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Teaching Philosophy

I am one of the few yet fortunate people who have known what they wanted to be when they grew up since they were a child. Since my first day of kindergarten, I have always had a love for school and learning. It came as no surprise, then, that my undergraduate degree from a small liberal arts school was in Adolescent Education. Despite having always known I wanted to be a teacher, it was not until halfway through high school that I knew what I wanted to teach. The best advice I ever received regarding what I should teach was that you have to “teach what you love”. Fortunately, after only four years of studying French from textbooks and films, I had fallen in love with the language. Long before I moved to France or visited the cobblestone streets of Montreal, I decided that “teaching what I love” meant teaching French. Therefore, my undergraduate degree in adolescent education was coupled with a degree in French. Almost fifteen years after I first began studying this beautiful language and its many associated cultures, I hold a Master’s degree in French and Francophone Studies, am finishing a second Master’s in Linguistics and am working as a French language Teaching Assistant at Syracuse University (SU). My experiences in teaching have varied significantly over the last eight years, but the values I hold dear that are outlined in this document have and will continue to inform my pedagogy on every level as I evolve as both a teacher and learner. First and foremost, I believe that the classroom environment is one of the most important aspects that affects student learning. I believe that by establishing a classroom community built on mutual respect, trust, and a desire to learn, students will feel comfortable enough for optimal learning to occur. I consistently work to ensure that my students understand that the classroom is a safe space where they can take risks and make mistakes, and that it is from these mistakes that we learn. In order to construct this environment early on, the first day of class I give every student an index card to fill out for me. I have them provide me with standard information about them - preferred name, major, any accommodations they may need - as well as some personal information to help me get to know them - their hometown, their hobbies, what they struggle with in French. Lastly, without giving them any further guidance, I have them answer the following question: “What is The Dream?”. Their answers always amaze me as they range from “receiving my degree with honors” to “making my mother proud” and “being happy and living a life that I love”. By using these cards to get to know my students’ names, as well as later in the semester to choose volunteers, I am getting to know them on a more personal level. These cards help me understand both who I have in the classroom and how I can best develop a welcoming environment for each and every one of them. Going along with the classroom environment, I believe in a student-centered approach to teaching. I have found that wherever I teach - no matter the country, language or level I am teaching - the student population will always be incredibly diverse. With the diversity in backgrounds comes a diversity in students’ needs and abilities. To best teach every student, and to best teach the whole student, I believe it is important that the curriculum and lessons are designed with the student at the center. To ensure this, I structure my lessons and activities to make the student’s voice central to the lesson rather than the teacher’s. For example, in my 4-credit French classes that meet 4 days a week, I start almost every class with a short speaking activity. I give them a prompt that forces them to incorporate what we studied the previous day, be it vocabulary or grammar, and I ask them to talk about

their personal experiences. This ranges from what they did over the weekend, to how they are studying for the upcoming exam or how they would define their dream significant other. These types of activities use the students’ experiences to reinforce the learning in the classroom. This type of reinforcement gives the students a stake in the content and builds a bridge between them and the material. The positive effects on student learning are very visible under this approach, as using the language on such a personal level not only develops their interest in it, but it encourages proficiency in the target language as well. With the teacher thus serving as a resource and a guide rather than a “fountain of knowledge”, the learning becomes more meaningful for the students. The final two pinnacles of my teaching I would like to share are based on providing structure in the classroom and skill-teaching. I believe these two facets to be intertwined, as when a curriculum is considered on a macro-level, it is important to make sure that the syllabus is well structured to meet all

learning objectives, and that lifelong skills are being taught. Structure is provided for our students on the first day of class as their syllabus notes all the assignments for the semester. I further this by providing them with a daily agenda written on the board that includes not only what we will be doing that class period, but reminders of important upcoming dates (exams, essays, films, etc.). In addition to providing

a structure for student learning to occur, I believe a teacher should ensure that they are not only teaching

content, but also teaching skills that will follow students outside of the classroom. When the date approaches for the first essay in my French classes, I always spend a portion of class time going over “how to write an essay [in French]”. The students quickly recognize that my guidelines mimic the good practices they should follow for any essay: start with a plan, organize your thoughts, proofread, peer-edit, etc. A particular challenge in the language classroom is that of vocabulary and grammatical structures they wish to incorporate in their essays, but may not have mastered yet. In teaching them to think not “how do I translate this sentence”, but rather “how do I communicate this message”, I am teaching students to think creatively within constraints and also addressing the issue of plagiarism as it

pertains to online translators. Due to the stress that I put on skill developing, I believe my students leave my course not only better at French, but also better at reading, writing, public speaking and studying in general. My varied experiences teaching have taught me that no two students, nor no two courses, are the same. It is thus very important to constantly re-evaluate both yourself as a teacher and the methods you are using in the classroom. On a day-to-day basis, I ask my students to give me a thumbs-up showing if the material we are practicing is “easy” (thumbs up), “hard” (thumbs down) or “in the middle” (thumbs pointing to the side). I use this to frame both the rest of the lesson and future lessons. At the end of the semester, I take my students’ evaluations seriously as I consider how I will approach the coming semester. I use them as an opportunity to reflect on what I did well and what I could have done better. I have an absolute love for teaching and for French, and my number one goal is to impart this same love in my students. To do so, I have to keep adapting and ameliorating as a teacher to best reach them. I certainly am not done growing and learning yet, and I’m not sure when I will begin to refer to myself as

a “grown up”, but for as long as I can remember and as far as I can see, teaching will always be the backbone of who I am.