Friday, March 11, 2011

Reflections on a Philosophy of Teaching and Learning


In my classroom, students learn that I am passionate about searching for truth; that there exists a vast chasm between knowledge and belief; and that any method of investigative research should take on continuous questioning, re-evaluation, and revision. During classroom discussions, I often posit controversial and contrary ideas to spur my students to inquiry and debate. In doing so, I hope to challenge and encourage each one of them to devote the time and energy necessary to think these matters through – without telling them what to think. 

In my classroom, my students’ experience is the direct result of my own incessant learning: Plato, Hume, Mill, Wittgenstein, Shakespeare, Joyce, Kafka, and Camus, among so many others, show us that truths are elusive and relative, that nearly all beliefs are fallible and provisional, and that both truth and belief require unrelenting analysis and proof. 

With a fundamental commitment to human rights, founded on philosophical principles and ideals, I challenge my students—through literature, philosophy, history, psychology, poetry and science, and through their own writing—to pursue a life based on logic, reason, critical thinking, compassion, empathy, humility, integrity, dignity, political and social justice, responsibility, mutual respect, and life-long learning. 

Works, both classic and modern, are presented to explore concepts such as determinism, freedom of choice, the nature of reality, knowledge, ethics, and our moral responsibility towards one another and the rest of the natural world. My favorite authors reveal that we are each responsible for who we are and what we will become, and that the human experience is, consequently, complex and varied with many meanings because each one of us can create his or her future. 

These are the values at the center of my core beliefs. What I have learned about the craft of teaching is that the teacher’s character and competency have a recurring impact on a student’s life and so, as I challenge my students, I must constantly challenge my own beliefs with rigorous inquiry, meta-cognition, and review. 

In my classroom, learning is a discovery process shaped by analysis, reflection, and application. We become aware that we are all teachers and learners. My goals as a teacher are to take a student’s potentiality and to make it an actuality; to teach my students to think and investigate critically, to question unremittingly, and to discover purpose through meaningful action. 

My students justify what they believe with evidence and describe how they arrived at their conclusions. They distinguish between facts and opinions and between relevant and irrelevant claims. They determine the factual accuracy of their statements and learn to detect bias and fallacious reasoning commonly found in argumentation. They ask themselves why some beliefs can be exempt from empirical confirmation while other beliefs undergo rigorous a posteriori proof. 

They examine their reasons for supporting their particular opinions and question the efficacy of their beliefs’ practices (for there are some dogmas that advocate violence, terrorism, subjugation, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, ethnic cleansing, and racial hatred). I want my students to confront such thinking and impede those who hold such viewpoints. I want my students to be dynamic and to be appalled by hypocrisy and indifference, by arrogance and incompetence, and by immorality and injustice.


1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading your poems and reflections; they're very close to my own thoughts. Your writings, and in particular this philosophy of teaching, shows your humanness. You obviously have much more to teach, and no doubt feel there's just as much to learn.
    I also teach in Naperville, and I'm happy that this link was passed on to me over 512. Also quite glad I decided to check out how it began.

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