The SAIL Teaching Framework

This is a condensed version of the complete chart, but it's a good place to start.  Click for a larger view (and to download).

July 14, 2012

A Statement on Teaching

Potential employers sometimes ask for a statement of educational philosophy.  What is being asked for usually is a general statement about the importance of schooling, and the extent of one's enthusiasm for it.  I decided instead to write how I felt about teaching, since that is what I do.  Interestingly, my statement has been seen by some of my comrades as quirky, or even subversive.  Maybe I'm just not following the rules.

Nonetheless, here is my statement:

I am, first of all, a teacher.  My educational philosophy is a philosophy of teaching.  Teaching is not restricted to the classroom, but in the classroom I am a science teacher, a physics teacher.  Physics is a particular way of thinking, of seeing the world, of interacting with nature, and that is what I try to teach: how to think in the particular way that is physics.

For the student, this means that he must be prepared to think differently and to see differently.  This is what it means to learn.  He must also learn how to work with the tools of physics: the language and vocabulary of physics, the equations of physics, the ideas and concepts, the solving of particular kinds of problems in a particular way.

This is not easy work, thinking differently, and I must use the tools of teaching to bring the student to the point of change and learning.  The student must trust both me and herself, and she must be convinced that the journey is possible.  It is up to me to make physics engaging, intelligible, and achievable for the student.  I must help her experience it from every conceivable angle until she can see its many facets on her own.

In the end, the approach and goal of teaching is the same whether I am teaching physics, chemistry, philosophy, or music.  The young student’s vision and abilities are limited, but the capability is there.  A journey is embarked upon by both teacher and student.  Enlarging his vision, expanding his ability, tapping into his capability, employing what he already knows and can do – this is what the student must do for himself, but with guidance from a teacher who can see who the student is and what he can accomplish, and who knows the appropriate route and all its vicissitudes.

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