I believe in the importance of focusing our efforts toward improvement in whatever ways possible. Improvement, though, requires values to uphold and goals to strive to meet. I value respect, growth, flexibility, engagement, and expectations in and outside of the classroom. Below are the goals I’ve made in each category and the everyday ways I try to meet them.
A classroom should have an environment of respect, where everyone is accepting of others even if they don’t agree or come from the same background. I will show that I respect my students by making eye contact and listening to them when they speak in discussion. By treating their arguments and opinions as valid, I will show all students that their fellow classmates are deserving of respect. This will foster a classroom community that is inclusive, considerate, and tolerant of all people and thoughts.
Growth, which is progress toward a goal, will not be limited to the learning of academic material. In my classroom, growth is holistic, encompassing emotional, cognitive, social, and skills-related aspects of improvement. To encourage growth, I will make frequent use of KWL charts that the class will update daily with learning goals and accomplishments. In addition to the class list, I will also require that my students create KWL charts for themselves that help them monitor content-related and personal (non-academic) goals. I will show students some of my progress on my personal goals to show them that it is important to be an ever-improving person and a life-long learner.
In a rapidly changing world, flexibility and adaptability is key. Teachers especially must be flexible to the abilities and needs of their students, as well as the daily classroom contexts. While teaching requires making plans and working steadily toward goals, I will remain flexible by seeking feedback in the form of anonymous surveys from my students twice monthly. Different classrooms have different dynamics, so student feedback is important to ensure that I am incorporating their suggestions and adjusting my teaching style to fit their learning styles better. I will also show flexibility by using new technologies in the classroom (many by my students’ and colleagues’ suggestions), including Prezi, Voki, and other sites and applications.
Engagement is all about energy and connection. There are two aspects of engagement that are important in the classroom. The first is a teacher’s ability to connect to students on an equal footing through their enthusiasm. Just by coming in with optimism about the day’s progress, a smile, a “good morning,” and some energy (with a dash of sass), I can show my students that I am putting in the effort to make every class period fun. I will also plan activities that add variety (such as through studies in digital literatures like interactive novels) and get them moving (i.e. performing scenes in a play). The second aspect of engagement is a person’s interaction with their environment to understand the world around them and to commit to making it better. As an English educator with a background in political science, I will teach my students how to analyze literature through a variety of socio-political lenses. In teaching rhetorical technique, I will construct units around sending letters to officials to enact change and creating proposals for humanitarian and green causes to give students an opportunity to affect the world around them.
Last, and perhaps most importantly, I will have realistic, but high expectations of my students and myself. I believe it is important to hold oneself to high standards in attaining goals in each of the four aforementioned categories, and to uphold a sense of integrity in all of our actions. I will tell my students what outcomes I expect them to make at the end of each unit and the end of each day, and explain how they can prove to me that they have met these expectations. I, too, have an expectation for myself: I will believe in the success of every single student, even if that success is small, gradual, hard-fought, and hard-won. By keeping my mental and stated expectations high, I will show my students that I earnestly believe in their success.