What do my teachers have to say?
My teaching philosophy
By: Angeliki Vournas
As a teacher, my goal is to not just teach the curriculum, but to inspire in my students a thirst for learning. It is more important to enable students to think for themselves than to fill their heads with right answers. In my classroom I show enthusiasm and creativity for my subjects, and patience and faith in my students.
I respect my students as individuals and understand that each child has different strengths and weaknesses, a unique learning style, cultural background and perspective. Their individualities must be respected so they can achieve their potential and be successful and happy in their lives. I want my students to have a curiosity for learning, the ability to think critically and be effective problem solvers. One way my students acquire intellectual growth is through the concept of the “Museum” in Social Studies during which students discover and explore topics that interest them within the larger unit of study by exploring various primary and secondary sources. They use their prior knowledge to make predictions and their inquiry skills to ask questions that will help them discover more about the topic.
I believe that the classroom is a microcosm and that students, just like in the world, must be respectful, fair, accept other individuals and cultures, respect different views, must have compassion and empathy for others, be responsible for their actions, and take things from their environment and use them to broaden their minds. I try to teach these by modeling, encouraging and praising positive behavior and correcting hurtful actions by discussing it with the individual student, and through class discussions. I believe students can develop appreciation and respect for one another by working together towards common goals through cooperative learning and teamwork. Students learn a lot from their surroundings and that is why my classroom is filled with many resources— such as posters, lists, maps, pictures, artifacts, primary sources, art and music—that will assist and extend my students’ learning. This is why I insist that my students be alert, observant and make connections between these resources and the unit of study.
In Social Studies it is important for students to be active readers. I teach my students to ask questions to create a purpose for reading, make predictions, actively question as they read, make connections, visualize, respond to the reading, and assess and revise their predictions. Finally, they use their new learning to create a project, write a report or essay that incorporates a learned skill (for example persuasive writing, taking a different point-of-view, solve a problem, causes and effect, etc.). This way I believe my students will acquire the necessary Social Studies skills such as the ability to gather, organize, analyze, evaluate and synthesize information, and engage in problem solving, decision making, and inquiry.
I have high expectations for my students and I make these expectations clear to them. This is why at the beginning to the school year, I teach, model and practice routines so my students know exactly what I expect of them. For every project or written work I provide a rubric. This way the students work effectively, independently and responsibly in their groups. They know how and when to visit our class library and take out books, and what to do when they finish reading their book. They use the class time productively, and know what exactly is expected for a high level on their work.
I believe I can be most effective when I am dependable, friendly, understanding, helpful, encouraging and when I show enthusiasm for the subject and praise the students. When my students feel good about themselves and their work they will be motivated to learn. One example of making the students feel proud of themselves is our Authors Celebration. At the conclusion of the genre study on Narrative Account/Memoir, the students mimic the craft of the author Sandra Cisneros and write their own memories in a book. They create an artistic cover for the book, they write a table of contents, a dedication and “All about the Author.” Then we have an Authors Celebration, during which parents, other teachers, Mr. Rodriguez and Dr. Beckham are invited. The students then explain how they wrote their first book, they show it to all the guests and read a few of their vignettes. The pride the students feel for their work and learning is obvious from their commitment to their projects and enthusiasm in sharing them.