Teaching Philosophy Statement: An EFL Teacher Perspective

Introduction

One of the most important goals of writing a teaching philosophy statement is self-reflection. After all, the author is a significant part of the target audience of a philosophy statement. The other potential readers of the statement are peer educators and search committees. The latter are targeted because over the last several years teaching philosophy statements became a part of a dossier for occupation search. Writing such a statement is important for a teacher as they help to identify and prioritize one’s values, underline the perspectives, and discuss the most favored approaches.

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In the contemporary world, EFL teachers are in demand. This is why maximal optimization of the teaching process is crucial. A modern EFL teacher is to integrate several important aspects into its philosophy. They are the use of contemporary technologies, the employment of creative practice and play-based learning, and engagement of the diversity in the classroom into the teaching process. All of these aspects have been studied by many scholars and evidence shows that they become more and more meaningful and required in the world of nowadays.

As a teacher with ten years of experience working in different grades, I have formed a belief that viewing a student as an empty vessel a teacher must fill is incorrect. Instead, the students are to be seen as active communicators, thinkers, and creators whose role is to generate ideas, reflect, synthesize, respond and digest, but not to simply absorb the information from books without giving it a thought. As a teacher, I must observe and learn my students to identify their needs, styles, and characters to form individual approaches and find a common language with the students. I like to base my approach towards teaching on the statement “Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand”.

Literature Review

Writing one’s teaching philosophy statement is important for many reasons. First of all, this statement involves the main goals, purposes, techniques, experiences, and beliefs. Writing philosophies statements help the educators clarify their professional priorities and also provides opportunities for sharing special insights for the teachers that explore different philosophies. Another important function of teaching philosophy is to reflect the development and growth of its author over time as well as the development of the demands existing in their field of practice (Espinoza Campos, 2010: 3). A teaching philosophy statement is important not just because it is a part of an educator’s resume and serves as a good presentation of the professional skills and ideas of a teacher. The statement should not only be theoretical information on paper. The ideas, objectives, and anticipations documented in the teaching philosophy statement must be put into practice. Espinoza Campos (2010: 4) recommends that the practice of writing teaching philosophy statements should become regular for teachers as an attribute providing their professional growth.

The most successful language teachers are the ones that frequently employ creative practice during the teaching process. Evidentially, the application of creativity used to be a widely practiced method of teaching during the 1970s and 1980s, but the 1990s were the period teaching methods tightened up and focused more on academic curriculum (Cameron, n. d.: 9). Today, scholars perceive that it is time to loosen up their approaches and start introducing creative learning to the classrooms.

As English now is an international language, the demand for teachers of English is growing. The contemporary schools are interested to hire professionals who know how to motivate and engage their learners, and who apply modern methods of teaching, and succeed at training the students and passing the knowledge. In other words, they are looking for someone who can be called a good teacher, although the characteristics of a good teacher are rather vague and arbitrary. Richards, Gallo, and Renandya (n. d.: 4) notice that the trait of a good teacher most descriptions agree about is the focus on students, individual approach, non-judgmental attitude, motivation, and respect.

Over the last decade, several types of research concerning almost every discipline have been focused on the application of creativity to the teaching process and studying its impacts. The importance of creativity in learning and ways to employ it are some of the most frequently discussed issues these days. The study by Richards (2013:1) underlines that creativity is currently viewed as a necessary teaching practice for the preparation of flexible future professionals with good self-esteem and motivation. Besides, the study also notes that financial success and social cohesion in the UK are the factors directly connected to the efficient strategy differenced at the employment of creative education on the national level (Richards, 2013: 1). The study emphasizes that more research in this field is required because creative teaching is applied mainly in such subjects as Art or Literature, while such disciplines as Biology or Business barely ever include a creative approach towards teaching (Richards, 2013: 2).

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The use of digital technologies for language learning is another highly effective modern technique. Of course, English is not the only subject that employs computers, although even in everyday life computer technologies and the Internet play a significant role in language practice. For example, I noticed that some of my students that spent a lot of time using the internet or playing computer games had better language proficiency due to the regular language practice, while the others kept forgetting their lessons because of lack of practice. Motteram (2013: 5) emphasizes the importance for modern teachers to work with technology; the author also discusses the field of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) as one of the developing innovative strategies of teaching in the world of nowadays. The use of computer technologies during the teaching process allows educators to create what is called an extended classroom. This is the kind of classroom that allows practicing curriculum materials beyond the standard class time so that the areas of the curriculum that are often overlooked due to the time shortage are addressed (Motteram, 2013: 7). This way, the technologies not only enhance the teaching process but expand it.

Discussion

Conceptualization of learning includes the concepts of formal and informal learning. Formal learning is one that occurs under the school curriculum and happens in the classroom directly, it includes such characteristics as a hierarchical process with students at the bottom and teaching supervisors at the top, basic education, flowing nature where the previous stages prepare the earners for the next ones, and a document proving that the students took the course given at the end of it. Informal learning can be enforced by the formal one, for example through homework.

What happens during the learning process is the student’s perception of the new information based on that knowledge they already have (Shehane, n. d.: 1). This way one of the most efficient teaching strategies a language teacher can apply is the connection of the new material to the personal experiences typical for the students’ daily lives. Another important teaching strategy is visualization. For example, as a teacher, I often try to include demonstrations, films, songs, videos, and experiments into the learning process. Drawings and schemes work well too, yet they cannot be too overloaded with colors and information because this confuses the learners.

