When I reflect upon my first year in the classroom at Woodside Elementary in 2005, I can’t help but smile at how far I have come. At that time, a classroom of fifteen English Language Learners, two students on the Autism spectrum, and one student with arthrogryposis seemed impossible. However, Principal Gary St. George encouraged me from the first day. Many years later I now understand that he was setting me up for a lifetime of success.
Reaching the end of my tenth year teaching, I think about what I have witnessed, experienced, and shared throughout my time in the classroom. I consider those who have profoundly influenced my approach to teaching, and how they provided their unique influence on me. Together, this has led me down the path towards developing my own teaching philosophy. It is our job as educators to lead by example, inspire children, keep them motivated day-in, day-out, encourage and support students during challenging times, and recognize accomplishments. When we do this, we are setting each student up for success from day one.
How do we, as educators, create the environment in which students have the best opportunity to succeed? First, classrooms are arranged in such a way that students feel a sense of inclusion and community. Creativity and inspiration are born from this environment. Clear expectations are set and consistent classroom/student management strategies are implemented. The importance of setting goals and understanding objectives is confirmed with students and their parents, and from here, students are placed at the core of the planning. The needs of all children are recognized and thoughtful consideration given to all learning types. We guide children along their path to become lifelong learners who can interpret the meaning of the material and make a connection on their own level.
Experience has taught me that investing time to create a sense of community is invaluable and starts the very first week of each new school year. Swapping stories about summer vacation and learning about what kids are involved in outside of school helps them understand that I see them as more than just another face in the crowd; the relationships are essential. Parents are also an integral part of the equation. I share with them that the student’s learning is the common goal. This direct engagement with parents and students develops trust, and once trust is earned learning styles begin to emerge.
Some children are auditory learners, while others may be visual or kinesthetic. Having the flexibility and intuition to draw on different techniques are key to developing outstanding students. It is clear to me that when children are given the opportunity and are encouraged to succeed, they will rise to the occasion.