If I had a Teaching Philosophy,

(and I were teaching Philosophy:

The Philosophy of Teaching,)

it might be described by words like these…

Relationship

Curiosity

Discovery

Contemplation

Documentation

That’s a start. Sometimes I doubt I have enough experience to have a real philosophy, in a profession as deeply sought as teaching. It is surely one of the oldest, being around at least as long as there have been sons and daughters. Perhaps my years Daddying count? The endeavor deserves honoring from everyone engaging in it, shown through respect and attention. The first word, Relationship, is about the respect and attention part. Trust has to be established between the people who are learning as well as with the teacher(s), otherwise no one is listening. This doesn’t mean you all like each other, though that could help, but you agree you are there for a common purpose and will support the mission.

Did Socrates have the right idea? Is asking questions the key? How many questions in a row can you stand? Memorizing facts and information has a function in learning, to be sure. When a healthy Curiosity is applied to the raw content of a subject, thinking happens and the student develops knowledge. A good teacher sparks interest, opening the natural sense of awe that all humans possess, and shapes the dialogue that students need to engage with and analyze,  leading to

Discovery.  The proverbial light bulb. This is the action verb in my clever list of words. The cherry on top of my educational fudge sundae, if you will. When a student discovers something, their brain actually changes physically, by building and reshaping the neural pathways in a significant way. This is what I call learning. This event can’t be done to a person, but is initiated by the learner through their own experience, which may be facilitated by a teacher, yet is always independent and unique to each. I think deep learning happens experientially, whether literally through hands-on work, or in a solely cognitive way through the work of the mind.

Another level of learning happens when discoveries, ideas, and objects are reflected upon during Contemplation. We write about such things in our blog. We contemplate, write, contemplate (aka think, aka dream, aka put it the unconscious hopper and let it stew), create, contemplate, write some more, contemplate, read, contemplate, diagram, contemplate, on and on. Time should be devoted to this kind of inner reflection as part of the learning process. Exercises should include this work as a regular learning practice. Taoists speak (when they do speak), of not-doing as a necessary corollary to doing. Like the empty space at the center of a wheel that allows it to turn: Contemplation is like this.

Because we desire accountability to each other, we are called upon to prove ourselves, through showing skills or displaying artifacts of discovery. How else can we, outside of our own small circles of family and friends, prove our worth except through Documentation that communicates what we’ve learned? A singer has to sing their song, a paint has to make a painting, a writer assembles words. The making of objects, while not necessarily the high point or end all, is a key  product of one’s learning process.

I’m not sure I said anything worthwhile just there, but I think I learned something creating it. Perhaps it’s just that if these ideas are somehow manifest in a community of learners, learning is likely to happen. Ka-pow!

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1 Comment

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One response to “If I had a Teaching Philosophy,

  1. Relationship, yes. When I think about the adult learners I teach, I am not sure we have common mission and purpose. When it becomes common, it works. That might clear up why we lose students so often, and it’s no one’s fault.

    I liked the comment about trust. Teaching is about that, especially the teaching we do in the GED program. Sad to think how often a young person’s education is wasted. They do seem to learn to add and subtract, but after that, it is downhill for so many. We lose their trust in part because don’t honor the differences and there are too many students to pay attention to those we start to lose.

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