TEACHING PHILOSOPHY student are partners in the learning experience because the student learns the concept while the teacher learns about how the student learns best and they both learn how to work together to reach their goal. This is how the teacher acts as a helping guide through the learning process so the student can truly learn the material. Bringing the Student to Success and Achievement Once a student has gone through the learning process, they have to understand that they have learned something or really understand now something they were unclear on in order to feel accomplished and that the work was worth it. My philosophy of teaching is something I believe to be a part of what critical pedagogy is. When it comes to learning, Abrahams (2004) as a critical pedagogue himself, states that “Critical pedagogues claim that when students and their teachers „know that they know,‟ the phenomenon of „conscientization‟ has occurred. When that happens learning has


occurred” (p. 1). This states that when the student has realized that they know something, they know that they have learned it because they know that they have learned something from the lesson, assignment, etc. Wink (2011), another critical pedagogue herself, believes that this type of teaching experience is part of a transformative model. Wink (2011) states that “…the transformative model inspires learners to see what knowledge can do for them in the future” (p. 9). This shows that the once the students realized that they now know new information, that their perspective has been transformed, and this will inspire them to use the information that they know outside of the classroom. This is useful because it reinforces the learning they acquired through this process.

MY TEACHING PHILOSOPHY Abrahams (date unknown), has made what he calls a sociotransformative model and “what distinguishes this model from the others is that in addition to the apprentice learning to master a skill or concept or body of content, the model aims for a change in perception on the part of the apprentice” (p. 16). In this quote, the apprentice is the


person learning, in my purpose, it is referring to the student. He is discussing the idea that not only does the model aim to learn or master a skill, but another goal is to change the student‟s perception of what they already knew. These ideas are very similar to Wink‟s ideas stated above. Abrahams (date unknown) also states that “The acquisition of the skill or knowledge of the content or the ability to do something one has worked on over time, and do it at a high level of competence is a goal for the apprentice and a desired outcome for the mentor” (p. 18). This reinforces my belief that the students need to reach a sense of true learning for themselves in order to feel accomplished which also please the teacher and meets his or her goal of teaching the content. This moment of a changed perspective is what I believe to be the desired ending goal for the teacher to try and guide the student to. This is the point where the teacher and student have both worked towards the learning of the material and each other, which results in true and meaningful learning. Conclusion After my Algebra II Honors class in sophomore year of high school, the only thing I can remember was how much I struggled in that class to barely get by. I hardly remember what imaginary numbers are or anything else that was vital to understanding the subjet. I now realize after looking back on the class, that the teacher was a “my way or highway” type of teacher. There was no sense of me accomplishing anything and none of my perspectives changed from any of my teacher‟s lessons. Instead of guiding me

MY TEACHING PHILOSOPHY along the lesson content would run on ahead and hoped I would catch up. This was not


effective because I would end up skipping material and being confused for the rest of the year. The class was set to just her path to the learning and some the students like me were struggling on her path because it is not the way we learned. The lessons were not meant for everyone and therefore I did not get to individualize the material and really make it my own. Since I did not make it my own, I did not learn or accomplish anything and felt that the class was a waste of 42 minutes each day of my sophomore year. Making the material important to the students and helping them understand the information by guiding them, is something I believe to be important so that both the teacher and student reach the desired goal as well as learn together through cooperation.

MY TEACHING PHILOSOPHY References Abrahams, F. Child as musical apprentice Princeton, New Jersey. Westminster Choir College of Rider University. Abrahams, F. (2004). Critical Pedagogy. Princeton, New Jersey. Westminster Choir College of Rider University.


Blair, D. V. (2009). Learner agency: To understand and to be understood. British Journal of Music Education, 26(2), 173-187. doi:10.1017/S0265051709008420 Briggs, K. A. (2010). Individual Achievement in an Honors Research Community: Teaching Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development. Honors In Practice, 661-68. Martinez. D. B. Therapy for liberation: The Paulo Freire Methodology. Children‟s Hospital, Simmons College School of Social Work. McCarthy, B. (2012). The learning cycle: The 21st century and millennial learners : who they are and how to teach them. Wauconda, IL: About Learning, Inc. Rogers, C. R. (1979). The foundations of the person-centred approach. Resident Fellow, Centre for Studies of the Person, La Jolla, California Simpson, D. J., Jackson, M. J., & Aycock, J. C. (2005). John Dewey and the art of teaching: Toward reflective and imaginative practice. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications. Wink, J. (2011). Critical pedagogy: Notes from the real world (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson.