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July 11, 2022

What is your teaching philosophy? – Donella Stretch

What is your teaching philosophy? How has this originated, and can you evaluate how your educational touchstones will impact upon the teacher you aspire to be?

Connection is at the heart of my teaching philosophy. Building positive relationships in the classroom is vital to developing student and teacher wellbeing. Students with higher levels of wellbeing are more engaged in school and have higher levels of academic success (Gutman and Vorhaus, 2012).

Fostering an inclusive and supportive classroom community full of mutual respect is key to children developing trust, empathy and self-worth. Through many years working as a learning support teaching assistant, I have seen the importance of building an inclusive environment where everyone feels that they are a valued member of the class. Making sure I allocate time to wellbeing in the form of a Morning Meeting, where everyone greets each other and shares something about themselves, is a great opportunity for everyone to feel recognised, get to know each other and prepare for a successful day ahead.

Getting to know students is essential to make every child feel valued as an individual. Robinson and Aronica (2015:52) believe that, “All students are unique individuals with their own hopes, talents, anxieties, fears, passions, and aspirations”. Accordingly, engaging with the individual is key to understanding what motivates them and helps to deliver lessons that are more meaningful. Reflecting on my own school days, it was in classes in which I felt a personal connection to the teachers in which I was most confident to ask for help and felt eager to learn. I always make an effort to note down things I learn about my students in the morning meeting, so that I can connect with students later through conversation. Establishing rapport has not only had an impact on student engagement but also on my own motivation.

Students are only with us for less than a year but it is important that we invest time in building relationships and showing we care. I always make sure to greet each child and ask how they are. Research has shown that conveying warmth and showing you care and respect students enhances relatedness which is a key factor in developing intrinsic motivation (Neimiec and Ryan, 2009). Recently I have seen the results of investing my time building positive relationships. Last year, one boy did not greet us or share anything about himself and had little engagement in lessons. Every day I asked him how he was and tried to initiate conversation. I persevered, even though it seemed I was making little progress. At the end of the year, he finally started to respond and join in lesson discussions. Now in the year above, he greets me and asks how I am when he sees me in the corridor and I make an effort to check in with him when we meet.

I believe it is important to keep and build relationships beyond the classroom. In the past I have seen how teachers build connections with the wider school community through extra-curricular activities. Therefore, I decided to run a nature club at my school where I can share my passion for nature with like-minded individuals. It has had a positive effect on my own wellbeing by connecting me with many pupils and staff throughout the school.

By investing in relationships, we create a safe space to take risks, ask questions and share experiences. The importance of human connection cannot be underestimated.

References

Gutman, L.M. and J. Vorhaus (2012) The Impact of Pupil Behaviour and Wellbeing on Educational Outcomes. London: Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre, Institute of Education, University of London.

Robinson, K., & Aronica, L. (2015). Creative Schools: Revolutionizing Education from the Ground Up. [Kindle iOS version] New York: Penguin Books. Available from: www.amazon.co.uk [Accessed 25 September 2021].

Niemiec, C. P. and Ryan, R. M. (2009) Autonomy, competence, and relatedness in the classroom: Applying self-determination theory to educational practice. Theory and Research in Education, 7(2): 133–144.


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