I attended a Master Teachers Clinic on Wednesday and found the session the be quite beneficial. It primarily revolved around the development of a professional portfolio and unpacking the 5 standards that outlined the criteria to progress along the teaching track. Hwa Phaik, a master teacher herself, hosted the clinic and I benefitted much (as always) from her willingness to share her experience, thoughts and insight.
While unpacking one of the standards, Hwa Phaik asked a question that I think is of utmost importance: 'What is your teaching philosophy?' The few of us in that group, myself included, were caught unaware by the question. For starters, most of us were clueless or at best, had a vague idea about what a teaching philosophy is. Hwa Phaik did provide an explanation as to what a teaching philosophy meant which included a story about her superior who began the first work review spending two hours discussing and gaining clarity about her teaching philosophy.
This is what I understand a teaching philosophy to be some reflection:
A teaching philosophy is/are fundamental beliefs and convictions that is both a driver and determinant of what and how we teach.
The difference between beliefs and convictions is that beliefs are what you hold on to while convictions are what holds on to you. This distinction is important when reflecting because it is easy to deceive ourselves with high, lofty sounding beliefs. Convictions, on the other hand, are the actual fuel and engine behind our actions. It is a good habit then to reflect on our actions from time to time to see if our convictions mirror our beliefs. Actions are a litmus test to distinguish a teacher who wants to be the best and a teacher who wants the best for others. To carry the metaphor further, if convictions are the fuel and engine, beliefs are the destination we wish to arrive at.
Clarity and precision about our beliefs and convictions are important to understand why we do what we do, and how we do it. It is the reason why we find affinity with particular forms of pedagogy over others; it explains how we relate with others - superiors, colleagues and students; it is why we devote attention to particular activities, decide in a certain way. Clarity is particularly important because the change, subtraction or addition of words could mean vastly different actions, behaviours and outcomes. As an example, take some time to engage in a thought experiment how a teacher who wants to be the best and a teacher who wants to be the best for others would decide, act and behave differently. The outcomes ought to be a stark contrast.