Teaching Philosophy 

To me, there’s nothing more rewarding than witnessing an individual progress towards the goals they’ve set for themselves and knowing that I contributed towards their success. I think that too often in our present society, we tend to become overly preoccupied with our own personal struggles, creating a highly negative, pessimistic attitude that reflects on our treatment of both ourselves and others. Through the limited amount of work that I’ve already done as a teacher/tutor of subjects that include not only language, but also swimming, music, and other core academic subjects, I’ve discovered that more times than not, dedicating one’s energy towards helping others accomplish their goals or surmount challenges is all one needs to improve one’s perspective on the world around them and how they may contribute towards its own improvement.  I hope that by approaching English teaching in this way, I may help others see education in a similar light - particularly in terms of the invaluable potential it holds for addressing and improving societal issues on a broader scale (e.g., systemic racism, elitism, heteronormativity, and misogyny).  

A substantial part of what gives the learning process such vitality in the context of responding to the world around us is the sense of empowerment that it may bestow upon students in the act of both setting and working to achieve personal goals. Regardless of whether they’ll go on to use the target language on a regular basis in everyday life, just having the experience of studying a language other than their native language I hope would encourage them to break out of their comfort zone in more areas of their life through providing them with a sense of the personal rewards (e.g., self-confidence, perseverance, metacognitive awareness/awareness of self, etc.) that may result from doing so. That being said, I do feel it is important to maintain at least one language-specific goal throughout the course of an EAL (English as an Additional Language) or ELD (English Language Development) student’s learning - particularly one that serves the purpose of establishing language proficiency as a tool for success in a relevant social context. Examples to this end may include strengthening the ability to apply their developing skills of the target language in a variety of speech contexts, as well as being able to negotiate for meaning with confidence in situations where meaning may not be explicit. Ultimately, through encouraging self-agency in one’s learning, I hope to boost students’ adaptability to whatever linguistic situations life is likely to throw at them - an adaptability which in and of itself is rapidly increasing in importance as translinguistic practices in the world around us continue to expand. 

When considering the exact methodology best suited for helping my students accomplish their goals, I find that sticking to a dynamic, relevance-centered set of learning theories and curricula is the most appropriate approach. Regarding learning theories specifically, I appreciate the interdisciplinary aspects of content-based learning (i.e., English instruction that is conducted through the medium of another subject, such as science, history, finances, art, etc.) and how it can help keep the curriculum relevant and engaging for the students. Stemming from this, I also recognize the value of keeping students’ individual goals for language use - as well as past experiences with the language - in mind when choosing curriculum content. A few ways in which I maintain this student-centered approach is ensuring to provide students lots of opportunities to bring in real-life examples of texts and/or experiences that they encounter in the target language (e.g., job/housing/citizenship applications, email drafts, children’s homework), as well as encouraging students to actively utilize what they’re learning in applicable contexts outside the classroom. For the latter method, I am sure to start with “low-risk” scenarios to build confidence (e.g., using conversational skills w/ English-speaking friends, colleagues, etc.) and then progress towards slightly “riskier” activities (e.g., setting up an appointment over the phone, asking for assistance in a grocery/department store, engaging in small talk w/ acquaintances or strangers). Encouraging students to reflect on such experiences in class I also see as an essential part of their learning, as it provides yet another instance of building self-confidence in their present abilities as well as support from their peers and myself regarding their individual areas for improvement. In further reference to peer collaboration within the language classroom, I think that both peer-to-peer work and evaluation can be really helpful for encouraging active involvement among students, especially in the case wherein teacher-student interactions may hold an intimidating connotation in the minds of the students. I am especially fond of  “jigsaw”-type group work, wherein each student is exclusively responsible for a specific part of the assignment, making everyone’s contribution equally valuable. Similarly, when it comes to progress evaluation, I have found that encouraging students to self-reflect on the work of both themselves and their peers can be highly effective in continuing to build a supportive learning environment wherein every student feels both motivated and comfortable to participate, learn from their mistakes, and ultimately improve in their English communication skills. Methods of self-reflection that I most commonly use include brief written reflections at the end of a lesson, peer-to-peer feedback on assignments, and regular one-on-one discussions with students on how they feel about their progress. Encouraging self-evaluation on a regular basis may also help build students’ agency in their English development and even help them discover more about how they can best learn and meet goals. Additionally, anything that encourages creative/original thinking I feel can be crucial for fostering growth in the target language by expanding the horizons of what can be accomplished/communicated through its use. To that end, teaching under this approach may also directly lead towards esteem-building by providing another low-risk, supportive channel for students to express themselves authentically/creatively. 

Just as I believe in the importance of flexibility in my students’ relationships with language, so too do I stand by being flexible with regard to my teaching style. Whether I am planning a lesson or in the midst of conducting an in-class activity, I am always willing to try new approaches if my current ones don’t prove effective. This leads to my belief in the importance of students’ real-time responses to lessons/activities when deciding how to best facilitate learning in the moment. That being said, I do believe that confidence as well as some degree of authority in the teacher is essential for ensuring positive and respectable student-teacher relationships, particularly in the way that they may help establish a solid sense of trust in the instructor from both academic and personal perspectives. Whatever the case may be, I constantly strive to treat all students as intelligent, fully capable individuals (as opposed to ignorant subordinates with nothing to offer in the learning process) in order to maintain a sense of mutual respect within the classroom setting.

As I look to the future and the changes it will undoubtedly bring in the field of English education, I have established a personal goal of consistently self-reflecting on my own teaching practice. This is ultimately in order to strengthen my current teaching philosophy by adjusting for field-related or broader sociocultural changes in the perspectives of English education. One way I work towards this goal is to routinely expose myself to the latest literature in the field, as well as attend relevant conferences and other opportunities in which I may network with fellow instructors. On a more intimate level, I also offer individual student-teacher conferences multiple times throughout the duration of a course (or on a regular basis, if the course is ongoing). These meetings are intended to not only serve as an additional metric of mutual understanding of students’ individual goals/needs, but also help me to better understand and empathize with their current perspective of their learning and what they have to bring to the table from their background. Altogether, my continuous efforts for self-improvement and -reflection support the  establishment of a more personal connection between the students and myself as the instructor, in addition to the sentiment that students have control over their learning. This is a sentiment that I believe is invaluable for individuals of any level/age group, but perhaps particularly for adult learners (the primary demographic with whom I work) in the sense that it may help maintain self-esteem and a clearer perspective of their classwork’s relevance within the context of their personal relationships and aspirations.