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When formulating a philosophy of teaching and learning, we must ask

ourselves, “What is the purpose of school?”In my teaching, I strive to create
life-long learners with critical thinking skills and a sense of intrinsic
motivation. Teachers must be open minded and eager to adapt to an everchanging society. Things have changed a great deal even since I have been
in school in terms of pop culture, new teaching methods and theories. We
should not be viewed as holding all of the knowledge in any subject; students
can learn from one another and we can also learn a great deal from our
students. I am only beginning my educational career- this statement is based
on what I have observed, experienced and read about thus far.
Vygotsky’s constructivist theory, in particular social constructivism, has
greatly shaped my teaching style (Vygotsky, 1978). By collaborating with
peers and being guided by educators, students can reach their full potential
and solve problems within their zone of proximal development. The zone of
proximal development is defined as “the area between the child’s current
developmental level as determined by individual problem solving and the
level of development the child could achieve through adult guidance or in
collaboration with more peers.” (Vygotsky, 1978). Since many students learn
best by “doing,” and interacting with one another, I believe that classrooms
should be, when possible, student-centered. Through peer assessment and
group work, students can learn a great deal from one another and build
relationships together (Jones, 2007). Discovery and inquiry based
approaches allow students to gain experience in trial and error, critical
thinking and problem solving procedures. How often in life are we provided
with a step-by-step solution to a problem or issue? Learning by discovery is
representative of real life; by building problem solving skills, we are building
more responsible, patient and productive citizens. In my personal
experience, “light bulb” moments in learning are golden—representing
success and instilling knowledge that is likely to last much longer than the
same information fed to students solely by a teacher. Learning can be
compared to building a house. The best way to learn how to build a house is
to actively participate in construction. If you are simply told how to build a
house and asked to regurgitate the information, the learning won’t be as
long-lasting and will not have significance.
In order for us to effectively teach our students, we must know our
students and how they learn individually. I realize that people have multiple
ways of learning as well as multiple personality types, all interacting in the
classroom. There is no such thing as “one size fits all” in terms of learning.
Students should be, to a certain extent, given choice on how they express

their learning. This allows them to express creativity—which is an important
learning component that is sometimes overlooked. Throughout my
educational experience, I have learned about various learning disabilities and
how to design lessons to best educate students with learning disabilities.
With a system focused on inclusion, universal design is extremely important
in the classroom. If children feel like they are heard in the classroom and
their educational needs are being met, they will feel respected and dignified.
With time and effort, this positive outlook will translate to a healthy learning
environment for all students.
With an ever-changing society, it is important to stay up-to-date in all
aspects of education. Students of today are often referred to as the “digital
generation,” most having exceptional knowledge of many technologies
(Jukes & McCain, 2010). As there are countless technological resources
developed for teaching, educators should have an open mind and be willing
to learn about them. I think technology has lots to offer our education system
as it can enhance learning and increase engagement, if used properly.
Technology is also a great way for students to express themselves and their
learning. Staying up-to-date also involves being educated in popular culture.
Incorporating pop culture into the classroom is a great way to engage and
motivate students. It also shows students a connection between what they
learn in school and life outside of school (Giroux & Simon, 1988).
Often times, emotion and learning are viewed as two separate entities.
However, emotions of both teachers and students can affect performance
and overall classroom productivity. If a student feels anxious and frustrated
in the classroom, his or her productivity will decrease and learning will suffer
as a result. One negative comment from a teacher can scar a student for life.
On the other hand, positive experiences in the classroom can also have
lasting effects on students. We must be aware of the impact we have on the
emotional well-being of our students and strive to create positive learning
experiences.
If a teacher is instructing a room full of unengaged, uninterested and
unmotivated students, it is very unlikely that learning will occur. I am
committed to designing lessons that are engaging and motivating for
students. In my experience, excitement, motivation and positive attitudes
are contagious, therefore, we must lead by example and show that we are
motivated to teach and learn alongside our students. In my experience as a
student, I have had teachers who stood up at the front of the class and read
through the textbook in a monotone voice. As a result I cannot recall a single

thing about that class other than how painfully boring it was. I am making a
commitment not to be that teacher. When I set goals for my first field
placement, I included “making lessons engaging,” as one of my top ones. I
have been researching and collaborating with fellow teachers to find
resources designed to motivate students in the classroom.
Rewards in the classroom have been common practice for a long
period of time; but do they really motivate students to do their best? In his
book “Punished by Rewards,” Alfie Kohn recognizes that rewards do motivate
students—they motivate students to get the rewards. When we hold rewards
hostage from students who do not complete their work to the expected level,
we remove the intrinsic drive to complete the work and explore the subject.
Every student deserves a quality education and it is our job as
teachers to provide this to our students. When students walk into school, all
should be viewed as equal and treated with respect. The fact that no two
days of teaching are guaranteed to be the same may divert some people
from the profession; this fact motivates and excites me to begin my career in
education. I am looking forward to providing my students with an effective
learning environment and improving my teaching as I move forward. I also
believe I can learn a great deal from my students and look forward to
working with them.

Works Cited
Giroux, H. & Simon, R. (1988). Schooling, Popular Culture, and a Pedagogy of
Possibility. Journal of Education, 170 (1), 9-26.
Kohn, A. (1999). The Trouble with Carrots- Four Reasons Rewards Fail.
In Punished by Rewards. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Jukes, I., & McCain, T. (2010). What we know about the digital generation. In
Understanding the digital generation: Teaching and learning in the new
digital landscape. Kelowna, BC: 21st Century Fluency Project.
Jones, L. (2007). The student-centered classroom (p. 41). New York:
Cambridge University Press.
Vygotsky, L. (1978). Interaction between learning and development. In Mind
and Society (pp. 79-91). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.