Philosophy of Teaching

Before joining WorldTeach and embarking on an adventure in another country, many volunteers have had little or no teaching experience. During their terms of service, however, many volunteers find that they have certain ways of teaching, conceptions of what teaching and learning are and justifications for why they teach the way they do. In putting these thoughts, actions, and values on paper, you can easily see your philosophy of teaching. Karin, a WorldTeach Costa Rica volunteer, had to put her philosophy on paper for her TEFL certification class. Read on to hear what she believes teaching is and consider your own beliefs about teaching and learning. Remember that every teacher's philosophy is unique and that, like teachers, learners have their own styles as well.

I believe in customizing teaching to the students and their environment. When I arrived in Costa Rica nearly seven months ago, I had many expectations for myself and my students, and many visions of how I would run my classroom and teach my lessons. For better or for worse, many of those goals and visions have changed as I have come to understand my students, my fellow teachers, my community, and the Costa Rican educational system. Other WorldTeach teachers may feel that we should do our best to instill our students with the strong work ethic found in the US. For me, I try to keep my goals high but realistic, adapting them when necessary. For example, as much as I would love to cover ample amounts of material in each unit, it simply would be unfair to my students to do so when my teaching days are averaging about 60% of what I had expected. I aim to do the best with what I am given, but be flexible and forgiving when that amounts to very little.

I believe in teaching as an exchange. Much as I am here to teach English to my students, I think it is worthwhile to acknowledge that I am learning many things too. Furthermore, my goal is not just an exchange of languages, but of cultures, ideas, and beliefs as well. I try to serve as an ambassador and share my life experiences with my students and community, hopefully opening their minds to new perspectives. I hope to create a positive but under-control learning environment, where my students know they are respected and their questions are welcomed. I believe in empowering my students to recognize what they have to share as well—I encourage them to ask me questions about English and the US as I invite them to teach me about Spanish nuances and Costa Rican customs. I desire to spark their curiosity about the world outside of their own, as I am curious about theirs.

To this aim, I believe in using my students’ native language (Spanish) during discussion and for checks of comprehension. I believe in using English immersion as much whenever possible, recognizing that there are many things that they can understand simply based on tone of voice or body language (ex. “Listen, please”) or master easily with practice (ex. “May I go to the bathroom?”) However, I believe that it is inefficient and exhausting (to both me and my students) to place a strict ban on the Spanish language—there are some topics that are taught with much more clarity when Spanish is used. Furthermore, I believe that allowing Spanish in the classroom on occasion shows my respect for my students’ curiosity and is aligned with my goal of teaching them not just the English language but of a different culture and lifestyle as well. I will never forget the 30-minute discussion (in Spanish) that I had with my fifth graders the day that Osama Bin Laden was found and killed by US troops. As I explained the 9/11 attacks and how they had impacted life in the US, I invited my students to share about Costa Rica’s abolition of their military and their views on war. With this philosophy, my students and I are benefiting from a deeper exchange of ideas and I believe that we all are receiving a better education because of it.

Do you think your philosophy of teaching should be put into action in the classroom? Check out WorldTeach for opportunities! Click here for more information.

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