My Teaching Philosophy

Tina Cardone inspired me to try to articulate my teaching philosophy concisely, without any jargon. Here goes:

Humans forget
They do. Never blame someone for forgetting what they haven’t made use of, and never pretend that a perfect explanation will live in a student’s mind forever. If it’s worth learning, it’s worth practicing, deliberately, over time, and from different perspectives.

It’s all about knowing what they know
Students are not empty vessels. I should spend as much time figuring out what students know as I do trying to fill them with new knowledge. Students do math in my class to show me what they do and don’t understand so I can meet them where they are and decide how to move forward. Without this, I’m flying blind.

Grading hurts as much as it helps
Incentives cause students to worry about performing rather than learning. Grading should send a message about what is important for learning, and then get out of the way as much as possible.

Knowledge for the sake of knowledge
I teach math so that students gain expertise in math — in reasoning, arguing, seeing structure, making generalizations, and constructing models. I don’t teach so that they can get a job someday; I teach to allow students to delve into the discipline of mathematics. That is worth doing in and of itself.

Humans learn more when they are happy
And they are happy when their ideas are valued, they are appropriately challenged, and they have the chance to laugh.

2 thoughts on “My Teaching Philosophy

  1. Hannah A.

    Based on this and your previous posts I must say we have a pretty similar idea on how to teach and the role of teacher and students in the classroom. I wholeheartedly agree that teaching is knowing what the students know. Without this, I have nothing to guide my lessons and no idea if I lost students a mile back or not. I would like to keep all of my students with me as much as possible without any one falling out and behind. The only way I can do this is by this philosophy point exactly. I’m interested in hearing more about your grading perspective. Perhaps I will read your “My Assessment System” post next to answer my own question (: The notion of a grade is so ingrained in students, especially the upcoming generation that will be entering high school soon or are currently starting it. Grades have held such a heavy weight in education since they are determiners for post secondary education and markers for success. I guess what I am most curious about is how you make this not be the main incentive in your class and shift focus away from this and more on to the learning occurring in the class.
    I also like your last two points you made regarding your philosophy. In particular the second to last regarding teaching students math to teach math and the associated skills, not so they can get a job. This is something I feel like has gotten lost with all of this Common Core, standardized tests, college prep, college readiness talk. Everything is so focused on being successful in high school in order to continue on to post-secondary education and become a successful person. Not that I don’t think this is important, I want all of my students to be successful in their future lives and get in to good colleges. I just don’t think this needs to be my main motivator while educating my students. Rather, I agree with you the focus needs to be on the content area at the time and the skill set the students need to be successful in my class at that time.

    1. dkane47 Post author

      Thanks, Hannah. To go off of your point about math class not just existing to prepare kids for a job or college — that is my motivation, but more importantly, by high school kids don’t buy the message that math class is important because of jobs/college/real world. They have heard it too many times, and too many times asked when they would ever use function transformations or polynomials, and received unsatisfying answers. That’s at least the case for the bottom third of kids in terms of motivation, and those are the kids who most need a message around why math is worth learning. My biggest epiphany about this message is that articulating it clearly and consistently to students makes a huge difference in how they see the purpose of my class, and their willingness to engage in mathematical thinking.


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