Today I was asked about my teaching philosophy during an afternoon committee meeting — a complex question and one that I am confident about answering as thoroughly as possible. It was an intellectually stimulating dialogue that caused me to reflect on my teaching philosophy and of course I feel compelled to blog about it.
My philosophy of education is steeped in investigating students’ experiences. My framework stems from Lev Vygotsky’s concept of inner speech – students are able to embody their own words as well as others. Eventually speech becomes not only a means of communication with other people, but also a means for students’ inner thinking processes.
Students’ voices can be heard everywhere. We listen to a cacophony of discourse reverberating in the hallways, conferencing in faculty offices, shouting in parking lots, sharing on social media. I tune in to hear student voices because they often reveal challenges. For example, I assign journal response writing; students are asked to describe their feelings about reading a variety of text.
A memorable journal entry was written by my English 0482 student Carol. She had moved from Haiti and raised two teenage daughters. She dropped in and out of school most of her life and hated to read because she had difficulty understanding. Carol wrote, “There are bunches of words that don’t make sense. I can’t remember it. And I read slower than my daughters.” In the midst of sharing her literacy history, she said, “I want to know how to become a better reader. I want to go on.” And with these words, Carol’s voice captured a snapshot of how students interpret or make meaning of their academic experiences. When we listen to their voices we can make a difference by extending their stories to multiple stakeholders in order to facilitate positive change.