My teaching philosophy is largely based around active learning and small group work. I believe that children learn primarily through doing, and that topics are much easier to learn about if classes are broken into numerous discrete small activities. I like to make learning fun by humour, and to maintain discipline by the same method. This means that I also try to make time for games and humourous activities, and that I share my own interests and enthusiasms.
I try to approach each student as an individual, and to develop relationships with them on a personal basis. This means that my words carry more weight with them.
Regarding activities, for older students I ask them to do things like presentations, debates, and to “teach” their classmates what they have learned in the class. The key is to develop their ability to articulate. This requires putting students into what can feel uncomfortable situations, but this encourages growth and development.
My teaching philosophy is also greatly influenced by my time as a leader in the Boy Scouts youth organisation. This was where I learned, when a member as a boy, about camping, cooking outdoors, hiking, map-reading, pioneering, orienteering, and many, many other activities. As a leader, here I learned that children’s concentration spans are short, that engagement is best achieved by participation, and that enthusiasm and positivity are great assets. I learned, most importantly, that children will learn anything through games and fun, and because they are naturally competitive and energetic you can make most things into a game and watch them enjoy it.
These aspects do not apply as a teacher in a school, as we are rarely outdoors and do not have camping equipment, etc, but they very often do. So I feel that extracurricular activities are very important, because they allow students to expand their range of skills and also allow students and teachers to interact in a more sociable and relaxed fashion. (I have therefore joined the boys football club and am helping with the school magazine).
I also feel that we as teachers must keep in mind our positions as role models. (This was important to me personally in Boy Scouts). So I feel teachers must always strive to set a good example – through our poise, through our equanimity, through our preparedness, diligence and conscientiousness. We must also encourage maturity and gender equality. We must encourage the whole student, not merely the part that we encounter in the classroom. We must know when to listen. We must encourage feedback and, more importantly, act on it. We must encourage students to act and to organise, and to build the muscles of independent, critical thinking.
This may sound like a heavy load, but most of it should come naturally if we are educated adults. Teaching is essentially about strategy with a deft touch – so deft the students are not aware it is there.