image source: The School of Athens (1509-1511) by Raphael
My teaching philosophy can be best summarized by the Aristotle quote, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” It is my goal that my students come away from my class better able to be truly critical thinkers. Math is the practice of applying logic, reason, and facts to discover the truth. The more that students can think critically as mathematicians, the better equipped they are to synthesize information in the world around them in order to form their own conclusions. The more that students’ pre-existing ideas and notions can be challenged and thought through to their logical end, the more they can challenge others to do the same. They will come out of their education more well-rounded, critical thinkers, ready to take on the world around them. All of my students should be able to “entertain a thought”, no matter what the thought is, and determine for themselves whether or not it is true or not. They will be able to use the tools from all of their classes, including math, to do so. This is the power of the type of education I hope to give to my students.
The day to day culture of my classroom has changed throughout my teaching career as I have learned to meet students where they are so that they can get where they need to be. I have increased the structure and strength of routines in my classroom since the beginning of my teaching career. Many students have disorganization in their lives, so it is critical that my classroom is an organized, predictable environment. Students’ minds can relax by knowing what routines and procedures to expect. This frees their minds to focus on their education and becoming intellectuals, without the worry of a disorganized classroom environment. Similarly, students must be held to consistently high expectations, academically and behaviorally. Students must know that they are expected to become the best scholars they can possibly be, to learn something new everyday, and to be constantly pushing themselves to be better thinkers. Students can only do this when the classroom environment is structured, supportive, and challenging. My classroom strives to be all three.
Culturally responsive teaching means that I both connect coursework to ideas and interests students already have to increase engagement and I expose students to new ideas and interests to broaden their worldview. Students’ engagement is increased when you can meet them where there are and connect new ideas to something they are more familiar with and care about. However, the focus of an education is still to push students to become well-rounded, critical thinkers. Students will not become critical thinkers if they are only exposed to ideas they agree with or already know about. A healthy balance between familiar ideas and new ideas must be achieved. For example, sometimes I include “kid culture” in my classroom examples, such as having students learn about ratios through Fortnite. Other times I expose students to new ideas, such as having them analyze statistics about DC educational achievement or even simply listen to classical music while doing their work. Both types of knowledge are necessary for a well-rounded, culturally responsive classroom.
In the long-term, I aim to give my students the tools they need to close the achievement gap. Students should walk out of my math classroom college and career ready. Students are not prepared for an increasingly competitive world if they lack math literacy. Students should make at least 1.5 years of academic growth by the end of the year if they are going to be on track to catch up with and/or exceed their wealthier peers.