The nature of a language teacher is based on their ability to inspire learners and motivate them. It is crucial to develop an interest in the acquisition of new information in language learners. This way a teacher is to demonstrate excellent language proficiency and knowledge so that the students always feel free to ask any questions (Implementing the Common Core State Standards for English Learners: The Changing Role of the ESL Teacher, 2013: 7).

The language learning process becomes interesting when it is made easy when the students are given all possible means to accomplish the tasks they face. This is why I believe that one of the most important functions of a teacher is to implement the learning process through a variety of interesting materials. The teacher is to create a bridge to lead the learners from one stage of language proficiency to another.

The teachers have to deal with diverse classrooms where there can be students of different backgrounds, ethnicities, social groups, and genders. Having to handle that, a good teacher would conclude to show individual approach and reach every one of them raising questions that bother students the most. Instead of discussing dry standard topics, a teacher may introduce arguments about stars of TV or music, pop culture influences, and other issues that interest the children.

As a teacher, for quite a while I was trained to believe that a student is an empty vessel that needs to be filled with my knowledge, so starting my teaching career I had a goal to make my students memorize the information the way I present it. As I gained more experience I started to understand that measuring all of the students according to some universal standard is depriving them of the ability to create and think critically. Now I view my students as thinkers and communicators, I encourage them to come to their conclusions, form their own independent opinions, perceive and emote, instead of just taking the information presented to them for granted. My goal is to make them express both positive and negative feelings, solve problems, apply literacy, and respect each other and each other’s ideas.

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Implementation of the Philosophy

I am one of the first teachers at y workplace who started using technologies such as IPad and various applications to enhance the teaching process. I did this since I believe that using technologies is a way to speak a common language with the learners. I also implement interesting subjects and materials to argue about, for example, famous myths about UFOs or mysterious monsters, to engage the learners into a debate about their existence. I inspire the children to ask me questions inside and outside of the classroom so that the learning process goes beyond the lesson period.

To maintain discipline, I noticed that it is best to keep the students busy. I learn my classroom and address learning diversity by dividing my students into groups according to the speed of learning. This way, the ones that tend to accomplish their assignments sooner than others work together and are given new tasks as soon as they finish the previous ones.

To implement more efficient teaching I involve the personal experiences of the students to teach new vocabulary. I try to create speaking situations where the learners would have to use the new words in sentences describing issues close to them. This approach grants the integration of personal experience that is the base of the learning process. Learning new vocabulary is the most successful when it happens through activities, but not through simple memorizing (Nam, 2010: 128). I also often organize games to introduce new vocabulary, the students first memorize the new words, and then we play a game when one student shows or draws the meaning of the word without naming it. This activity helps the students memorize the vocabulary better and tie it to the gaming processor associations.

Professional Growth

Over the years my teaching style and methods have changed quite a lot. First of all the technologies today are a significant part of my teaching process. Ten years ago, when I was just starting my teaching process the schools barely had any computers, and today almost every teacher and learner own personal digital devices that can connect to the Internet filled with various interesting assignments and challenges. Ten years ago my teaching style used to be very formal, I used to stick to the curriculum standards, which made my lessons rather dry. Today, I am trying to be more unconventional. I mainly work with students of ten and twelve years old, and they prove to be very fond of puzzles and mysteries. This is why during the class we discuss various well-known mysterious stories, solve crossword puzzles, riddles, and challenging tasks. I introduce games where students are divided into competing teams for better collaboration. Teaching practice gave me a better understanding of my learners, I got to observe various classrooms, and handle diversity. Diversity remains one of the biggest challenges for me today. Children of different social backgrounds have very different interests and it can be hard to reach all of them using the same topics. I am also working on finding new creative projects for language learners to introduce more active learning and engage my students in positive learning experiences.

Conclusion

School is one of the first societies a child comes to from their home. Peer students and teachers play a very important role in the process of shaping the children’s individualities, values, and views on life. In my opinion, the most important skill any educator has to teach their class to apply is critical thinking. To my mind, this is the best way to affect the lives of the students and prepare them to live in a world where they need to demonstrate flexibility, be just and rational, have proper values and morals, and be able to evaluate circumstances and information wisely.

Reference List

Cameron, L. (n. d.). Creativity in the Language Classroom. Web.

Espinoza Campos, M. A. J. L. (2010). The Importance of Developing Our Teaching

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Philosophy as EFL Professionals. XXIV Panama TESOL Annual Congress 2010. Web.

Implementing the Common Core State Standards for English Learners: The Changing Role of the ESL Teacher. (2013). TESOL International Association. Web.

Motteram, G. (2013). Innovations in Learning Technologies for English Language Teaching. London, United Kingdom: British Council.

Nam, J. (2010). Linking Research and Practice: Effective Strategies for Teaching Vocabulary in the ESL Classroom. TESL Canada Journal, 28(1), 127-135.

Richards, J. C. (2013). Creativity in Language Teaching. Web.

Richards, J. C., Gallo, P. B. & Renandya, W. A. (n. d). Exploring Teachers’ Beliefs and the Processes of Change. Web.

Shehane, M. (n. d.). The Three Easiest and Most Effective Strategies for Teaching ESL Students. Web.

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