Over the past three years or so, my teaching philosophy has changed and developed based on my experiences in the classroom, my scholarly research interests, and my reflecting on both of these aspects of my life. I’m fairly confident in my beliefs of what makes an effective composition instructor and why I make the pedagogical decisions that I do.
I just have trouble articulating those in a concise way in a typed document.
In grad school, we spent a lot of time discussing teaching philosophies in a couple of my classes. I have drafts that show, really, just how much my philosophies (and abilities to state those philosophies) have progressed since the first and second semester of graduate school. I still remember some of the advice and feedback I got on those earlier versions: make yourself more present, good use of examples, “coaching” might be misread or misinterpreted.
My more recent drafts of my teaching philosophy are accurate. They describe well, I think, what I value most as a composition instructor. Unfortunately, I just feel like my teaching philosophy is missing something. It feels so very incomplete.
I have read a lot of teaching philosophy statements, as well as a lot of advice on how to write one. But I feel like doing this does nothing more than muddle my own ideas and make me question my own practices.
That is not really productive.
Trying to concisely and accurately state my teaching philosophies is important right now, as I’m looking at job openings and trying to make sure that my own portfolio documents are putting my proverbial best foot forward.
But how do we do that in roughly a page of text?
I jokingly told a friend recently that I needed to write out my full philosophy and provide a tl;dr version. When I start thinking about everything I want to include in my statement, it’s hard to decide that I value just a few over the others: teaching for transfer, coaching students to become lifelong learners of writing/language, creating a student-centered classroom, fostering self-assessment strategies, developing a classroom language to discuss writing, honoring students’ rights to their own languages, opening up opportunities for students to access the language of the academy, offering feedback on global (rather than local) issues, creating classroom activities that meet students where they are in the writing development, understanding students’ writing selves, and building on prior knowledge rather than encouraging students to “forget what they know.”
This list is not exhaustive.
I’ve tried to think about the most important of these, the ones that I could not teach without embracing. The difficult thing is, all of these are interdependent on each other. How can I say that just one aspect of my teaching is more important than the others?
It’s one thing, I think, to understand our own teaching philosophies. It’s a much more difficult and challenging thing to articulate them in ways that are productive and meaningful, especially when the end product is a quickly-digested document that’s meant to represent your teaching practices to individuals with no prior experience of who you are.