Philosophy of Teaching

            When I was a first grader in a one room country school, I was asked what I was going to be when I grew up.  “A teacher” was my reply.  By the completion of eighth grade, I had decided that I would become a Home Economics teacher, and when I went off to Concordia College it was to achieve this goal.  Committed to education, I have since received my Masters of Education degree and continue to seek out coursework which will cultivate my classroom proficiency skills.  I draw my beliefs about education from life-long, authentic learning.  What I have learned as a student, and as a teacher, has provided me with life enhancing, real-world experiences.
            The name has changed; I no longer teach “Home Economics,” but rather “Family and Consumer Sciences.”  Today, as in the past, I facilitate academic achievement by matching individual interests, needs, skill levels and learning with a diverse course of study.  I have developed and re-developed the curriculum for the classes which I currently teach at Wabasha-Kellogg Public School: Life skills 7 Exploration, Basic Foods, Food Prep, Foods Around The World, Recreational Sewing, Teen Issues, Career Horizons, Senior Issues,Child Development and Exploring Childhood.  Each of these classes is relevant to the lives of my students.  My focus is on families, work, and their interrelationships.  Family and Consumer Science education empowers individuals and families to manage the challenges of living and working in a very diverse society.
            Equality is one of the most important elements of my philosophy.  All students in my Family and Consumer Science classroom deserve the best education possible.  It is my responsibility as their teacher to adequately prepare them for their roles as workers, parents and citizens.  This is a responsibility I do not take lightly and is a challenge which I accept on a daily basis.  My focus is on the well-being of each individual student, their achievement being my main concern.  I intend to provide a means for all students to learn, regardless of their learning styles.  My standards for student achievement are high, yet, by careful planning of curriculum and instructional methods, I can make them successful.  In my classroom I try to create a learning environment that encourages positive social interaction, active engagement in learning and self-motivation.  I believe in using a variety of instructional strategies, and am always prepared to adjust plans based on student response.  It is their interests, needs and concerns that guide my curriculum.  Students want to see a link between what they learn in my classroom and what they need to know in their world—now, and in their future.  When the link is clear, and when they see their learning is important, they become more focused and motivated.
            Students today want relevance; they want to know what they are being prepared for.  It is my aim to provide them with experiences that are connected to the real world in which they live.  One way which I accomplish this is by connecting “school” to “work.”  I have a wonderful network of classroom speakers who are invaluable resources—members of our community, who help connect what I teach in the classroom to real life and work situations.  The entire community is involved: a midwife, a dentist, a judge, lawyers, social workers, advocates, chefs, bankers, insurance men, nurses,  business professionals, extension educators, psychologists and counselors, architects, parents and grandparents, college students, cosmetologists, and consultants.  These individuals enhance learning by providing opportunities for life planning and career exploration.  They relate their world of work to the skills and competencies which my students need to develop in order to become successful outside of the school environment.
            Employers want workers who are team-players and can communicate in a socially acceptable way.  Much of my energy is devoted to this “mission.”  I teach tolerance, and respect.  Through cooperative learning experiences and whole group discussions, my students learn to express themselves with appropriate language.  Being fair and considerate of their classmate's feelings is vital to my philosophy that self-confidence can only be built when students feel safe to express themselves.  Opinions are valued for what they are, opinions.  “Put-downs” are absolutely not allowed.  Yes, students may be bombarded with de-humanizing language, bashing and violence elsewhere to the extent that they are desensitized to it, but this is no excuse for its misuse in our daily lives.  These behaviors are not tolerated in my classroom.  Mutual respect is the focus, and it begins with me; I respect my students.  I believe that teachers are role models, and that we should make every attempt to commit to a life-style of which our students can emulate.
            The attitudes I convey to my students may very well be as important to their life-long learning as class content.  Attitude plays a critical part in our lives, and certainly in the learning process.  I want my students to know that they are in charge of their attitudes; it is not something granted, it is developed.  It impacts our life in countless ways.  Through various classroom activities I encourage my students to set a positive tone.
            The most valuable thing which I can give my students is a feeling of worth.  So many students who come into my classroom are struggling with self-esteem.  Many times the message-givers in their lives have sent them some real “zingers” that have chipped away at their esteem and broken their spirits.  Our students’ lives are very much affected by their environment outside of school: family circumstances, economic conditions, job requirements and social lives.  Occasionally they bring with them enormous obstacles to academic success.  I feel rewarded when I see that the “touchy topics” in my curriculum bring support and strength to a student.  Whether the topic be “Teenage Pregnancy,” “Family Violence,” “Acquaintance Rape,” or “Child Abuse,” my efforts are aimed at prevention.  Many of my students, however, are already living these scenarios.  These students need to be listened to; they need help and guidance in making decisions that will affect their lives forever.  Problem-solving skills are incorporated in nearly all class activities including labs, cooperative learning groups, class discussions and homework.
            In conclusion, elements of my philosophy of teaching include change, relevance, equality, tolerance, respect, worth, attitude, high achievement and positive role-modeling.  It is my hope that students will leave my class with a further understanding of themselves and their world.