All of us are teachers in some way or another. Some of us teach as parents, some teach as grandparents, some teach the very young in Head Start and Montessori, others may teach K-12, and still others may teach in higher education arenas such as vocational/technical schools, community colleges, state colleges, and universities. Some teachers are called coaches and they work in the community in all the sports from baseball, to football, to basketball, and soccer, and even cheer leading. Some are teachers at the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, or with the scouting organizations, or at Sunday school, the temple, or the Mosque, but teach we do in a thousand different ways.
More importantly we all teach by our example whether we are at work, at play, on vacation, in the store, or walking the dog. We teach good habits and bad ones. Remember the old saying that a child learns more from what you do than what you say. I watched my father smoke cigarettes as I grew up and so in high school I took up smoking. Fortunately for me, I quit early on when they went to 50 cents a pack. I told my girlfriend that the price was way too high and did she know what I could do with that 50 cents!
One of my favorite books on teaching and learning is by Robert Leamnson titled Thinking about Teaching and Learning Developing Habits of Learning with First Year College and University Students. In his introduction he says that philosophy influences our pedagogy or how we teach. So he ends the introduction chapter with his “own personal minimal list of elements that should go into a philosophy of teaching and they are as follows:
1. Develop a clear and explicit concept of what learning is.
2. Language is at the heart of the matter.
3. Beware the “preposterism.”
4. Know the clientele.
5. Believe that what you do makes a difference.
6. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
7. Helping implies loving (pages 7-8).
To discover what some of these mean you’ll have to get the book, but for now I want to share my thoughts on three of them: 4, 5, and 7.
For me number four “Know the clientele” is imperative. He says “Students must be known as they come to us and not as we would like them to be. Knowing includes their culture, their level of preparedness, and their intellectual and emotional needs (page 7).” In South Florida we have students enter our colleges from all around the world. From every nation and culture and religion and they are all welcome. So knowing each of their cultures, traditions, and religious beliefs is not an easy task, but it is an important one. That is if you want to be able to help your students learn and grow and develop as thinking, caring, human beings who have mastered your subject matter, while at the same time be someone who will be able to move our country and the world to a better place in which to live.
For number 5 “Believe that what you do makes a difference.” Leamnson writes, “What we do is different from what we know. How we present our discipline to students is as important as what we present (page 7).” So how are we presenting the material? Are we just boring them to death with our words, lectures, and Cliff Notes? Or are we getting them involved in real life experiences to help them learn the subject. Are we immersing them in the issues, rules, theories, and principles in such a way that they can see them in living breathing examples within their world? Or are they just learning and remembering enough to pass your final exam and get on to their next class?
Lastly, number seven “Helping implies loving.” Here Leamnson writes, “We work hard and go that extra mile for those we love. We will go about our teaching more seriously and energetically if we love our students (page 8).” I love my students and I am so honored to be able to stand in front of the classroom whether I am teaching developmental English at Broward College, or medical transcription at Kaplan University, or business writing, mindfulness, or ethics for a corporate client. I know that if I can just share with them one tip, idea, theory, or principle that will help them communicate more carefully, fully, and correctly it may help them get a great job, gain that promotion, impress their boss, teacher, or family member. And maybe—just maybe—it will help them to love and appreciate themselves more. And when they do that it will help them get better grades, get that promotion, and move up their level of self-esteem, pride, and self-worth.
If each of us does that it will allow us to watch this world grow and become a better more compassionate and loving place to live. Teaching is not just a philosophy—it is a way of life. I challenge you to teach those positive attributes that you have learned throughout your life. Teach them to everyone you meet by your example and together we can watch the planet transform.
Teach your philosophy by living your philosophy!