Wednesday, June 3, 2009


A previous experience of describing my teaching philosophy was an assignment given to me upon being accepted to the Masters program at NAU about ten years ago. That description now lies dormant in one of my numerous education portfolios. At the time, I thought it was tremendously profound. It now appears to be totally outdated and passe.

I reflect back over 60 years when I was a junior high school student constantly asking my teachers "why do I need to know that?" and "how am I ever going to use that in 'real life'" and generally never receiving a satisfactory answer. Let's face it. In 70 years, I don't recall one friend, employer, relative or anyone ever asking me to diagram a sentence or to cross out all of the prepositional phrases in a sentence or to draw one line under all the subjects and two lines under all the verbs.

In my English composition and communication classes, I find myself constantly stressing the relevance of effective written and verbal communication skills. If something isn't relevant or useful, one would wonder why bother mastering it? When one teaches skills such as those indicated in my previous paragraph in isolation, there is no relevance. But when used to explain how they build upon each other to understand correct punctuation, sentence variety, etc., suddenly there are connections made, and as soon as students begin to believe there is relevance in what they are learning, I find they are eager to continue making those connections.

Of course patience, empathy, flexibility, compassion, humor, passion and a host of other nouns are essential for instructors in this wonderful career called education.