Teaching Philosophy

Seneca, the Roman philosopher, stated that, “service to the State is not restricted to the man who produces candidates for office, defends people in court, and votes for peace and war: the man who teaches the young, who instills virtue into their minds … he too is doing a public service.”  I believe that this is the foundation upon which my teaching philosophy is built.  Fundamentally, I see teaching as a public service, an obligation to further the progression of humanity on an individual and collective level.  I embrace teaching as an opportunity to inspire my students to adopt learning as a life-long passion and to empower my students with the knowledge and wisdom they need to foster personal growth and responsibility.  I am committed to aiding students as they cultivate a positive experience with higher education.  I want to demonstrate for them, as my professors did for me, how education can be an illuminating force in life.  I feel led to impart this same love of learning, this same opportunity for advancement and elucidation, to the next generation of students.

Teaching students, for me, is a privileged responsibility that demands humility as much as it does respect.  It is imperative that teachers acknowledge the power intrinsic to their role.  There must be an element of self-reflection to balance this reality.  In my teaching responsibilities, I strive to be conscious of the influence I have with the students.  Teaching is about opening up the hearts and minds of the students to the knowledge and wisdom of the world with the goal of changing their lives to prepare them to change the world for the better.  The vulnerability inherent in this process cannot be taken lightly.  It is an extremely powerful responsibility that must be safeguarded.  I know that I am successful in my service when I guide the student towards this empowerment and inspiration that comes with teaching and learning.

The most important measure a teacher can implement in order to help their students develop critical thinking skills and analytical abilities is simply to create a positive learning environment by respecting and promoting intellectual diversity.  Allowing for this, establishes a model for students to follow.  It also permits students to express their ideas confidently with their peers and the teacher.  Acknowledging and encouraging intellectual diversity necessitates a substantial comprehension of how diversity transpires inside and outside of the classroom.  Intellectual diversity reveals itself in the range of intellectual assents that students possess.  Conversely, intellectual diversity manifests itself in the different approaches by which students learn. In order to successfully advance and improve students’ critical thinking skills and analytical abilities, both forms of intellectual diversity must be considered.

In addition to my efforts to respect intellectual diversity and cultivate independent critical and analytical thinking, I also assent to the notion that a teacher should establish detailed and comprehensible standards from the onset of the class.  Once a standard is established, the professor should maintain it throughout the remainder of the semester in order to provide the students with an element of continuity.  I achieve this requirement in two ways: the first is with a comprehensive and simply stated syllabus.  The second way I accomplish this is by describing to students why particular standards are in place.  For example, I require my students to come to class consistently in order to receive participation points.  I maintain that the appropriate learning experience includes interaction with their peers and with the professor.  By articulating my standards in writing and describing the logic behind them, consistency and legitimacy are included in the classroom dynamic.  Essentially, I trust that establishing high standards and maintaining an element of rapport is crucial for guiding students to their full potential.

In addition to establishing high standards for my students, I believe that promoting an exceptional learning standard necessitates exacting standards from the professor as well.  For instance, I have established, for myself, that I will provide my students with an understandable indication of how they will be evaluated academically.  The way in which I exercise this standard can be seen in the reading assignments I assign to my students.  Each reading assignment is complemented with a reading-guide handout, which plainly states what students are expected to know from the readings. Moreover, there is a weekly reading quiz based on the material within the reading guide.  Overall, establishing clear standards enables me to limit grading biases and occurrences where students attempt to take advantage of a teacher’s generosity.

The last element of my teaching philosophy I would like to explain consists of my opinions towards self-improvement.  I confidently maintain that to remain an excellent professor one must remain an excellent student throughout their life.  As a teacher, I incessantly evaluate my performances in the classroom after every instance in which I teach.  This evaluation comprises measuring how well I actually presented the subject matter, how students reacted to the material, and engendering ideas of how to improve my lectures in order to maintain my students’ interest.  I strive to improve my communication skills daily, as this capacity is foundational for my career objectives.  I have learned to listen to the needs of my students and to make any necessary adjustments to my communication with them.  I believe that taking the time to revise my lectures, enhance the material, and rewrite my lesson plans is something that must be done on a regular basis.  I continue to improve my skills as a professor by retaining professional relationships with other experienced professors, following information within current social and political issues, and maintaining a grasp of the knowledge within the professional journals that are in my discipline as well as utilizing the student evaluations to reveal my deficiencies.

Furthermore, I aver that professors have considerable obligations, specifically to their profession, to their students, and to themselves as well as to their institution and their communities.  Fulfilling this responsibility demands that a professor never discontinue their personal learning.  They must persist in the personal evaluation of their performance amongst colleagues and students.  The aforementioned helps to facilitate their leading by example inside and outside of the classroom.  The relationships I have with my advisers, the teaching experiences I have acquired, and the encouragement I have received from my colleagues have all contributed to my pedagogical perspective and academic aspirations.  Overall my teaching philosophy is one that attempts to provide all of my students with an equal opportunity to participate in the learning process.  I think that I have accomplished this by advancing intellectual diversity in the assorted ways it exhibits itself in the world of academia. It is because of my respect for diversity that I am able to comport myself in a professional manner, which allows me to produce a positive learning environment wherein my students are able to develop their critical thinking skills and analytical abilities.  The most important element, however, to my philosophy is the notion that I must set high standards for my students and for myself.  I am mandated, by my own principles, to lead my students by example, as I was lead by my mentors.

Finally, I would like to briefly express my view on the relationship between teaching and research.  I am convinced that there is not an unyielding dividing line between the two concepts.  Excellent professors must be proficient in the recent scholarship of their academic discipline in order to aid students in their professional development.  As a professor, I will strive to maintain an appropriate connection and balance between teaching students and researching and writing within my discipline. 

My desire to see justice and well-being brought to all of humanity, coupled with my education and personal life experiences, will enable me to be passionately driven and intellectually competent to carry out this philosophy of education.

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