Have you ever heard the quote from Buzz Lightyear in the Disney Toy Story movies, “to infinity and beyond?” Although mathematically it is impossible to go beyond infinity, it is an exciting concept related to the potential that exists within the teaching profession. Great teachers possess two basic skills. First, they have the ability to help students understand new concepts and grow as individuals within the mandated curriculum. Second, they have the gift of generating within students the desire to learn. It takes both knowledge and desire to maximize the learning process and help students go beyond their current level of knowledge.
I teach because first and foremost I love the fun, conversation, experiences, challenges, and learning opportunities that the education profession offers. Just as in all education, art and art education are constantly evolving as creative minds collaborate. This evolution and collaboration motivate me and push me to explore new opportunities within the world of Art Education because I know that neither I personally nor the profession will ever achieve perfection.
Themes that pervade my teaching are energy, observation and participation, creating and critically thinking, magic, building trust and confidence, helping students learn about themselves, and the reality in which we live. I expect my students to explore who they are and their place in the world in a fun, accepting, safe, exciting environment where learning and teaching focuses on the child’s wellbeing.
My habits, work ethic and values lend themselves well to the teaching profession. First, my willingness to adapt to new situations and improvise allows me to monitor and adjust as new information and behaviors present themselves in the classroom. I am constantly looking for ways to improve my teaching practice, and am willing to try new approaches that might help me connect with the hard-to-reach student. Also, having a positive attitude at all times in the classroom is important to me as well as getting feedback and asking students and parents for their input. I want to learn from my students and their parents as I facilitate the learning process. Second, my work ethic is an important modeling tool for students and the classroom. Education needs to be fun and engaging, but the learning process is work and I expect myself and each student to give his/her best each day. Finally, I want to demonstrate my values of honesty, trust and respect to my students and all others with whom I interact. Learning occurs at the highest level when students know that the teacher really cares about them.
Assessing student work is an important component of the teaching profession. My priority is to give each child the materials, time, and instructional guidance that will allow them the opportunity to be their best and will assess them on both effort and final product. I will take each student’s individual needs and learning styles into account when teaching and do my best to create a diversified, well rounded, and challenging curriculum for all as I have experienced both ends of the academic spectrum. My mother was a special education teacher while I was growing up so I observed many special need students and learned that they are very unique individuals who learn differently and often times express themselves differently but have individual personalities with weaknesses and strengths the same as everyone else. The other end of the spectrum was represented by my older brother who qualified for the public schools gifted and talented program. I want my students to be successful in life as well as in the classroom, and I will do everything in my power to make sure that I give my students and myself every opportunity to succeed.
Finally, the field of education is likely to engage in significant change for the foreseeable future as opportunities present themselves to our constituency in areas such as virtual learning and vouchers. Therefore, my philosophy is not complete without a reference my work experience at Disney World. Having worked at Disney World and gaining exposure to the company expectations for guest services and interaction expectations over the years, I have incorporated much of the same guest service values into other aspects of my work and life. I realize that not every employee of Disney or every employee of a school district embraces and demonstrates the philosophy of the organization. However, this lack of fulfillment on the part of individual employees does not negate the importance of the philosophy. Customer service is critical because as parents and students gain greater flexibility in educational options, customer service will become a key to success. The fine arts and co-curricular activities that have often taken a backseat in the educational arena are uniquely suited to becoming important focal points of customer service in the future. Core academic subjects lend themselves well to virtual learning. However, virtual learning is not a substitute for getting one’s hands dirty in clay, singing as a member of a show choir, playing a team sport, or playing an instrument and marching in a band. Helping students see the magic that is within them through the fine arts and co-curricular activities will help them face life with a positive self-attitude that will help give them the foundation they need in order to be successful.