Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Philosophy of Teaching

Ariel, we move on to actual “Teaching.” See if you like these ideas. I wrote these thoughts as one of eight essays submitted toward my selection as RISD Teacher of the Year, 1990-1991 and then as Regional Secondary Teacher of the Year (1990 – 1991).

Teaching is one of the Passion Professions. Teaching is a calling, a mission, a gift, an addiction, a “high.” Writers write from need; musicians play, sing, or compose to bring out what lives inside their souls; philosophers cannot keep from thinking, musing, sharing. The teacher is each of these. S/he does not decide to be; s/he just is.

All teachers do not live in the classroom. Some teachers seem to teach by example, as do leaders. Some teachers teach looking back over their shoulders, as do philosophers. Some teachers teach with a wide angle lens on the now; as do pragmatists. Some teachers teach looking up over the horizon, as do visionaries. The classroom teacher is each of these: a leader, a philosopher, a pragmatist, a visionary.

An outstanding teacher knows s/he is outstanding. S/he does not worry about formal evaluations; s/he self-evaluates constantly. S/he looks into the eyes, hearts, and minds of her students watching for pluses to be expanded and for minuses to be improved. S/he exudes self-confidence, good health, energy and joy. S/he loves learning and her students know it. S/he gets excited about new ideas, and her students want to be the ones to present them. S/he is happy when s/he is in the classroom (literally or figuratively) and misses it when s/he is not. S/he does not bring heavy baggage into her teaching space. S/he leaves it at home. . .or on the jogging track.

An outstanding teacher models but does not preach. She stands tall but not from a pedestal. She facilitates more than she dictates. She listens as much as she talks. She knows that inside each student lies a little pearl of truth and beauty itching to know and to understand more. She knows some pearls are deeper and harder to find while others seem to shine and gleam from the surface. The important fact is that the pearl is there in each and every student. The outstanding teacher does not seek out only the easy students with pearls of great luster and great beauty. The outstanding teacher finds a special privilege and satisfaction in seeking out and finding those deepest, darkest pearls of little luster and little beauty. It is the outstanding teacher who discovers that the greatest effort can produce the greatest reward.

The outstanding teacher does not go beyond her teaching space simply because s/he seeks reward. S/he goes beyond to extend her gift. S/he seeks out a chance to support students outside of the classroom. S/he seeks out new avenues to learn more so that s/he can enrich her gift.

The outstanding teacher is, to a great degree, a visionary. But s/he is also a realist and a pragmatist. S/he knows that all students can learn. But sometimes s/he realizes that there will be failures despite her efforts. S/he knows that it is acceptable to grieve these failures, and s/he does not blame or dismiss them easily.

My greatest reward in teaching has been in the learning. Through teaching, not only am I learning deeper and broader content information, but I have learned that because of the seriousness of the teacher’s responsibility, s/he is dealing with conscience more than many other people. As a new teacher, I did not know that teaching would hone such outcome, let alone reward. As a new teacher, I reveled in the rewards of student discovery, of teacher/student caring and loving, of saved failures, of the excitement of creating. But now, I realize that with each year, with each effort, I have become a better person; a kinder, more adaptive teacher; an intellectually more interested student. And so now I know that the outstanding teacher is, in fact, an outstanding student. I am proud to continue to be both. . .teacher and student; the one enhancing the other.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Patti’s Blog: Education: Facts & Facets

I. Operation Ariel: The Treasures of Teaching And Why I Know You Want To Teach But May Not Realize It Yet

Author, Patti Blide, is a retired 36-year public school teacher who has taught all grades, Third through Twelfth, completing her career as high school Principal for Instruction

Dear Ariel,

This is your Grand Mom speaking. . . specifically to you. Knowing that you are a whiz at the computer, I choose to “talk” to you via these monthly blogs. I believe so strongly in the purpose of this blog that the writing of it will be pure fun and joy for me. You, at the age of seventeen, and my only Grand Girl, are my absolute joy, as you are to others who know you. Isn’t Life great?

We will cover Two Points of Interest in this Blog
- Why, Ariel as Teacher- My Story as Teacher

Why Ariel As Teacher

Ariel is a happy personwho loves life.
Ariel is thoughtful and kind to others
Ariel is talented intellectually, artistically, creatively
Ariel loves to learn, try new ideas, share ideas

Therefore, Dear Ariel, it seems that you are a “natural” for the profession that awaits you: Teaching.

My Story As Teacher

I, somehow just knew that I would be a teacher one day as explained in this little “biography” following below. This biography is part of my write-up that aided my being chosen as Teacher of the Year in 1990 in Dallas Texas.


On April 9, 1936, a teacher was born, most likely, teaching even in the womb. That day in Washington, D.C. found Patti and twin Penny Blackledge entering this world as placenta partners destined to continue being roommates for the next 20 years.

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As to early “learnings,” I learned that “indefatigable” and “tenacious” were
apt descriptors of “teacher.” My mother was my model for each of these words. Not until she was the mother of five, did she begin college where she tenaciously hung on to her dream of graduating when her twins did. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Houston, the year 1958, twin Penny and I graduated from Rice University in Houston, Texas. She then earned her master’s degree in languages (she spoke five fluently), and was working on her Ph.D. when she sadly died of a heart attack.
My father’s pride in his girls’ accomplishments was always a driving force in my life. I had lived tenacity, cradled with love, through my parents and again at school, as my elementary school teachers, working with my visual-learning problems (two eye surgeries), modeled the qualities that I would one day see as my own contribution to education. Tenacity served me daily as a reading teacher knowing that every student can learn and can improve; from the learning disabled student, to the English as a second language student, to the college-bound reading student. This assurance laid the ground work for the student’s positive self-image so vital in all walks of life.

* * * * * * * * *
My secondary school life at Lamar High School in Houston, Texas gave me a master mentor teacher whom I think of frequently, especially, when I am “emoting.” This science teacher had obvious joy in being with us. Likewise, we had so much fun being with him. . .and learning. We did not just read about atoms smashing; we acted it out! Yes, this man actually had us running into each other and then, verbalizing the resulting fission. It was here that I learned the word, “joy” as it applies to teaching and to learning.
As a teacher, I impart “joy.” As a reading teacher I have seen joy in the third grader’s eyes as a new effort brings “ah ha” understanding in the printed word. I have heard joy in the whispered confessional of the secondary student who has rediscovered reading as peaceful retreat. Further joy for me was to feel, give, and then watch students’ infusion of joy as a lifetime gift for us all.
It was at Rice University that several master mentors modeled my most valued lesson that was to serve me later as a valuable contribution to education. It was modeled by my French professor who chose to eat lunch with us frequently, gently encouraging our practicing our French with him. It was modeled by my creative writing professor who invited us to his home monthly where we sat on the floor in his living room around the fireplace hearing the critique of each other’s essay. Here was where I learned the true meaning of the phrase, “reciprocal respect.” We as students, were respected intellectually as equals. And we did our best to live up to that respect. Later, every student with whom I came in contact knew that he was respected as a person and as a fellow intellect. We, as teachers do our best to live up to that respect as well as giving it to our students.

Next month’s Blog, Ariel, will give you my Philosophy of Teaching