When a difference in their lives.” This

When I first began my journey in education, my teaching philosophy was about using certain concepts like progressivism and existentialism. My philosophy still contains those ideas; however, I have learned over the last eleven years that my teaching philosophy is not about using certain terms, thinking they are what people want to hear, it’s about what I believe, what I’ve learned, and how I want to grow in the future. Ron Clark wrote in his book The Essential 55, “Whether you are a parent, teacher, counselor, or a member of the community, you face the task of setting a positive example for children, motivating them to succeed, and making a difference in their lives.” This sums up one of my strong beliefs about teachers, we are with students more than anybody else in their lives, so the number one thing that we must do is try to remain positive for them and motivate them. By being there everyday for our students we are making a difference in their lives; we can only hope that the difference is positive. I can remember being in elementary school when I realized that  I wanted to be a teacher. My mother was a teacher; her friends were teachers and I spent most of my time in classrooms.  I got to see the difference they were making in kids’ lives first hand. I remember students that were grown adults coming back to school just to visit them. I wanted to make a difference and I wanted to help people turn into who they were supposed to be. I began to volunteer to work with students after school when I was in Fourth Grade. I guess I started my philosophy then.  I would try to find subjects or interests in which the students were successful and focus on that when doing projects with them. My favorite time was working with the special-education students as my partners for class projects. I was always proud of the projects that we created and the fact that I was able to help them find a skill they could use to complete the assignment.  I wanted to help make learning fun for them and relate it to their interests. I began teaching with the idea that schools should be centered around student concerns, curiosity, and their real world experiences; thus, Progressivism. I believe that by using real life experiences in the classroom we can help students understand how the things they are learning about relate to their lives when they are out of school; we can show them how things relate to the world. I also still believe in the ideas of Existentialism, teaching to the individual student. We are educating them; they should be our focus. Students should be on our minds when we are planning lessons, in which  we need to think of our students and their individual learning styles. After teaching for so many years, I know that every class is different and every year will be different. Each year I have to refocus my lessons for the class I have; I have to be willing to discard or modify lessons for my current students. I have learned over the years that when in preparation classes you are told that students learn in different ways and that is very true. I have students who are visual learners and students who are kinesthetic learners, I have students who are aural learners and I have kids that learn in more than one way. I have found that my most successful lessons have been those that combine the different learning types. As an educator, I want my students to grasp new information and retain that information to be able to use it later. I strive to reach all of my students, even if that means creating small groups at times to hit the different learning styles. I try to use lectures with visuals and then use a hands-on activity or project with my units. As a child, I knew that students can learn from each other, I experienced that helping my peers and getting help from them in my weaker areas. As an educator I try to encourage my students to learn from each other. When I first began teaching, I thought students often learned well in groups. Group learning helped students feel comfortable with new information because they were able to see the information from the perspective of other students and they were able to help each other. Students can gain a deeper understanding of material by teaching it to others. Over the last few years this style of teaching has come to the forefront in teaching philosophies through programs like Kagen. Schools are now encouraging more group learning and partnered activities in the classroom. I hope to incorporate more of these activities into my classrooms in the future.In my classroom I try to build a community that allows the students to help one another without judgement. We try to build our classroom into a second family for my students. Relationship building is a large part of my class routine; whether the students like me or not, I want them to feel safe and comfortable in my room. I want them to feel like they can get help, if not from me then from their peers without being afraid of teasing and bullying. Relationship building is also important to maintain an atmosphere of trust and happiness. Students spend most of their waking’time in school, we want it to be a place they are willing to go and not a place they dread daily. A part of building relationships is getting to know your students. If we want to customize lessons we need to know what motivates students. By knowing my students, I can recognize if they are having a bad day, if they are in need of something, or if they are having a great day. By getting to know them, I learn their likes and dislikes; this will help in creating effective lessons that will better engage them. I am always striving to teach engaging lessons. I want my students to be interested and actively learning. I feel that over the years I have done well with building relationships and trying to keep my students’ learning styles in my mind when planning. However, I know I need to grow when it comes to group projects. The fear of a class going off the rails is always there. I have had lessons that went so well in the past but were ineffective for other teachers; I think since then, I have had a fear of how my class may look to other teachers. I love to get my students engaged in lessons and will go over time often when we get into a deep conversation, at times I have to reel them back in and focus them on the topic at hand. I am always learning from my students, just as they are always learning from me. I have learned that being a teacher is all about being kind, flexible, and reliable. I hope to continue to exemplify these traits for years to come. Teachers must engage and encourage all students. We must keep our classes and ourselves motivated year after year.