Friday, October 14, 2016

My Philosophy of Teaching

Too often, our students, staff, and schools hear the word no. My philosophy is yes. It is my job to say yes to preparing, empowering, and protecting. It is my job to say yes despite, to spite, and in spite of those around us and across the state who too often say no to adequate funding, no to opportunity seizing, and no to risk taking. In my work, the yesses are free; it’s the noes that cost our students the most. 

I say yes to my students and their learning. Yes to the student in my class who asks to revise her “Myself as a Learner” reflection because she just figured out what imagery is—even though the due date was two weeks ago. Yes to the curly haired boy in the front who makes a laugh escape my lips even when my mind forms a salty retort. Yes to the challenges my students lay at my feet: how to teach complex sentences when they aren’t quite sure what a verb is, how to engage them in reading Shakespeare when they are hungry, how to make them feel they are unique – even when they are crowded by thirty other students. And, most importantly, I say yes to teaching them as they are as they cross the threshold of my room.

But the yes doesn’t stop at the doorway of my classroom. Instead, the yes pops the hinges off the doors. The yes dissolves the walls that separate me from the English teacher down the hall, the elementary teacher across the country, and even the pink-haired student who sits by herself at lunch.  The yes of talking to my colleague about her struggling student allows me to ask myself hard questions about how I am supporting my own students.  The yes of reading GLSEN’s latest report on bullying of LGBTQ+ students prompts me to re-launch ONW’s Gender Sexuality Alliance and facilitate Safe Space training for staff. The yes of leading professional development motivates me to reject instructional mediocrity. The yes of applying for the Greater Kansas City Summer Institute compels me to compare my own practices in providing students feedback with other metro teachers’ practices and our reflections on the research.

The power of the yes has liberated me from the shackles of the no. I walked 40 miles with Game On for Kansas Schools to demand adequate and equitable funding so that we can say yes to preparing students. I co-initiated the ONEA Ally program to provide opportunities to new-to-district teachers so that we can say yes to empowering them. I attended the first-ever GSA Advisor Summit despite the risk of resistance so that we can say yes to protecting students. Now, it’s time for the next yes.