In summary, my teaching philosophy is as follows:
- Language and literature can help people gain new perspectives of themselves and of the world around them.
- Powerful teaching and learning helps students learn to express themselves and communicate effectively with others around them.
- Studying English teaches students how to join the many different conversations of the world.
- Literature helps students to learn history, gain different insight on society, and develop empathy for others while learning more about themselves.
- Ultimately, students can use both language and literature to become better people and make the world a better place.
Why I Teach English
Over the course of my life and my studies in English, I have come to realize the powerful ways in which language and literature shape culture and society. Studying both English and Sociology in my undergraduate years, I saw many overlaps in themes and theories, and often approached the study of English through the lens of different social theories and social criticisms. Reflecting on this now as I have embarked on my path as an English teacher, my philosophies towards teaching English are oriented greatly towards the social realm. In the classroom now, I am always considering how the studies of language and literature can help individuals understand each other and themselves—with the end goal of gaining new perspectives on the world around them.
Considering language, one of the most important reasons why I teach English is to be able to teach important communication skills. Through both speaking and writing, I believe that powerful teaching and learning in English helps students to foster a strong ability to express themselves to others and to understand what other people are trying to say. These communication skills can include anything from conflict resolution to writing for specific audiences to public speaking, and they help students to become more empowered citizens of the world as they learn how their words can affect others on many different levels. Part of building up these communication skills also often involves learning the skill of code-switching, as students begin to understand that all variations of languages are valid and have value, but that certain situations may require more or less formality. Ultimately, the world can be viewed as being comprised of many different conversations, and I believe that powerful teaching and learning in English helps students to gain access to these conversations and learn when and how to add their own voice.
Considering literature, the other main reason why I teach English is to help students develop strong senses of identity and empathy. In my undergraduate English classes, we have looked at literature as both a mirror and a window—one can read literature to see a reflection of themselves in various characters, plots and narratives, but one can also read literature to learn more about individuals and experiences that are wholly different one’s self and one’s life. Because of this, I believe that powerful teaching and learning in English facilitates students’ ability to be able to enter into a text—not just reading for comprehension of the text, but reading to understand and interrogate different perspectives on the world. Students should be able to relate the texts to their own lives, whether by comparison or contrast, and attempt to see how the text can relate to the world around them. Students can discover a great deal about history and society through the lens of literature, and as they are doing so, not only will they be developing empathy by being able to see the world from different perspectives, they will also develop their own identities by seeing themselves in what they read.
Overall, based on my philosophies around teaching English, I strive to ensure that students in my classroom are working their way towards becoming thoughtful and empathetic members of society. Throughout this process, they are constantly questioning accepted ideas, contributing to ongoing conversations, and finding their own individual voices with which to share their own ideas. Language and literature are very powerful tools, and I believe that as an English teacher, my greatest task is to help my students develop the skills they need to wield them both in ways that will make the world a better place.