My Educational Philosophy

Without knowing about the concepts of Universal Design for Learning, I still grasped that I needed to engage my fifth grade students in two ways- as creative individuals, and as individuals with varying skill sets and ability levels. I had already had success with small group work, but the top few students in each class still overpowered the rest. So I decided to teach a lesson on something that I knew all of my students loved to talk about—superheroes. I taught a short lesson about different qualities superheroes have, split the class into small groups, and assigned them the task of inventing their own superhero.

Along with other more creative and hands-on projects, the superhero lesson was among the most memorable and successful lessons that I taught in China. Even more significantly, it was one of the most important lessons I learned about how to be a teacher.

Shakespeare background lesson at Homestead High School in Mequon

Everyone can learn

Conversations with my Chinese coworkers about the differences in our education systems, my own subsequent experiences in American classrooms, and the theories and frameworks I’ve been studying for the past few months have solidified my beliefs in the power of creativity and kindness in a classroom. My students in China had little opportunity to show either in their other classes, which were structured around memorization, exams and perfect behavior. While I recognized the benefits of these attributes, I also wanted something more for my students. I wanted them to learn how to be curious, compassionate, and creative, and as I introduced activities focused around those goals, I saw my students flourish and actually begin to communicate with me in English rather than just recite vocabulary. Now that I am back home in Wisconsin, I plan to build my teaching career around the same principles of creativity, kindness, compassion, and cultural sensitivity.

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