I believe that creating and maintaining a culture of respect is essential for any learning environment. When the diversity in the room is centered on valuing difference, equity can be achieved. As an educator, I emphasize the need for respect in all ways so that every student has the opportunity to take risks, express creatively, and honor their own abilities – without putting anyone down. It is because of this culture of respect that students can have the confidence to operate with integrity. The culture of respect helps to maintain a safe environment in which everyone can learn inclusively.
The content of a student’s life must be balanced. Academics are equally important to the arts and after school activities. The later subjects here often attract student focus and passion. Hooking students into the activity of learning is integral; this includes wilderness trips as well as arts and club activities. Without a personal connection to the learning, students may not care to learn. Additionally, I agree with the idea that student’s “don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
Standards are not the sum total of learning; standards are a place to start learning. Further, teachers must embrace multiple techniques to both deliver content and assess student learning. Too many students are over tested. Assessing student learning should be expanded, beyond testing, to self-assessment, peer-assessment, student presentation of learning, student description of learning, and many other techniques. The learning environment must include multiple modalities of learning so that student voice is fully realized. Students must create and construct knowledge through their experiences as well as peer mentorships, shared understandings, and literacy strategies.
Teachers are not exclusively composed of the lessons in the book. Teachers are role models to the young adults that they serve. With that in mind, teachers must show students how to be the best version of themself. This includes ethical development; this includes modeling being an ally to those in need; this includes engaging in courageous conversations that do not have easy answers.
The most transformative experiences I have seen in education come from knowing the student and personalizing their experience. As an arts teacher, I have seen students come out of their shell of shyness and direct an entire school play. As a wilderness instructor, I have seen students find confidence on a four-day backpacking trip as they learn to cook food, filter water, and carry all their needs in a pack.
Education is a path to success; more importantly, education is a path to changing the world. This esoteric idea becomes reality with world-class educators with a diverse range of opinions and experiences. The world is full of diverse people; students should be exposed to the beautiful multitude of people so that they can learn and grow. Teaching both internationally and in the humanities has given me the important opportunity to embrace this philosophy. I look for opportunities that allow students to both celebrate their own uniqueness and engage, both creatively and intellectually, in new experiences and cultures. Fact-based learning limits the perspectives of the student. There are many different ways of knowing – personal truth, artistic truth, spiritual truth, and scientific truth. To educate a student in only one way on knowing and understanding undersells the potential of education. As an educator, I can help students find their truth without an agenda of what I know to be true.
I never entered education to be a traditional public-school teacher. There has been significant work in the field of public education – but I want to move beyond that. I believe in the power of independent education that seeks to further education for the students that they can serve best.