2011 National Teacher of the Year: Michelle Shearer, an AP chemistry teacher at Urbana High School in Maryland.
My goal as an elementary education teacher is to experience the demands of a classroom and the needs of students, to better grasp the teaching profession and to influence effective change in school districts. My philosophy of education and teaching incorporates the public education ideals of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington with the theories of William Glasser, Fritz Redl and William Wattenberg. Such foundational ideals and theories go without influence when there is a lack of personal experience. I look forward to working with students and learning which methods lead to improvements.
Every teacher will development their own teaching philosophy and teaching style. As an elementary education teacher, I will foster a cooperative learning community filled with self-motivation, self-control and engagement. First and foremost, students will feel safe and learn in a supportive environment which is effectively managed and abundant with quality teaching (Manning & Bucher, 2007). As the teacher, I will be the guiding force behind the classroom, and the students will be aware of their personal responsibilities and my expectations for behavior. My philosophy will also fulfill basic needs: the need for survival, the need to belong, the need for power, freedom, and the need for fun (Manning & Bucher, 2007). I will listen to my students and become aware of their needs in order to provide quality instruction to the entire class.
To determine the objective for each student, teaching requires the ability to reach students who are learning at multiple levels and using various teaching methods. As a quality teacher I will take advantage of assessments to determine the individual needs of students and to differentiate instruction. Differentiation can be accomplished with formative and summative assessments and will be a successful method to determine a students Zone of Proximal Development (Thompkins, 2007). Since every teacher will encounter variation in achievement levels, understanding the power of differentiation instruction is essential. Depending on specific needs, a student will show differences in significant achievement or reveal the need for further accommodations. Understanding the needs of my students will aid my decision to use direct or implicit instruction, facilitate flexible groups and utilize expository teaching (Woolfolk, 2010). Additionally, my classroom will be diverse and accommodate for gifted students, english language learners, and students with learning disabilities or special needs. Finally, the needs of students will also depend on culture and ethnography. Minorities are steadily becoming the majority, therefore transforming the modern classroom into a multi-cultural “stew pot” becomes essential.
Considering the ability of diverse learners, mastering the content objectives at the individual level is most important. By designing assessments and evaluations around specific objectives, students can demonstrate what they have learned in various ways. I will emphasize the opportunity for students to complete projects in multiple forms, so students feel less obligated to memorize answers. Furthermore, incorporating technology into the classroom is essential and will expose all students to various resources: computers, the Internet, Microsoft Word and Power Point, search engines, web 2.0 tools, freeware and much more. Integrating technology will prepare students to utilize innovative tools, which serves as framework in this computer literate driven world. I will encourage students to participate in cooperative learning through online communities such as chatroom, blogs or virtual worlds and tours to bring lessons to life. Additionally, I will relate interactive presentations and audio tutorials to daily lesson plans and accomodate for each type of learner. Teachers can create the opportunity for all students to achieve success through multiple forms of instruction and assessment.
As an initial teacher I look forward to sharing my lesson plans, success stories and reflections with a supportive group of master teachers and administrators. Practicing collaboration or lesson study is a form of management which groups teachers by subject, grade or both, to discuss successful lesson plans, curriculum improvements and Standards of Learning (Lewis, 2000). Bringing educators together provides the opportunity to communicate dilemmas, to offer praise or criticism, and gives individuals the opportunity to voice opinions to fellow teachers. Too often teachers are isolated in classrooms and are left to feel like they have a lack of support. Encouraging a formation of educators will give individuals an opportunity to contribute to a majority and effect changes in a school district.
Lewis, A. (2000). High-quality teachers for all Americans. Phi Delta Kappan, 81(5), 339-340.