Teaching is the creation of a community of learners who celebrate their diversity and actively engage in the world around them through integrative, culturally relevant, and developmentally-appropriate lessons. As a teacher, I have the privilege of facilitating the necessary relationship building, conversations, and instruction to create a positive, empowering, and equitable learning environment that meets the needs of all of my students. After observing and experiencing a variety of teaching styles in addition to reflecting on best practices and my own beliefs about teaching, I see myself implementing a collaborative, hands-on and center-driven classroom. Across all disciplines, I prefer to make whole group instruction engaging by challenging students to think critically and talk productively about the content through discussions and hands-on exploration. At the same time, I highly value small group instruction, guided lessons, and the power of differentiation and planning for intentional center activities and well-designed rotations.
My three core values as an educator are growth, collaboration, and equity. Student growth serves as the primary motivation and determining factor behind my instruction. As a teacher, I strive to instill a growth mindset in my students by focusing on learning from mistakes, process over product, and effort over completion. In addition to my use and collection of student assessment, evaluation, and test data, I also believe in the power of students tracking their own growth across various skills and subjects so that they can set personal goals and reflect on their progress towards them. The most important characteristic of my classroom is that it reflects a community of learners. When student and teacher relationships contribute to a sense of community, everyone shares in the encouragement, support, and success of their peers. Both the contributing factor and result of this community is the practice of collaboration. I value collaboration within my classroom as a way for students to engage with and learn from one another, as well as the development of an essential 21st century skill. Each student in my classroom brings his or her own ethnic identity, family composition, cultural background, educational experience, and personality. As a result of these differences, the students in my classroom and my school will reflect a range in privilege and abilities. My role as a teacher is to ensure that all students receive individualized support for their learning so that they have equal access to success. I will demonstrate this value through culturally relevant teaching, strong parent relationships, and involvement in the school community.
When applying my teaching style and philosophy directly to classroom management, I feel restorative justice will be my primary conflict management style because it focuses on relationships and reconciliation to ensure equity. Restorative justice also incorporates my personal passion for social constructivist teaching, and social justice education. Specific uses for this classroom management model are when students use comments or stereotypes to intentionally or unintentionally hurt another student, when students are hurt by a biased practice by me as a teacher or the school, and/or when students struggle to build positive relationships with one another and consistently create tension or disagreement socially and academically. I feel that by explicitly teaching students the qualities of empathy and active listening, as well as establish the procedure for a small group or whole class circle discussion, I will be able to facilitate their growth in understanding others’ perspectives. Similar to the value of productive talk and student-centered teaching, restorative justice uses student perspectives and conversation as the context for managing classroom conflict and teaching relational skills such as compassion, listening, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
For proactive classroom management, the positive discipline model allows for addressing behavior that is more surface level, and I will use this to enforce classroom rules and expectations. I also feel that it allows for the establishment of standard, routinized procedures ranging from rewards and consequences to classroom jobs and responsibilities. After studying classroom management and observing the strategies of other teachers, I see myself using a system of earning small individual rewards or class-wide rewards in response to positive behavior, and then a more individualized consequences system of reflection, conferencing, and/or parent and administrator involvement. Overall, my personal value is on the students as individuals who can be equipped and encouraged to work towards success as a collaborative team. Whether it is as small as celebrating birthdays or acknowledging personal milestones like a new sibling or a great soccer game, or as big as posting student growth charts to show individual and class progress for all to see, I believe that as a teacher my role is to strike the balance between the two, all while managing behavior so that this process can consist of positive, teachable moments instead of negative, correction-focused ones.