Sharing TPS Drafts & Feedback

Colleen's Drafty Draft Draft Teaching Philosophy

Colleen's Drafty Draft Draft Teaching Philosophy

by Colleen Grandy -
Number of replies: 4
Eeek - I only have one draft and it's a bit of a stream-of-conscious-free-write. It definitely isn't where I want it to be yet, but I'm grateful for having the chance to start it and I'm committing to sharing what I have so far. I think I'm experiencing the vagueness Gina mentioned. I hover in two positions - faculty support, and teaching business communication online. I don't think I've catered this to reflect either practice well, so still lots to do!


I used to think I knew what it meant to be an excellent student.

Rarely challenged, evaluated almost exclusively on my ability to write, I coasted through the K-12 system and flew through university with full scholarships. I once thought I did well because I worked harder than everyone else. I was wrong.

I am the only child of two working professionals who read to me every night when I was little, who hired a tutor for me when my Grade 12 Chemistry mark fell below 85%, and who supported me financially throughout my post-secondary learning. I am able-bodied. English is my first language. I can follow directions. I am cis-gender. My skin is white. I could go on.

It wasn't until after my graduate degree, when I went back to school to study education, that I felt challenged. I checked my privilege for the first time. I acknowledged the power structures and hegemonic systems that contributed to my successes. For the first time, I recognized that I didn't work harder than everyone else. I learned to critically reflect. I learned to situate myself. It was hard. It was wonderful.

I recognized that what had made me an "excellent" student did not make me a well-rounded learner, and if I tried to replicate only my student experience in my future classrooms, it had the potential to make me a dangerous instructor. I was humbled and scared. I still am.

I'm also grateful. It was only through being a student of teaching, that I began to do the very hard and messy work of learning. (need more here)

For me, teaching is learning. It is co-learning alongside students. It is making space for listening. It is making space for self-discovery, critical reflection, and community. It is making space for learning to happen in ways that honour diverse histories and ways of knowing and being. It is questioning systems that privilege only certain experiences and ideas. It is being as open and accessible possible. It is indefinable without knowing your learners. It is a process of continual reinvention and growth. 

In my digital and physical classrooms... where I... something more about access, authentic assessment, critical reflection, community, collaboration, hopes, dreams, utopian future... :) I'll pick an audience and get there someday!

Some quotations I like and might use:

“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” (Mark Van Doren)

“Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. ” (Paulo Freire)

“When everyone in the classroom, teacher and students, recognizes that they are responsible for creating a learning community together, learning is at its most meaningful and useful.”  (bell hooks)

In reply to Colleen Grandy

Re: Colleen's Drafty Draft Draft Teaching Philosophy

by Colleen Grandy -

Thank you for the feedback! Yes- I certainly have plenty of room to get more specific. 

When I was writing this I realized it was much easier to think about "Why I learn" instead of "Why I teach" (I guess the two are inextricably intertwined). For this reason, for me, I guess a well-rounded learner is very wrapped up in being a well-rounded teacher. Being open to communicating and expressing in different ways, recognizing, honouring, and celebrating the learning that happens everywhere (not only in the class), connecting with intrinsic motivation, being flexible and reflective, seeing the forrest instead of only the trees. 

I got general there again. Oops.

As for getting to know learners, while I think it is possible to anticipate who my learners might be, I never know until I am in the class with them. Making space for students to share stories and spend time getting to know one an other, and then deciding together the ways in which we want to learn is an important part of my practice. As well, taking time to reflect with students and colleagues and ask, "How did that work?," in order to adapt keeps me continually in the process of informing and improving my teaching.

I also think I need to say something about giving up power, too - and specifically what looks/feels like in class.

In reply to Colleen Grandy

Re: Colleen's Drafty Draft Draft Teaching Philosophy

by Sue Hellman -

Hi Colleen,

I posted a reply to your TPS and then withdrew it because I got confused about who I'd replied to and who I hadn't. It was a 'duh' moment and I want to do more justice to your first draft, so I've started over. 

