April, 2013

Julia Clare Tillinghast Statement of Teaching Philosophy: The Teacher Sets the Tone For the Classroom


Firstly, I believe that for all students to learn, a teacher needs to have consistently high expectations, not only of her students, but of herself. Organization, punctuality, good time-management, critical thinking, creativity, thoroughness, a respectful attitude toward others, and consistent effort, among other practices, must be modeled by the teacher first and foremost. One cannot expect students to be on time to class if she is sometimes late, just as one cannot expect students to complete their homework if her grading is not done on time. As a teacher, I am more punctual, organized, compassionate, objective, detail-oriented and hard-working than I am in any other area of my life, which gives me license to expect the same of my students. This is not to say that I was not always a responsible teacher; however, I think a certain degree of corruption can come into the over-worked teacher’s life – arduous grading loads can mean students have to wait forever for some response to papers they’ve worked hard on, for example – and I have come to believe it must be a foremost priority of mine to not let that happen.

Along with this effort to model academic excellence to my students, I have, in recent years, realized the value of clearly communicating concrete expectations and following through with those expectations every time. I am specific on my syllabus about my policies on late homework (I do not accept it except under very special circumstances), attendance, and class participation, and the grading consequences of not meeting these expectations. I have begun, in recent years, to give very frequent, small, formative assessments (often short quizzes), sometimes as many as two a week – a practice I would never have dreamed of early in my career because I thought it would be too strict or arduous for the students. Now I know, however, that in doing so I am doing students the favor of giving them concrete extrinsic motivators so they can get over their own blocks and study. I approach discipline and enforcement as many experts advise parents to do – without any anger, with consistency, and with clear communication of the reasoning behind the rules.

I believe that it is students themselves who create their own learning. Through challenges and support they transform themselves, growing skills, abilities, and confidence over time. However, I know all too well that students can get in their own ways by procrastinating, being afraid to care or participate, resting on entitlement, or not taking risks. By being full of encouragement and utterly consistent with expectations, I have found that I can successfully facilitate students in their own growth and transformation, which is, I believe, what a teacher’s job boils down to.