Why Your Teaching Motto Matters

Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” This is why your teaching motto matters—you need to know your teaching objectives and how you will get there.

The teaching motto is your belief system about teaching and learning broken down into achievable objectives. It reflects your values and the truths that guide your behavior. Here are some questions to ask yourself to guide your process and a template to spur your thinking:

  • What is your definition of teaching? Is it love of learning? Mastering the subject matter? Critical thinking? You must decide what you want to convey as you teach.
  • What makes a successful learning environment? Learning stations? Group work? Students discussing a book together?
  • What methods and practices will you choose to accomplish your teaching goals? Will you stay with the tried and true teacher-led instruction, or will you branch out to try new methods?
  • What are your goals for your students as learners? To be critical thinkers? To be problem solvers?
  • In what ways do you want to interact with students? Are there specific attitudes you wish to model?
  • How will you assess mastery? Through tests? Through projects? Student presentations?
  • How will you as a teacher keep learning and gaining new skills to use in the classroom?

The focus of your motto should reflect intentionality for your instructional time. ASCD.org suggests using pie charts to graph out a typical day:

“Although no two days will be exactly alike in terms of instruction, think about what your students typically experience. Begin by drawing two pie charts.” They suggest that the first chart should reflect three times: individual work, small group, and whole group work. The second reflects the various learning environments: individual, stations, and labs, and whole class. Then evaluate the amount of time you spend presenting and discussing concepts. Once you have mapped out the average day, put your motto to work as you make choices on how you  instruct, assess, and motivate your students. Remember to begin with the end of the semester in sight.

Don’t be afraid to make adjustments along the way. Planning checkpoints into the semester can force you to decide if the methods you have chosen to teach the concepts are effective. If not, reset your course. Are your students progressing? If not, seek their feedback. What do they not understand? Ask for suggestions on how to improve directly from them. Could you reorganize the day to use the time more effectively? Asking yourself regular questions can keep you on track with implementing your own teaching motto.

Teachers are role models and, as such, you show your students how to go where they want to in learning when you demonstrate the process for them every day. As a teacher, you are poised to be one of the most influential people in your students’ lives—they learn through you, look to you for guidance and personal growth. Excellent teachers take their students farther than average instructors, and a teaching philosophy statement is an incredible tool that can help educators and students reach their full potential.

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