Corrie KaufmannFirst Grade
Philosophy of Teaching
I must admit, when faced with such a small space in which to describe my entire philosophy of teaching, the writer in me had to shudder. However, the teacher in me loves a challenge, and the more I thought about it, I realized that basically, the spirit of everything I feel so passionately about has already been expressed in my short poem that I leave to my kids in their year books.
First Grade Words of Wisdom
Listen to wisdom, smile with a laugh,
Follow your dreams as you choose your own path,
Learn all you can, make knowledge your key,
And you can unlock any door that you see!
Learning should be an adventure.
I believe the best kinds of teachers are those who teach because they can not help it. Over the past ten years, I have discovered that for me, teaching is something that just has to happen. I will wake up in the middle of the night with a fabulous idea for teaching the students about dirt. On a vacation, I spent time crawling under a hedge to get the right amount of seed pods, so that each kid in my class could make one fly. I am happiest when faced with a sudden grin, and someone (anyone) looks at me with the “Ah-ha!” moment in their eyes. It doesn’t matter whether I have shown them how to read a novel or tie a shoe. When they finally finish, and realize they have succeeded where they thought they would fail, it is magic.
I firmly believe that the only way to truly reach my students is for them to take hold of their education and realize that it is indeed, their education. In order to do that, I have to show them the relevance in it. They have to see why they are learning, why this is worthy to compete with their after school sports, passing notes, television, and video games. I have to make the lessons come alive.
During science, I give them a cup of vinegar and water, another cup with baking soda, and a raisin or two. As I pass out supplies, I casually wonder aloud about what might happen if I combine some of the baking powder with the liquid. Then I wait, but not for long. Someone always sneaks a pinch of baking soda into their cup of vinegar, and then we giggle as the offender tries to hide the bubbles foaming dangerously close to the top. So, of course, they all have to try it, and I love their every gasp and shriek.
I visit each one and ask guiding questions, offer advice, help clean up the spills, and then ask, “So what might we discover if we dumped in the whole cupful – all at once?”
Their eyes always tell me that no one would be that crazy, would they?
“Do you think it would blow up?” someone always asks.
“It seems like it might,” I say, in my most mysterious voice. “Let’s try it!”
And the learning takes off. Their excited conversations are golden, they have owned the experience. Not bad for the first day of school, but I feel like I owe them that. How else will they find a cure for cancer, or question the mistreatment of others, if I don’t show them how to meet a challenge and conquer it, whether it is the problem of world peace or a difficult word in their reader?
All my students come to me with different life experiences. Some lead a charmed life and beg you to challenge them with something new; others just beg to be loved. A teacher’s true job is not simply to teach a set curriculum, but to ensure that each child is given a chance to learn, succeed, fail, and then realize that the lesson learned from the ‘failure’ was worth ten of the easy successes.
In my classroom, each student is a scientist, an author, a mathematician. We use every opportunity to treat education as an exciting adventure. Success is to be celebrated while mistakes are simply the start of a new way of thinking, something to be learned from, not ashamed of. I build my classroom style around the needs of my students. Some need to hear a lesson, some need to see it happen, some need to build it for themselves, but all need something. By varying my techniques, each student is allowed a time to shine and help others to succeed in a new area. We find the gifts that are hidden and together, we build a community of life-long learners.