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Teaching Philosophy Brittany McCollum 2011

Introduction I have been in school for nearly 15 years, and it was not until this year, my sophomore year in college, that I realized the way I learn as a student. I found it shocking that I am studying to be a teacher and do not know how I learn as a student. Every teacher I studied under had different strategies to their teaching, and they each wanted their students to learn the way they learned. One memory in particular was in my high school Geometry class. One of the football coaches taught the class. He was a brilliant man. He knew his subject area backwards and forwards, but seemed not to care one bit if his students understood it. Everyday consisted of the same routine; come in, get your notebooks out, and copy what he wrote on the overhead projector. I once asked him why he went about a problem a certain way to get the answer that he did. His response was, well, you just gotta look at it, and then you should just know what to do. It just kinda comes to ya, ya know? Well actually, I did not know. I had no clue. It is teachers such as these that make me want to go into education. Each student deserves to know why they are learning something, what they are going to do with the information, and how they will apply it and use it in their personal lives. It is our responsibility as teachers to know our students and try our best to assist them the way they need assisting, even if this requires the teacher to teach out of their comfort zone. Critical Pedagogy I believe teaching should be centered on the current students in the classroom. Teachers should recognize the different ways their students process and receive information, and try their best to attend to each and every student. Critical pedagogy and teaching is about experience in the classroom, experience with the students and interacting and learning with them. This is a quote found in my personal reflection paper submitted at the beginning of the 2011 spring semester in Critical Pedagogy II. I am now at the end of the semester, and have had time to delve into this definition, and apply it to lesson plan assignments. I still hold true to what I said at the beginning of the year. As a teacher, you must interact with your students so the learning can happen together. We use what the students bring into the classroom as a bridge to new learning provided by the teacher. I believe I have a good understanding of critical pedagogy, but as Joan Wink mentions in her book, Critical Pedagogy: Notes from the Real World, you do not truly know a definition unless you can put life experiences with it and relate to it personally. If you do this, you will not just know a definition, you will own it. (Wink, 2005) The only thing wrong with this statement is the fact that critical pedagogy does not have a set definition. There are numerous aspects to the word, and different people will take away what they believe is the most important of all aspects. This is what I believe makes critical pedagogy so universal.

I have the privilege of working at an after school program this summer with children ranging from first to sixth grade. I believe this will allow me to experience and experiment with my knowledge of critical pedagogy and how it can be implemented. Also, I will be interacting with many different students, and seeing how they react to activities that I present, or the way they act socially. I believe the most important thing a teacher can accomplish, is to know their students personally. There is a line between a professional relationship between student and teacher, and an inappropriate relationship; however, if the teacher knows what type of students are in their classroom, even how they socially interact, it gives them an idea of what the students are capable of doing. Critical pedagogy allows this flexibility. One of the underlying principles of the teaching model is taking what the students bring to the classroom, and being able to use that knowledge as a bridge to new learning. (Abrahams, 2011) This allows for an easier connection to be made personally with the students. They feel empowered and they feel as if they already know something about what you are teaching them. Confidence is key to new learning. If a student is not confident in what they know, they could easily put up a barrier and simply give up. My brother is a prime example of this mental and emotional block. When testing began during his third grade year, he did poorly on the math section; so poorly that he had to retake the test to be passed on to the next grade level. He passed and went on to fourth grade, but at the end of that year, failed the math test yet again. He has done poorly in every math class ever since the third grade. Sure, some kids are simply bad at math. I am not being bias because he is my brother, but I know this is not just because he is bad at math. He is never going to be a mathematician, but he is capable of much more than he believes. Over my Christmas break, I helped him prepare for the Algebra 1 exam. We had one week to prepare. When we began studying, he had no idea what he was doing. He could not solve a simple equation. I sat there thinking, how can you sit in a classroom for an entire semester and not know what was going on? I did the only thing I knew how to do, and that was start from square one. Over that week, he realized it was not the fact that he did not understand the material; he did not understand the way it was being presented to him. If the teacher had taken the time to see how he worked as a student, and made adjustments accordingly, she might have experienced an entirely new student. You cannot please everyone all at once during one class period, however, you can usually tell a weak student from a strong student. Taking a little extra time afterschool to help those weaker students can make all the difference. My brother ended up passing his final, and he now has a better understanding of how he works as a student. Four learning types When I got back to school the following spring semester and began to study critical pedagogy, I was introduced to Bernise McCarthys four learning styles. She believed that every student learns differently and each student should be catered to their learning style. She broke it up into four learning styles, giving each style characteristics on how they learn and interact the way they do. (McCarthy, 2000)I immediately thought of my brother. I bet if his algebra teacher knew more of his learning style and the way he processes and thinks about things, she could have made that light bulb light up a long time ago.

