This is part two on my rearticulation of my philosophy of teaching. I will address the final four nodes of my revised “philosophy.” Afterwards, I will close with some considerations on the appropriateness of such values in an EFL classroom.
A goal orientation. I used to have many enjoyable, perhaps somewhat inane philosophical discussions with a colleague during my 2 years in Peace Corps. His views on education, especially elementary and secondary where as follows, I paraphrase: “When you leave high school you should be able to read, have basic discipline, and be capable of setting goals.” I can concur with the sentiment, especially the last plank of his position. I feel goals really are a launching pad to meaningful development. Goals provide implicit criteria to evaluate behavior. It promotes metacognitive thinking: “does this action push me closer or farther away from my goal?” Without clear goals, I feel individuals have little choice but to go with the flow, sometimes that can be of great benefit, sometimes not.
A growth orientation. This is very interrelated with the prior point. I want students to have a hunger for growth as an individual, also as a productive member of society. I want them to embrace challenges, instead of shirking them (see anti-douchism!). Embracing challenges ensures growth, simply via engaging in the process, however, it takes time and commitment to develop such an attitude towards life.
Assertiveness. I want students to know what they want in life, to be able to state such desires in positive language, and be able to articulate their views/beliefs/desires to others, most especially during moments of tension. Assertiveness can help prevent engaging in less than productive behaviors. Assertiveness implies previously defined goals and/or values.
Cultivate a wellness orientation. Perhaps this shouldn’t be considered for a non-health teacher. However, I think such a disposition is at the core of cultivating a meaningful and happy life. Seiger, et al. (1998), list the following six components of a “wellness and healthy lifestyle:” physical, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, and vocational. I strongly agree with the authors’s selections.
These four tenets can aid in the acquisition of a foreign language. Goal setting—thorough establishing specific areas to focus on as it pertains to language skills development—can certainly promote foreign language learning and acquisition. A growth orientation should give a student the strength to manage the many challenges and frustrations which acquiring a FL entails. Assertiveness may be less explicitly applicable, however, if a student is going to acquire a FL it will take a degree of self-study and commitment. That means the ability to manage one’s time well. Effective time management entails occasionally telling members of one’s peer group: “no, I have another appointment;” or whatever the reasoning may be. Finally, a wellness orientation will provide the base, if nothing else the physiological base, to promote more enhanced learning and skill acquisition.
Thus in conclusion, I do feel my teaching values align well with effective language learning/acquisition. Nevertheless, values, while—well valuable, are often too abstract to be of much use. Greater precision and consideration of specific environments and objectives are necessary. Thus, I hope to extend on this monologue next week by considering how well my current teaching context, both in terms of the institution I work at and the teaching materials (i.e. textbook) I use, aligns with my personal value systems. Do any of the readers out there feel any tension between your teaching context and personal/teaching values?
Seiger, L., Kanipe, D., Vanderpool, K., & Barnes, D. (1998). Fitness and Wellness Strategies (2nd edition). New York: McGraw-Hill.