Whenever I consider my teaching philosophy, I find myself reflecting most intensely not on my experiences thus far as a teacher, but rather as a learner. Since a very young age, learning has been something I have clung to joyously. Though sometimes I must sort through my eagerness to learn and my eagerness to please or achieve, I am able to look at my own goals as a learner and translate them into my goals as one who creates a learning environment for others. To summarize my teaching philosophy in three distinct (yet also inevitably overlapping) ideas, my goals are to:
Top, left: Riley speaking at Youthfront Camp in July 2019
Bottom, right: photo by Riley Morsman
To encourage curiosity means, to me, to create an environment in which students are self-propelled within their learning. It means that the desire to discover and master new content stems from a genuine desire to learn, rather than to achieve a grade or check a box. While I understand that this is a difficult goal to set as an educator since it involves the intrinsic motivation of my students, I do believe that it is attainable for me to at least encourage this type of learning.
To promote connectedness is a goal that is encapsulated on many different levels. First, there is the connectedness between each individual student and myself. I believe it is important that students feel I am not only approachable but also relationally invested in their experience as a student in my class. Additionally, I believe it is important for students to discover connectedness amongst themselves. Having a classroom of students who are aware of each other’s values and opinions creates an environment that better fosters conversation and motivation. Lastly, I believe it is important for students to experience connectedness with the material.
To foster growth means many different things, depending on the learning environment. However, in every case, multiple aspects of growth should be focused on, whether that growth by intellectual, emotional, interpersonal, or spiritual. In the classroom, for example, I aim not only to help my students learn and retain the content that is specific to the course at hand, but to also grow as thinkers, learners, and individuals.