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Photo taken by Thomas Montanaro in Hong Kong in March 2011
  Tiantan Giant Buddha in Hong Kong  中国香港,天坛大佛
Teaching Philosophy

With the advancement of technology, the classroom setting has been rapidly changing.  Smart rooms, power points, as well as smart boards have altered education strategies. Despite these changes, a teacher should add their own authenticity to the classroom.  With or without the luxury of such gadgets in a classroom, my teaching philosophy is comprised of certain dispositions that add to dynamics of the classroom. These include motivating the students, having confidence as well as giving the students confidence, being a humble servant for the students, empathy, and a sense of humor.  With these five basic dispositions intertwined with a teacher’s pedagogy and content knowledge, a teacher can truly imprint a positive impact on students’ lives.

There is an expression about teaching that states, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Growing up with parents who are both teachers, I learned an addition to this expression, “You must also make the horse thirsty.”  Most people might believe that any person who thoroughly knows the material can teach without a problem.  However, those who believe this, in my opinion, are mistaken.  Even though the material may be fascinating to the teacher, it is also the teacher’s duty to make the material interesting for the student.  Knowledge of content doesn’t suffice without the proper pedagogy. That is why I believe that motivating the students to learn is such an important aspect. It’s the teacher’s duty to attain the students’ attention as well as give them a reason why the material being taught is significant.

The second disposition is confidence. I believe that a teacher must be confident in the ability to teach students any subject.  If a student notices that the teacher is unsure of himself/herself, the student may overlook the teacher’s competence.  A teacher’s uncertainty in the classroom can be a window of opportunity for some students to take advantage thus leading to insubordinate behavior in the classroom. Confidence can go very far in a classroom. Not only should the teacher have confidence in their teaching ability, it’s also the teacher’s responsibility to give the students confidence in their learning ability. Instead of the overuse of punishment in class, it would be very effective to congratulate or even award students on their good behavior as well as academic accomplishments in the class.  Giving a student confidence can encourage them to learn more, thus making the horse thirsty. 

Humble Servant for Students:
One thing that teachers tend to forget over the years is that they are supposed to be humble servants for their students. From personal experience, the worst teachers I’ve had were the ones who weren’t there for the students; they were there for themselves. It’s unfortunate that teachers sometimes lose focus of their primary goals, which are to cultivate character, skills, and sense of community. Although I firmly believe that a teacher should have a strong knowledge of their content, they should, nevertheless, be humble rather than arrogant because a good teacher is a life-long learner and must serve as a model who continually strives to add something positive to the world.  One of the most toxic attributes is setting a cap to learning capacity. Teachers should set a high standard for learning and recognize that there is never a limit to a human being’s capability.

Education, after all, is in the area of humanities, which is sometimes referred to as the human-I-ties – seeing students as people first.  Educators are in the business of building bridges rather than constructing walls.  To be empathetic requires a teacher to be serving the needs and recognizing the needs of their students. Regardless of age, ethnicity, cultural background, and religion, the world would benefit more from attending to others without judgment. A common cry, from high school students especially, is that no one cares anymore. Dr. William Schumbert, author of the book titled Curriculum: Perspective, Paradigm, and Possibility, asserts that today’s youth, especially high school students, are becoming increasingly frustrated with the rampant inconsistencies of daily living. Unfortunately, this often renders students voiceless. Teachers must demonstrate compassion toward their students recognizing their needs and struggles with daily life, enabling them to use their voices, and fine-tuning them.

Sense of Humor:
The final disposition might be one of the most important of five; that is sense of humor.  In life, we tend to remember the moments that make us cry and the moments that make us laugh.  Humor is a very key aspect in the classroom for remembering material. Making the students laugh, especially in a foreign language classroom, can be very helpful because the material they are learning is new to them, so they will certainly make mistakes the first time.  A student can either feel ashamed of making mistakes in fear of making more in the future, or they can simply laugh off mistakes in foreign language.  I know from experience that most of the aspects of foreign language that I’ve learned have been attained through humorous stories.  However, I’m not saying the teacher should be a stand-up comedian or even a student’s buddy, a good sense of humor can also transmit the sincerity and good will of a teacher to the students.  It can be very different to learn material from someone dishonest or deceptive.  Whether it is learning the material or about life, a sense of humor can put a positive influence on a student’s future in school and in life.

Even though these characteristics seem quite basic, they can be very crucial in effective methodology.  Motivating the students is important in maintaining the students’ interest in the material being taught.  In effect, motivation will coincide with giving the students a desire to learn more in the classroom as well as giving the students confidence.  Even though a first-year teacher may be nervous, which is never a bad thing because it means the student cares about the students, a teacher must be confident in their teaching ability as well as in their students. As a humble servant to the students, teachers must also present themselves as adequate models for students. As for empathy, a teacher should first acknowledge the students as human beings first, and students second. Maintaining the students’ attention can also be done in the final characteristic given, a sense of humor, which can entrust the teacher’s sincerity, good will, and friendliness in the classroom. With these three characteristics, a teacher can prove to a student that it doesn’t take a smart room, power points, or even a smart board.  The true ingenuity of methodology is with these three characteristics of a good teacher.

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