Friday, September 16, 2016

Philosophy of Teaching - Guest Post by Melissa McNeilly

Guest post by Melissa McNeilly, Spanish and Digital Media & Global Citizenship Teacher, Lake Norman Charter High School

Melissa is in her 6th year of teaching at LNC.  You can follow her on Twitter (@SraMcNeilly) and view her DigCit blog. This essay was included in the Teacher of the Year finalist process.  

Philosophy of Teaching

by Melissa McNeilly

To many, learning could be defined as the process of acquiring new knowledge or a new skill.  However, I do not teach just facts or skills.  As a teacher, I am responsible for creating the leaders, entrepreneurs, parents, artists, and problem-solvers of the future.  In addition to inspiring students to love the content I teach, I strive daily to empower my students to become the best version of themselves.  I base my personal success not on test scores, but on my students' long-term contributions to the world.  Based on these beliefs, my teaching style emphasizes the following:

1) the importance of cultivating positive relationships

2)  encouraging student choice and passions, and

3) modeling a mindset of growth and innovation for my students.

Education is and always has been about relationships.  I make a conscious effort to show my students unconditional caring and continually promote a positive learning environment.  I approach each day with enthusiasm and aim to make every student feel appreciated, to affirm that their presence in my classroom is important.  We cultivate a classroom community where we all bring valuable contributions to the learning process, and we all learn from and teach one another.  As a Spanish teacher, I know that learning a language is an innately social process that involves regularly negotiating meaning via interaction with others.  My classroom approach empowers students to co-construct knowledge, constantly reiterating that their voice matters.

I am a huge advocate for student voice because I believe that learning is most successful when content is made relevant and meaningful to the learner.  For this reason, I encourage student inquiry and individual passion projects to stretch students in their strengths.  Out of desire to further expand learning beyond the walls of the classroom, I developed a new course at Lake Norman Charter called Digital Multimedia and Global Citizenship.  The course utilizes technology to address authentic real-world problems, connecting students to the greater world through social media and blogs, and encouraging student contributions through community service.  A huge reward for me has been seeing how passion-driven learning affects students motivation: students begin to do the work because it matters, and not only for a grade.  Students outside the class ask how they can get involved in our projects.  Former students ask to return as mentors and continue to share ideas and resources.  Ultimately, offering students the opportunity to do meaningful self-directed work helps them to develop habits and skills that will serve them in the future: leadership, compassion, perseverance, and a lifelong enthusiasm for learning.

In order for students to feel comfortable taking risks in my classroom, I model the mindset of growth that requires me to frequently reflect and evolve my practice.  In a world that is changing at lightening speed, it is vital that teachers model innovation and thrive on change.  I challenge myself and my students to find ways to stay relevant and connected in an ever-shrinking world, driven by digital technologies that are expanding access to knowledge at an exponential rate.  In my classroom, we do not do anything for technology’s sake, but everything for the sake of improved learning.  Students are not just consumers of content, but become the creators of their own meaningful learning experiences through rigorous student-centered instruction that encourages the use of higher order thinking and technology skills.  My hope is to spark curiosity and creativity in my students, to develop them into open-minded and responsible global leaders who are capable of solving the problems that affect their futures.  The ultimate reward for me is seeing students who own their academic success and feel empowered to realize their potential.

Thank you for viewing,

The opinions shared in this blog belong to Craig Smith (or guest blogger) and do not represent the school or district in which he works.

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