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“The teacher’s task is to initiate the learning process and then get out of the way.”

― John Warren

When I was an undergrad completing my BA in English with Teacher’s Certification, I wrote a teaching philosophy.  I mused recently that I wish I still had a copy of that philosophy.  Since I was a fresh teacher at 22, so much has changed in my teaching practices.  I am teaching a different age group in a completely new style (as I currently teach online), and my priorities as a instructor are much different now.  This is not a problem, though, as I think every teacher’s priorities and practices should change with time, experience, and demographic.  Student learning is the only static element of teaching.  Students have always and will continue to come first in my teaching practices; everything else is fluid.

Student-led instruction

I find that student-centered instruction provides the most meaningful and positive learning experiences.  There are lots of strategies that are a student centered: assigning group projects, allowing students to choose research topics as well as methods of conveying that research, creating community or service-based projects, etc. When an instructor shows the student how to find the answer, they model the research process for students on a one-to-one basis.  Students often struggle to relate theory to practice, but when an instructor works with the student to find answers, as opposed to showing them how to find the answers, they connect with the material in a deeper way.  Students are more likely to retain and reuse information when they work through the problem themselves.

Creative Products

Writing is not limited to term papers and literary analysis essays, important as they are.  With the increase in interest in technical and social media writing, multiple modes of communication are becoming more mainstream.  College classrooms need to reflect these many modalities and offer students multiple writing options.  In my introduction to composition class, I ask students to create a script for and record a podcast, research and design a scientific conference poster, and write a traditionally structured literature paper.  The varied nature of the final products allows students to experience writing across the disciplines as well encourage their creativity.  Multimodal literacies help students engage with writing in a meaningful way while also introducing them to genres that will be helpful in the future college career.

Grades

            My goal as an instructor is to facilitate student learning; as such, grades are not overly important.  I usually offer resubmission opportunities for assignments, particularly for final projects.  If a student does not understand the assignment or instructions, they should be given the opportunity to revise.  Feedback and revision are an important part of the writing process, and over-emphasis on grades detracts from student progress. 

As I continue my journey in educating college students, I know that my practices will change once again, and I am fine with that.  In the last ten years, my teaching priorities and persona have shifted radically, but they continue to orbit one fixed point: students.  As long as I keep putting students first, my philosophy will stay fundamentally the same.