Dr. L. Gaither

My PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION

            My underlying belief is that education is a systematic prerequisite for any individual to lead a healthy, sustainable, and productive life. My view on the role of teachers in maximizing effectiveness in the classroom is that it is vital that teachers remain free of bias and hold dearly in their hearts that all students have the potential to grow and develop into successful individuals. My pedagogy encapsulates an effort to recognize and enhance the classroom experience of all students regardless of their cultural, linguistic, and Socioeconomically diverse backgrounds. I strive to intentionally augment the talents and uniqueness that all students bring to the classroom. Not only is it paramount for all educators to be knowledgeable and well versed in their specific area of discipline, but it is equally critical for teachers to become advocates for all students. Educators who are socially conscious, embodies a certain level of humility, and a level of compassion for all students is what will define an effective teaching and learning exchange. More importantly, an effective change agent in this industry understands the challenges of educating all students in past and present society, and how the school is simply a microcosm of our broader society with its’ social, political, and economic inequalities that have existed nationally and internationally throughout history.

            Fostering a climate where learning goes beyond the classroom walls is the key ingredient to obtaining optimal results from students. One of the reasons why I am so driven to move learning beyond the classroom is because I hear more often than not that students don’t see any connections to what they are learning and how this will be applicable to their lives. Although I believe that students should have a sound background in reading, writing, math, technology, and an in-depth understanding of our historical, social, economic and political developments throughout history, I have a fundamental belief that people learn by what they see, especially our youth.  A profound quote by the late W.E.B. DuBois, Children learn more from what you are than what you teach” helps me understand how imperative it is for us to change our perspective on how we approach the challenges that we face in life. However, Tomlinson (2008) outlined some essential principles in the teaching and learning process, and I strive to make these practices an integral part of the classroom experience for students. The following goals are to:

  • Help students grapple with complex and ambiguous issues and problems.
  • Guide students in progressing from novice toward expert levels of performance in various subject areas.
  • Provide students opportunities for original, creative, and practical work in the disciplines.
  • Help students develop a sense of themselves as well as of their possibilities in the world in which they live.

In regards to teaching methods, I believe that the key to effectiveness in the classroom is to make questioning an integral part of instruction. Throughout all of my years of teaching, providing students with an anchor at the beginning of instruction, such as an essential question sets the stage for fruitful discussions and a favorable result at the end of the lesson. Students are then provided with the opportunity to explore in an academically challenging environment that is rigorous for all students who are performing on various levels. Making real world connections by consistently comparing and contrasting concepts will hopefully enable students to become masters at what they are learning. My methodology and strategies have evolved over the years to include providing students with more time to collaborate, thereby becoming more engaged in the entire learning experience. I believe in giving students ample time to practice with concepts although time has always been a challenging factor. Moreover, modeling for students on how to relate interpersonally increases their chances of truly understanding a lesson. If I plan daily with intention to follow this model, effective results such as students being able to explain, create and apply what they have learned in new settings will ensue from both of our efforts. The aforementioned goals are certainly a reminder for me to keep students’ best interests at the forefront as I plan daily lessons.

Different administrators, a phenomenal gifted endorsement class, numerous professional development courses, various life experiences and more importantly, the students have all certainly reshaped my philosophy in very profound ways over the years. New knowledge and revelations have led to an overall paradigm shift in my overall thinking and daily practice. Sometimes moving beyond familiar and traditional ways of teaching to having students engage and interact more on a daily basis has led to more positive results given the context of the teaching and learning environment. For example, students are taking the initiative to think more critically and make real world connections with what they learn in class by comparing them to the challenges that we face today. I have discovered that students know more than we think. They won’t remember all of the facts, but I believe that many students will depart with the essential skills needed to be successful as they continue to advance and mature into distinguished scholars.

In closing, my hope is that students understand that obtaining an education is not so much as what you’ve learned in a class but how you will use this new knowledge to improve not only your life but the lives of others. It is important that all students have been afforded the opportunity to grow and develop into self-sufficient and confident life-long learners. It is critical that I fulfill my role in challenging all students, regardless of their background, so that we can continue to produce innovative, critical thinkers who will help confront and solve issues that we will face in this 21st century.