Ramer’s Roten named McNairy County Teacher of the Year
‘Philosophy of Teaching’
“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm” (Ralph Waldo Emerson). I am in my fourteenth year of teaching, and it is with great enthusiasm that I enter my classroom each day. I believe that I have found my purpose in life, and this knowledge brings me extreme joy. Many days I think, “Wow! This is my job! I cannot believe I get paid to do this.” My students see me having just as much fun as they are while we are testing the pH of chemicals, “exploding” Ziploc bags to learn about the rate of reactions, or launching a rocket made from a drink bottle fueled with pressurized water. It is amazing how contagious attitudes are. I love teaching, and my students feel the excitement. I believe if I can positively change the attitude of a student, I suddenly have one who will learn science, complete homework, and even take out the trash enthusiastically.
An expectation is what you believe will or will not happen. I have positive expectations for all my students. I believe each one can learn. Expectations are not standards by which students are to be measured in terms of assessment, but they often result in success or achievement in classroom activities. Through a loving and caring environment, students can start believing in themselves. Recently, I checked the work of a student who had corrected a paper for extra credit to improve a low grade. On the last page of the assignment, the student had drawn a huge heart and left the message “I love science.” It is not the words “I love science” that make me proud; it is the tacit meaning behind those words. This student knows what it means to succeed and feel confident. High expectations can change lives and influence learning.
I firmly believe good classroom management is an essential tool for a successful learning environment. Being manager of a classroom requires one to wear many hats: teacher, foster parent, doctor, janitor, secretary, computer technician, to name a few. A well-managed classroom provides clear meaningful rules and procedures. Students become responsible and accountable for their own behavior. A good manager will also provide an environment that is conducive to learning. The classroom must be well organized with materials in place. In a well-managed classroom one will see students on task and involved in their academic work. Little time will be left for students to misbehave or wander off task. In my class, students are awarded tickets for asking and answering questions, getting materials out in a timely manner, working together cooperatively, and showing positive behavior in other instances. The tickets are placed in a bag, and I draw three tickets from the bag periodically. The students whose names are drawn get a small token such as a class coupon. It is amazing that something so small can have such a positive impact on the classroom environment. Mastery teaching can begin when classroom management is well established and routinely practiced.
Middle school science may be my subject area, but students are what I teach. I recognize each one comes from a distinct background, has a unique learning style, and possesses a different personality. Because I teach individuals, I believe lessons should be motivational and designed for mastery. I follow an old Chinese proverb, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” I believe students acquire a love for learning when they are invited to use their hands. Watching an earthworm slither on a table, constructing a trait baby designed with inherited traits, mummifying a real chicken, dissecting an owl pellet to discover what the owl ate last, or creating a Jell-O cell helps the student retain the knowledge derived from the activity. With hands-on activities, learning will take place. Student mastery occurs when a child demonstrates what he comprehends.
My philosophy of teaching encompasses a plethora of experiences and opportunities. To be the best teacher I can be, I evaluate and reflect on my practices. This information, my self-evaluation, shows me how to initiate student mastery. Students are challenged and motivated by an education that is stimulating, continuous, and exciting. “I love teaching, and my students feel the excitement!”
Lisa Roten is one of nine finalists for the 2012-13 Tennessee Teacher of the Year Award. The final winner will represent Tennessee in the National Teacher of the Year competition. According to a press release from the Tennessee Department of Education, a candidate must “have been teaching full-time for at least five years, have a proven record of using creative, research-based teaching strategies resulting in measurable achievement and be effective school and community leaders” to qualify as a state finalist. A panel of professional educators from across the state scored applications to identify these finalists.