I have been thinking a lot about my teaching philosophy lately. What does it mean to have a teaching philosophy? Will writing down my philosophy make me a better teacher? Shouldn't I use my time to grade essays, instead? These questions reflected the fact that I did not see what was important about articulating a teaching philosophy or mission and committing it to paper. I based my value as a teacher on the magical moments (and less-than-magical moments) that happened in the classroom and whether my students were satisfied with their progress (and my ability to help get them there) at the end of the semester. I couldn't put my finger on my teaching philosophy; it simply was. I see the usefulness of a teaching philopophy with new eyes, so I am giving it a try.
Now that I am in the interviewing process for community college faculty positions across the state of Virginia, I understand why I need to have a clear and concise philosophy on paper and in mind: Members of a faculty search committee do not have the time to observe lively and engaging discussions in my real classes, nor do they have the time to listen to me blather on about why I love teaching, and why I consider teaching at a community college my ideal career. Taking PhD-level courses also has made me write more now than I have in the past five years, so the words come to me more easily and I am pleased with myself for moving forward. So here is my teaching philosophy below. I have also posted this on my website camillemustachio.com. I would love to read or listen to any feedback that you may have. This teaching statement is unfinished, as my writing is always a work in progress.
As a teacher, my primary goal is for students to have stronger analytical skills and confidence to successfully pursue their academic, professional, and personal goals when we part for the last time than when we first met. This immense task is one that I have embraced while teaching more than 100 post-secondary credit hours, and one that I continue to embrace by incorporating pedagogical training and reflecting on successful and unsuccessful classroom experiences.
While my enthusiasm for teaching traditional and non-traditional students has been unwavering, my methods have evolved as I have gained a better understanding and appreciation for the diverse backgrounds of students in any one class and how that diversity can be a catalyst for dynamic and engaging discussions, projects, and lectures. As an underlying celebration of diversity as an academic catalyst, I instill in students the idea that we are a community of learners. In a positive learning community, each student is inspired to recognize his or her role in promoting the success of the overall class by actively participating in discussions, helping peers in cooperative learning environments, and by embracing challenges toward individual achievement. My students are engaged in the learning process and are successful as a result. In addition, I set clear expectations and evaluation guidelines for student conduct and performance so that all students know how they are expected to meet the goals set before them.
As an undergraduate and graduate student, I had the benefit of learning from outstanding instructors who were simultaneously encouraging and challenging; I model those instructors when I mentor students in instructor and advisor capacities.