What do you say when asked: What is your teaching philosophy? What do you stand for?
We all know that in life we can’t stand for nothing, but we also can’t stand for everything! In my book, Reflections on Classroom Thinking Strategies, I discuss the importance of having a strong teaching philosophy or set of beliefs to guide you in your classroom every day. I know that when I teach according to my beliefs, I am a better, more positive and more focused leader.
As a classroom leader, do you recognise how your belief system guides your learning environment? Your values have the power to set the tone for how your students react, interact and become engaged or disengaged. No pressure, huh! Parents feel this immense responsibility too in the home.
We all have a belief system or an informal and formal philosophy, some of which are positive, dynamic and empowering (thumbs up) and some of which are limiting (because, we’re all human, after all). It may be useful to investigate and be aware of your own beliefs and philosophies in terms of teaching, learning and thinking. Consciously and subconsciously, your beliefs are communicated through your body language, the words you use, the tone of your voice, and the teaching activities you set, for example.
Once you are aware of your beliefs, you can then promote them to enhance the educative process and inspire your students. Your value system also makes it easier for you to follow your own teaching path, rather than becoming overwhelmed by the deluge of information you encounter day-to-day.
Here are some of my teaching beliefs connected to my mission statement of ‘Promoting Thinking in Learning’. I have tweaked my beliefs over many years as I learn and grow in my teaching practice. These values may inspire you to define your own beliefs.
I encourage you to take some time to sit down and pen your teaching philosophy on paper – this way you can commit to teaching by your own values. Defining your values is a rewarding process that will give you confidence to see just how positive your presence and role is in your students’ lives.
Some of my teaching beliefs:
- The Tyranny of THE: There is never only ONE answer – encourage commas in thinking, rather than full stops.
- Avoid Passion to Porridge: Avoid cynicism at all costs. Celebrate your students’ passion for learning, encourage personal excellence and vibrant thinking, praise persistence, be a motivated leader.
- Create Expert-Free Zones: Encourage your students to be risk takers and to respect others’ ideas. Declare your classrooms ‘Expert-free Zones’ because the business of learning always involves mistakes.
- Relax: We only have one life on earth, so let’s relax and enjoy ourselves as much as possible. You don’t need to be a comedian (unless you want to be!) but children love to laugh and see their leaders having fun. Encourage humour and lightness in your classrooms every day.
- Respect and ‘Vive la Difference’: The Thinking Classroom welcomes diversity, difference and ambiguity. Good thinkers are fair thinkers – encourage your students to suspend judgement until they have listened to all ideas and gathered information using clear, thinking procedures.
So, what are your beliefs? Share them with your students so they know what you stand for. You’ll inspire them to set values for their own learning journey too.