First I identified immediately with the young student portrayed in your first 3 lines. When one is good a math like I was, it can give one an exaggerated sense of self-importance. It wasn't until I began to see myself as someone who was a good 'mechanical' learner who didn't understand the wider applications of the problems I could solve that I began to rethink my role as a teacher. The second realization for me was that not everyone understands what you teach in the way that you teach it. Only then did I start asking a lot of questions of students to try to see their learning experiences through their eyes did I feel I began to feel truly effective. In Feb. I'm off to a conference in California (so I still haven't totally shaken the notion that I have important stuff to share) to do a workshop in rethinking what it means to be a struggling math student, and the most important thing I want the audience to walk away with is that not enough math educators can empathize with such learners. The experience of struggling is so foreign to them that they can sympathize but not walk in the shoes of the struggling learner. 

And that's the take-off point for my comments. For me our draft is more about you as a learner than it is a statement that enlightens me about you as a teacher. I understand your WHYs but I'm not getting a picture of what you do or how you do it. For example, you tell me that your class is a place where 'diversities are honoured' and 'self-discovery is valued' and that you are 'open and accessible'. The statement would be a lot more powerful if you showed me how that unfolds in your classroom by giving me examples so I can see how you express your values though the activities you create, the types of assessment you use, and how you interact with the students. I get my first taste of that with your last big paragraph above. If you're going to talk about giving up power, it would be helpful to know if that is supported in the literature, how you do or will accomplish that (example), and how you will know you're successful (measure the results). 

For me the issue isn't so much that you're being too general. It's more that you're relying on descriptive phrases and catch phrases (authentic assessment, reinvention and growth, collaboration) and are also assuming that those mean the same thing to me as they do to you. I want you to show me your unique take on these descriptors so I could tell another person what it's like to be in your classroom.

Quotations like the ones you've chosen at the bottom of your draft can be good starting points, but even with this those, I want to find out more about what 'assisting the art of discovery' and 'creating a learning community' looks like in your classes. Give me examples of how you turn those words into reality. Share some influential research or other scholarly writing that supports that those endeavours make for effective teaching. Then I'll have some insight into what sorts of learning experiences work best for you and for your students and why. 

Finally, it would be helpful if you briefly created some context by telling me what you teach and what the learning needs of your students are. I don't think that was mentioned.

Your first draft is doing the job of making me want to see you in action, which is a great start, but relying on catch phrases such as 'intrinsic motivation' and 'being flexible and reflective' doesn't set you apart from all the other teachers who describe themselves the same way. The job of your TPS is to show me how you differ from the crowd of self-professed forward thinking educators. The story is an effective opener because if shows the source of your empathy. My advice would be to shrink it to the 'precis' version. What are the essentials that are needed to set the scene for the key sub-themes you'll develop in the body? The rest is TMI for a TPS.

I spent last night on the first draft of a checklist. I've shared it below in case it might help. I hope you'll share the next iteration when it's done. I want to know more!


In reply to Sue Hellman

Re: Colleen's Drafty Draft Draft Teaching Philosophy

by Colleen Grandy -

Wow! Thank you for your detailed feedback. I recognize that this is more of a brainstorm than a first draft, so I appreciate the time you have taken to offer me support. My learners are both college faculty (I work part time with a Teaching and Learning Team), and online students in Business Communications. Although they are different learners, I think there are similarities in the ways I approach working with each group. Diving into these similarities might be a good place to start.

Thanks again, Colleen.

In reply to Colleen Grandy

Re: Colleen's Drafty Draft Draft Teaching Philosophy

by Sue Hellman -

I think you're right and that might give you an organizational structure for the body .... Use as a transition that you have 2 roles that many would consider very different, & discuss how. Then go on with the idea that  being in the role of a learner is a great leveler. In my experience, pro-d course providers think that teachers should be quicker on the uptake. What they don't get is that teacher-students experience the same insecurities and struggles as regular students and that being in the learner role again forces us to face all sorts of old business. I think you've hit in something that could be fantastic. Let me know how it goes. (