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The production of the iMovie companion piece for this project really forced me to rethink

my educational philosophy. I had thought I was going to be featuring photos of tour guides or

expedition leaders in my iMovie to explain my point of view. I had planned to share pictures that

showed how I hoped to interact with my students, but the pictures of these jobs that I found

featured adults standing up, talking to a group of passive young people. While brief portions of

this setup may be necessary to lay groundwork in the classroom, I wanted something that looked

much more collaborative and interactive. I found a picture of a rowing crew. This was a little

closer to what I pictured. At least in this picture, the majority of the team was pulling its own

weight while the coxswain called out direction. Then I found a pyramid of people working

together to reach a goal. I could picture myself on the bottom, providing support, but there was

only one person on top. Not a great visual. Then, I found IT. The picture. The picture that

summed up my educational philosophy. It was a picture of a smiling Sherpa on Mt. Everest,

carrying several large packs on his back. This picture summed up my educational philosophy in a


“Sherpas are local people who are highly skilled and experienced climbers.” (Guide:

What does a Sherpa at Mount Everest do?) If we can set aside the multitude of issues with how

Sherpas are treated and paid, we can examine what the role of a Sherpa is. The Sherpa provides

their experience and knowledge to the team of climbers. They carry tools that the climbers can

utilize. They do much of the heavy lifting, allowing the climbers to reach their goal with the least

risk possible. In the article cited above, Kenton Cool says, “But when it actually comes to

climbing the mountain they have this phenomenal energy and power on the mountain. So pretty

much any western climber that may go to Everest will use Sherpas to help get the logistics in


place, all the ropes, all the tents and things like that. They really are the backbone of any

expedition." Replace the word “Sherpa” in Mr. Cool’s statement with “teacher”. Replace the

word “climber” with “student”. The goal of a semester in a classroom isn’t to climb a mountain,

but it’s still an ambitious goal. My aim as a teacher is to get myself out of the way as much as

possible, and be prepared to do the heavy lifting to facilitate the students’ efforts to surmount

their own peaks. We may know the names of some famous Sherpas, but it’s usually as a footnote

in the account of a successful climber. So it is for a teacher.

I feel my aim most lines up with the social constructivism philosophy. In social

constructivism, “Learning is an active, not a passive, process and depends on the students taking

responsibility to learn.” (Becoming a Better University Teacher) Students attempt to solve their

own problems with the support of a teacher whose expertise can help smooth obstacles in their

path and marry their experience with their education to create lasting value. Open dialogue

between students and their teacher advances the common goal of discovery. Students learn best

when you can link what they know, what they’ve experienced, and their newly acquired

classroom knowledge. “Research has demonstrated the importance of an "engaged learning"

environment—a classroom that promotes team-based, experiential learning.” (Resch)

Teacher to parent communication is important, and relying upon students to be the

conduit for information can be unwise. Students may be selective about what messages they pass

on, or paper communication can get lost in the debris of a disorganized backpack. As an

afterschool program administrator, I was fortunate to be able to manage my own webpage to

keep parents informed of expectations, upcoming events, and deadlines. It also provided a direct

means for parents to contact me to ask questions or express comments or concerns. I am hopeful

that I’ll be able to utilize a similar system once I’m a full-time teacher. Prompt, open

communication with parents can prevent escalation of issues and head off problems before they

become crises. Quality communication between parent and teacher greatly increases the odds of

the students’ success and strengthens everyone’s support network.

Educators have more technology at their disposal. I vividly remember coming down to

my school’s media center to see the first desktop computer our school received. I was in

kindergarten at the time. We were only allowed to use the computers with the librarian sitting

alongside us, and I only recall getting to touch it once. Most students in a high school classroom

will have a cellular device in their pockets, and many come prepared with their own laptops.

School systems that are fortunate enough to provide every student with a laptop (even if it is just

during the school day) give teachers another tool to utilize. Most school media centers have carts

of tablets that teachers can check out for their class, giving the students the opportunity to do

supervised research and be more involved in the collection of data. The days of deciphering

blurry handouts and worksheets created a generation ago are almost a thing of the past. Thank

goodness! Teachers can emulate the Khan academy and post videos for students to use if they’re

unable to attend class or if they need to hear a lesson just one more time for it to resonate. They

can also point their students toward many outstanding digital resources that may present

information in a different way that better aligns with the student’s learning process. Providing

access and guidance on how to do research will benefit the students, no matter what their future


As a teacher, I will commit to having a classroom that allows for individuality while

encouraging strong teamwork, as each of us work toward our goals. I commit to cultivating a

classroom environment that celebrates diversity and cultural pride. I will be someone they can

depend on in an uncertain world. I will be their advocate and their mentor. I will commit to late

nights, early mornings, and weekends that involve celebrating my students’ success. I will

encourage them to strive for their goals, whether that’s college or career or something in

between, because what really matters is THEIR success. Because I’m just the Sherpa, bringing

my skills and expertise to their climb.



Becoming a Better University Teacher. (n.d.). Retrieved November 13, 2017, from


Guide: What does a Sherpa at Mount Everest do? - CBBC Newsround. (2014, April 23).

Retrieved November 13, 2017, from

Resch, D. (2015, August 04). Students Learn Best in an Engaged Classroom. Retrieved

November 13, 2017, from