Type one students tend to ask the question Why? They want to know why they are learning what they are, and whether or not it will benefit them as a student, or as a person in the long run. These students usually learn from experiences and by reflecting on the experiences. They want clarity in what they are learning and enjoy working with people. (McCarthy, 2000) I, personally, am partly type one and I learn best through conversations and talking problems out with people. This applies to the first tenant of critical pedagogy, being that learning is a conversation. (Abrahams, 2011) As a teacher, teaching these types of students will not be as big of a challenge because they are within my comfort zone. I understand the way they learn the most because I learn this way myself. Type two students tend to ask the question What? They want to know exactly what to do. They love structure and organization. These students are the ones that thrive in a regular public school setting. (McCarthy, 2000) I would like to be so bold to say that they thrive off the banking method. (Wink, 2005) They usually have set goals in what they want in their life or education. As a teacher, teaching these types of students will also not be so much of a challenge for me. I am split evenly among a type one and a type two, so I understand the need for structure in a classroom and the wanting to know what we will be able to do with the knowledge given to us. Type three students tend to ask the question How? These students are hands on and want to know how to go about doing things. They use common sense and are realistic about situations. (McCarthy, 2000) To please these students, the teacher would have to have a hands-on activity planned in the lesson. I believe these students would be great workers in a classroom setting; however, it will be difficult for me as a teacher to relate to them as easily as I could relate to a type one or two. Type three students usually do not have strong people skills, and as a teacher, this will be a challenge for me to connect with these particular students. By providing different outlets for these students, such as hands on activities that are individual, they will be more apt to respond in the class, and get more out of the class. Type four students tend to ask the question What if? These students thrive off of chaotic situations. They get along with almost all types of people, and almost always have good intentions. (McCarthy, 2000) They do not however, always go through with these good intentions. Time is of no matter to these people. These students will most likely be my biggest challenge as a teacher. I am the exact opposite of a type four, which naturally will make it difficult for me to relate to these students. I think these students will be my most imaginative and innovative students, but because I am such a punctual person, it might be difficult for me to understand from where these students are coming, and where they are going with their ideas. To help better these students in a classroom and make their learning more comfortable, I could give a more open ended assignment to allow them to use their creativity and innovation. Eight Step Lesson Plan McCarthy takes into consideration each learning type and splits them up into four quadrants. She then splits up each quad section into two parts. Each part consists of two steps to reach this particular type of learner. The steps are as follows: Connect, attend, imagine, inform, practice, extend,

refine, and perform. Each of these steps has a crucial meaning to them. In each step something is happening. At first we should connect with the students and bring their world into the classroom. Then they will analyze what exactly the teacher is trying to convey from their experiences compared to the lesson. The students should then imagine the concept and try to picture it. This is where the teacher steps in, to inform the students of what the teacher knows. This step consists of the teacher telling the students the knowledge they need to take away from the lesson. Then you would have the students practice what they have learned. In other words, give them homework. After they have practiced the concept, we extend their learning. The students know enough by this point to see how they can use the information learned on their own. This is followed by refining the information and later performing it. Students can help other students in the refining process and the teacher can help lead as needed. Performing the information could be a group project or presentation, or in a music classroom it would be the final concert. This gives students a feeling of accomplishment. They have worked towards something and by the end, have mastered it enough to perform it in a final project and/or concert. (McCarthy, 2000) Conclusion Critical pedagogy, McCarthys four learning styles, and eight step lesson plan, have shown me numerous ways to approach teaching children. While learning about these approaches, I have in turn become a better student, and have a stronger, more permanent, vision of myself as a future teacher. As a future teacher, I want to help my kids make this realization earlier in life. I do not want my students to ever feel as I did in Coach Woods geometry class. Students deserve to know what they are being taught and how it applies to them as a person and as a student. We as teachers need to take the time to get to know our students and by doing so, help them in the way that will benefit them as learners. It is our job as educators, to take these methods, models, or what have you, to help students find who they truly are, and how they can come to the realization of who they are in quickest and most efficient way. References Wink, J. (2005). Critical Pedagogy: Notes from the Real World. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.. McCarthy, B. (2000). About Teaching: 4MAT in the Classroom. Chicago, IL: About Learning, Inc.. Abrahams, F. (2011). Critical Pedagogy II[Lecture Notes]. Princeton, NJ: Westminster Choir College, Department of Education.