A poem by Wendell Berry says, "The impeded stream is the one that sings." Much of my personal teaching philosophy is rooted in that thought - the belief that obstacles and struggles make us stronger people.
My fourth graders quickly conclude that not only must they discover their own solutions, but that they must wrestle with content, material, and each other in the process. They actively participate in lively, civilized discussions and disagreements about "hard" history topics. They draw conclusions based on physical and inferential evidence. They respectfully dig into difficult topics to successfully unearth innovative solutions. They gather information, learn from failure, and build systems to serve future generations. We go outside; we use real tools; we surround ourselves with exciting, real-life scenarios. In our class, students are engaged with stories and activities that compel them to want to know more and conversations that force them to think deeper.
The history of our nation illustrates my teaching philosophy well. I use it to inspire a mindset that struggle begets reward, that freedom requires investment, that hard work and perseverance result in success, that giving up is a weak choice, and that mistakes are stepping stones to understanding. I lead my students to embrace the challenge and value the climb. In this, I have been successful with students from diverse backgrounds and those who come to me with a wide range of levels of achievement and motivation. My efforts to confront students with a unique experience are genuine, creative, and unique. I leave students with a mindset of continuous improvement and the mettle to learn more. I rest easier when they do, finishing the day with a satisfying fatigue and knowing I have made a positive difference that affects our community and our world. As I approach retirement, I look forward to having more time to perpetuate my teaching philosophy with new teachers and veteran teachers at multiple grade levels.