I wrote this piece for an educational philosophy class in 2010.
Learning takes place when people build on what they already know through meaningful interactions with other people. If something is to be truly learned, it must be important to the learner and relevant to his/her culture, and it must be applied to real-life situations that make sense to the one learning. Knowledge, as well as a foreign language, becomes grounded as a person uses the knowledge to solve problems and communicate in the real world.
My role as the teacher in the learning process is to provide comprehensible materials and activities that will guide the students into English fluency and an understanding of the language. The teacher should lead the students in posing questions and developing research, experiments, and finding answers and solutions. The teacher should also pose questions to challenge the students’ thinking and to help them advance to higher levels of thinking.
The layout of the classroom should be supported by the teacher’s philosophy and should lead to an orderly class. In accordance with my philosophy, the classroom should contain tables or desks organized so that the students can face each other and interact. It should be clear that at certain times throughout the day that the students will know they are allowed to work together and interact, and other times when they will know they need to be quiet to receive instructions or work alone; these times can be defined clearly on the board in the front of the class with the lesson schedule. Ideally, each day will begin with a conversation topic pertaining to the previous day’s lesson; the topic will be written on the board so the students can begin discussing as soon as they are seated. After their discussion, we will have a short whole group lesson where I will clearly state the objective of the lesson (as well as it will be written on the board) and introduce the concept the students are supposed to master during the class that day. Next we will play an interactive game or do an activity that will reinforce the grammar or vocabulary. These activities and exercises will be open ended and will encourage students to enlarge their vocabularies, as opposed to closed exercises from a textbook. Before class concludes, I will give the students a writing or speaking prompt for them to respond to as an assessment of whether or not they met the objective from the day’s lesson.
The one rule in my classroom will be: “You are allowed to do anything that will help yourself and others around you to learn and speak English more fluently.” If the students do anything disrespectful to themselves or their classmates, then they will clearly be breaking the rules because disrespect will not help them or others learn. The standard of what is respectful will be determined by the culture where I am teaching, so I will have to make myself familiar with what is acceptable in that culture. If there are students in the class from many different cultures who are not familiar with the host culture, we will spend the first day or two talking about what is acceptable classroom behavior, and also learning from the national students about how to behave in their society.