Educational Philosophy

By Marc L. Nash

My personal philosophy is that teaching and learning are a two way street. I will continue to learn from the input of my students on how to be a more effective and caring teacher, keeping in mind that I am as much a learner as I am a teacher. By constantly reflecting on my teaching methods and monitoring carefully the communicative and contextualized activities, I will be a better teacher. I am also aware that my personal philosophy will continue to change as new research and innovative methods influences my profession. 1 feel that my philosophy must be flexible; in keeping it so, it will keep diverse learning styles and personalities in mind. If I were set in my philosophy, then I would be alienating new ideas, the needs and interests of the students and the constantly changing times.

The spirit of the times has forced general philosophies on teaching from the Essentialists, who promoted international knowledge of the classics and an "essential" body of knowledge; to the Reconstructionists who want(ed) teachers to plan lessons and train the minds of the students for the betterment of society and the future; to the current Progressivism, whose main focus is putting the needs and interests of the students first.

Progressivism philosophy does seem to fit my personal views on teaching and molds beautifully with my personality and with what I would feel comfortable doing in a Foreign Language (FL) classroom. With this philosophy, I would make learning individualized, teaching informal, teach language that is authentic and useful for functional activities. My activities or strategies would be communication-oriented to prepare the students to survive where the target language is spoken. Also, for the students to understand and to be understood by native speakers. I will teach functional language for real situations, similar to what natives do in their own land. These activities will keep the students in mind, promote an anxiety/stress free class to encourage expression of their feelings, interests, needs. I am aware that the nature of a FL creates tension by simply being foreign, but I will do my best to keep a relaxed and joyful setting, without sacrificing learning.

Since the language I will be teaching will be for communication, the students need to be given plenty of input and chances to experiment with the language. To keep that low affective filter and promote interaction, students will be sitting with a partner, or in small groups spread throughout the classroom. By doing away with the intimidating "battalion" straight rows, it gives me an open space to move among groups and give personal feedback and clarification, and partake in their communication-oriented activities mainly in the target language. This type of set up promotes a positive atmosphere that is student-centered, as the teacher takes the role of being a guide/facilitator for communication among the groups.

The activities will give the student opportunities to actively communicate and create with the language and show interest and curiosity in others. I feel the students must have that sense of ownership and control of their learning and give them every chance to become physically involved. Being physically involved or "hands-on" manipulation helps to remember and learn.

Learning a FL as teen/adults is an extremely complex process, especially when the learners are of diverse personalities, learning styles, and preferences. To be set in "one true way" can be futile, frustrating, and often ignores students' diverse learning styles and types of intelligence. Still sticking to my principles of Progressivism, I will adopt an eclectic, humanistic, and fun approach and techniques, taking what works from the various methodologies of the profession. I know my teaching strategies and activities will be intelligently chosen to meet my ever-present objective of proficiency. My instruction, examples, and communication-oriented practice will be meaningful, interactive, and responsive to the learners needs.

Proficiency will be my constant goal and I will use every tool at my disposal to help students accomplish this. If students are to learn language, then they must hear lots of it. I will do my best to teach as much as I can in Spanish, keeping in mind that at times a little English is beneficial clarify and help explain those difficult grammatical structures. I am very familiar that too much target language at the very start is overwhelming, creates tension, confusion, and ignores the different learning styles and strategies of the students. To continue using as much target language as possible, without scaring students, I will simplify my speech, use lots of cognates, exaggerated gestures, lots of realia/visuals (photos, objects, illustrations, posters, transparencies, etc) to activate their prior knowledge and challenge them with language that's a bit beyond their current level of understanding.

At the novice level, I will use varied repetition strategies, from choral, groups and eventually volunteers, I will do my best to teach grammar inductively, using the patterns of the language so the students can elicit the rule themselves. I will emphasize accuracy, (being flexible with the novice students so they don't shy away from experimenting with the language), especially pronunciation in order to reduce errors and fossilization. Students get a huge sense of accomplishment when they try to communicate something and it is understood. The frustration would be bigger having little language and not being understood because of incomprehensible pronunciation. Sometimes a few isolated words said well and confidently, will get the point across.

I like diversity, non-predictability and flexibility in my approach to teaching and admire these qualities in others. I will be a facilitator and guide of the language and cover themes/topics that are interesting and relevant to students, task-oriented, problem solving, with little routinization. To continue with the joyful feeling in the class, I will introduce the students to games, songs, videos, authentic language and readings that evoke imagination and application. These applications, in the form of functional activities that encourage expression, will be presented in varying formats and levels of formality. They will be above all, personalized, humorous, realistic and authentic, keeping in mind that the purpose is proficiency, not rote learning. Learning a FL is exposing the students to a different culture. Authentic, non-stereotypical culture from various Hispanic countries will be omnipresent in all of my realms of teaching. Students come with fixed beliefs, usually based on stereotypical propaganda, and I will do my best to shed away and clarify misconceptions about the culture at hand. My students will learn about themselves, their beliefs, and how they perceive the world. By taking the language in the first place, the students are on their way of being culturally aware and bilingual.