Teaching Philosophies, Revisited

I never really understood teaching philosophies until today.

That’s not to say that I’d never written one before, because I’d written at least two. In my library school User Education class, we were all required to write one, for a grade. It was a page and a half, single-spaced. It’s not as terrible as I remember; it was actually first time I wrote down the “Librarian as Q” metaphor and focused on building relationships with students. A few things strike me now, as I read it: It’s really a statement about what I think librarianship is for, and not about teaching (in fact, it *might* work well as a reference philosophy); it’s very Dani-focused (there’s a passage about how authentically sharing my love for prime-time teen soap operas makes me a better or at least more relatable teacher, ugh); and it could probably win a game of library buzzword bingo.

Then, on the job market, I wrote other, marginally shorter and less Bond-filled philosophies, afraid that a search committee might not appreciate any modicum of personality (a mistake, I think now). These documents share that same focus on me—how the students will view me, what I am going to do in the classroom, etc. It’s certainly the product of  hours of navel-gazing introspection that applications engender (whether or not teaching philosophies should be required in higher ed is another question, and one worth examining).

This morning, at our teaching librarians’ retreat, my boss led us in an exercise where we had three minutes to write a teaching philosophy (check out her book for more awesome thoughts on this—you can read the teaching philosophy part in the online preview). My first thought was how am I supposed to write one of these massive documents in, literally, seconds?? But here’s what I came up with:

I want students in my classroom to examine their assumptions and think critically about information. I want my lessons to be meaningful and relevant to students’ lives. And I want to create an inclusive space where no one ever feels stupid.

So that’s about 95% shorter than any previous teaching philosophy I’d written, and I’d argue that it’s better for it. For one thing, it’s actionable: I can work to make these ideas a reality in my classroom and my lesson plans. It’s focused on student outcomes, not Dani outcomes. And it’s not bogged down in a bunch of crap. This is something I can and will actually use to guide my teaching practice.

If you haven’t written a teaching philosophy in a while, I’d invite you to try this exercise. Part of the change in my statement comes from an extra year of teaching experience and countless conversations with inspirational colleagues, but the form (short) and the purpose (personal, not to get a job or an A) also made a difference. If you’d like, post your results in the comments; I would love to learn from all you other teaching librarians and hear what you think is most important in your teaching.

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Filed under Education, Library Instruction, Posts by Dani Brecher

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