Teaching philosophy, part 3 – exploring quotes

“Students aren’t interested in your teaching philosophy, but whether they can trust you with their noviceness in English.” Deryn Verity

Deryn said this at a JALT (Japan Association of Language Teaching) Executive Board Meeting a number of years ago. At least I’m pretty sure she said it because I wrote it down in my notes from that meeting. Afterwards in an email I asked her whether she did say this and she replied:

Well, actually, I have no idea, but this sounds like something I would say, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone else say it. This is how I conceive of Vygotskyan theory within my own teaching practice–how can I use theory to make sense of what happens in my classroom, without getting too theoretical?

…so I guess I’ll take credit for saying it…

I’ve kept this sentence in my teaching journal since then and usually pause and think about it whenever I come across it.


What in the quote speaks to you? What do you see as the essential truth captured in the quote? (present)

What is a teaching philosophy for but to guide you in your day-to-day classroom practice? It’s a kind of road map with the ultimate destination of guiding students to reach their goals. Student learning and improvement is always the goal. But this is from the teacher’s perspective.

From the students’ perspective things look quite different. When we study a language we put ourselves in a vulnerable position. As with learning anything new, we can’t improve our skills without making mistakes. Of course this is true with any new skill that we learn, but language is for communication and self-expression. It’s challenging to give a true account of our thoughts and feelings when we’re communicating in a new language.

How does it confirm what you know to be true about teaching and learning? What is one experience you can point to in your teaching that this quote helps to explain or shed light on? (past)

One of the most important things in my classes has been establishing security for my students. When they feel secure they know that they will not be judged when they make errors. They also know that their contributions will be accepted and valued, and the knowledge and ability of the others in the classroom shouldn’t be seen as threatening to them. They will be treated with absolute positive regard.

How can this quote inform your future teaching experiences? (future)

I will continue to revise and develop my teaching philosophy as I reflect on my teaching and teacher training experiences. I can do this by balancing a self-confident attitude with the knowledge that I am also a learner.

As teachers we can have confidence in our abilities and know that we can do a good job and help our students reach their goals. We are doing the best we can with the knowledge and skills that we have right now. But that doesn’t mean that we have nothing left to learn about teaching. Reflective teachers are continually learning  – about the subject matter, about our students, and about ourselves as teachers.


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