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Human Flourishing not Human Functioning

The Purpose of Education


I believe that more than creating citizens who can effectively function as a member of society,
education should enable students to flourish fully. To flourish fully means to meet to meet ones
own potential, and I believe that it is my responsibility to help students achieve this goal.

Teacher and Student Responsibilities


I will have high expectations of all my students, so that they know that I believe in them. Sixth
grade Harlem Tech mathematics teacher, Kay Toliver, says in her educational videos that if you
give your all to students, they will give their all to you. Learning is collaborative; students are
not simply a vessel into which we are pouring knowledge. Students will give their best effort to
their work and to me as their teacher. I believe that all students are capable, but they must want
to learn to reach their highest potential. It is my job as the teacher to motivate them enough to be
interested and invested in their own learning. I believe that teachers should not work in isolation,
but with their professional learning communities to better their practice. Teachers from the
previous grades can provide valuable insight into what best motivates and inspires your specific
students. Teachers of the same grade are a great resource, too, I believe, because each brings
their own unique ideas and perspectives. I believe that learning from these teachers enhances
professional practice exponentially.

How will I Teach


Because I believe that a love of learning begins with an enthusiasm in the younger grades, I will
make my lessons interactive, constructivist, and relevant to their lives.

Before anything, students first have to know that you care about them. I will create a safe space
for students by establishing rules and procedures as a class. I taught in a Malawian school where
students did not understand the concept of rules in the classroom. Teachers spent most of their
teaching time waiting for students to sit, listen, and grab their materials. I believe that from the
beginning, teachers must be firm and consistent in reinforcing classroom rules and procedures. I
introduced a few simple rules and once they finally learned that they were not to kick, spit on,
and yell at each other in the classroom, it was incredible what students accomplished.

In a safe classroom, all students participate without fear of ridicule and feel that they are valued
as individuals. I will involve my students in decision making, whether it be content or instruction
related, as often as it is beneficial. All students learn differently, and I believe that a teacher must
account for all learning styles and intelligences. Visual learners might suggest an activity with
drawings and diagrams, interpersonal learners might suggest group discussions and projects, and
kinesthetic learners might suggest using manipulatives. Some content might peak students
interest more than others and I want to encourage their enthusiasm by being flexible. I also
believe that by encouraging students to put fourth their opinions, questions, and ideas, I am
fostering what will become critical thinking skills.

I believe that the best way for students to learn is having them discover the knowledge for
themselves. Kay Toliver exemplifies this exceptionally in her classroom. Her students learn
completely from conversation and prompting questions. She builds upon the knowledge that
students already have. Young students often know more than we give them credit for, and I
believe that it is my responsibility to give the opportunity to practice this knowledge. It is by this
that students will feel empowered by and responsible for their own learning.

My students in Malawi came to class each day without the expectation or desire to learn. The
teachers before me stood at the front of the class, expecting students to copy what the teacher
wrote and echo what the teacher said. I quickly realized that the students hadnt understood
anything they had written or repeated. They could write the word cat but did not know how to
identify these letters, nor what a cat was. I made the curriculum relevant to them. My students
had never seen a cat before, so I taught spelling with words that they understood: Cow, sugar,
soda, cup, jump, sun. I believe that students will be more motivated to learn when they believe it
is something purposeful and meaningful.

Diversity in the Classroom


I believe that even the way that we teach sends messages to students. I will account for ethnic,
racial, and linguistic diversity in the classroom when thinking through my pedagogy. Not only
am I a white, middle-class female, but I also grew up with and was taught by people resembling
myself. I believe that we should not perpetuate white dominance by teaching only by the lens
through which we see. I will cultivate an environment for critical thinking by presenting different
perspectives in the classroom. I believe that exposure to different perspectives is a key to
creating culturally-aware and empathetic citizens of the world. Gary Howard wrote that when we
do not recognize diversity, it is as if we are ignoring it all together. He writes that the real color
blindness is White seeing only in white (We Cant Teach What We Dont Know, p. 63).

How will I Assess


I believe that a teacher should use both formative and summative assessments in the classroom.
In the younger grades, I believe that most testing should be done through check for
understanding, conversation, group discussion, and exit-passes. Sometimes, students fall victim
of their circumstances, and cannot be assessed in the same way as the others. Some of my
Malawian children lived in abusive or neglected homes. These students could know the material
but were simply too afraid to communicate it with me. I took more time creating rapport with
these students, providing for their basic needs: food, water, shelter, medical attention. I assessed
these students through one-on-one conversation until they could be assessed in the same way as
the others. I believe that a teacher must work to create an assessment that is appropriate for each
student.

As a teacher, I believe that it is my responsibility to help each child meet their potential. I will do
this by working alongside them, guiding them to the knowledge that they will discover for
themselves. I will tend to students different needs, intelligences, and learning styles because I
believe that all students are capable, but to reach their capabilities, someone must care for,
encourage, and support them.