RACHEL VAN HAZINGAPhilosophy of Education
As educators, we ought to create spaces where learners can develop and grow. We are tasked with building environments that are grounded in collaboration, learning, and community, which empower students in their own development. We are guides, facilitating their work, and being attentive to the growth that can be seen in content and norms, as well as, the growth of the critical skills and dispositions for the 21st century, such as critical and creative thinking, communication, and collaboration.
I believe the educational journey should not be driven by content or teachers, students ought to navigate and direct their own learning. Student ownership should be reflective of their own individual needs and passions. It is important that essential questions frame the work, and that links between content, standards, and proficiencies are transparent and relevant. Students must be encouraged to ask questions, seek solutions, and remain open to the knowledge and insights that emerge as a result of the inquiry. Learning should take place utilizing real-world learning with an eye towards building empathy, supporting growth mindset, and becoming solutionaries.
I believe every person is able to learn and knows best how he or she learns; it is my responsibility to identify, synthesize and understand this to shape my approach to instruction and assessment. The most common work and assessments I employ are projects both individual and small group, portfolios, self and team assessments and conferencing for self-reflection and growth. Learners must find value and connection to their work. They need to see the work as relevant. They must learn how to advocate for themselves, how to utilize their resources and own their own process. Self-direction and ownership of their work are where they begin to identify their own strengths and weaknesses.
I have an innate ability to engage difficult-to-reach and challenging students, through building collaborative learning communities within which all are valued, supported, and challenged. I believe my genuine concern for the well-being of all of my students and my strong desire for them to learn empowers each student to take ownership of his or her own education. This defines a class culture of respect in which classroom management is blended into the daily routine.
According to Dr. Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, we all demonstrate our own intelligences and there are specific strategies and methods of teaching that will work best to reach students in the ways they learn. Taking into account the varying learning styles of my students helps me balance individual needs with class needs while addressing the objectives of the specific course of study. By presenting lessons in a multitude of ways and using choice and voice for students my lessons are innovative and assessing them can be fun. Student learning teams assist in more than just the learning objectives, the students learn how to interact with others and develop their communication skills within a social group.
I teach using a problem-based, project-based approach where students can work in multiple subject areas. I am a proponent of small group, hands-on activities that provide for students to develop problem-solving, decision making, and leadership. One method I frequently use is mini-lessons to guide a lesson, followed by independent and small group work recorded in digital journals, and often an opportunity to share either with another student or the class as a whole. This works well affording time for self-reflection, expression, and peer feedback.
To learn, it is critical that students have a place with a sense of safety and support. This enables them to be full participants in learning. Academic settings, whether rural, suburban or urban, share the opportunity to build community. In my collaboration with peers, administrators, parents, and students I’ve seen how building community brings together our immediate world and the larger one. Each of these left lasting impressions on my students. In drawing connections between us and our neighbors, whether they are around the corner or around the world, we see understanding and acceptance blossom.
Growth—through experience and exploration of ourselves and others—is the ultimate reward of learning. As we grow in knowledge, understanding, and compassion we become wiser citizens of this world and open up endless possibilities for our collective future.