I used to think that developing a "teaching philosophy" must be the worst, most painful exercise in educator-ese, but then a teaching philosophy snuck up on me.
I believe that the glory of God shines out from the whole created world. I believe we see "through a glass darkly" in part because the glass is covered in divine fingerprints, in questions whose answers reveal Truth and Beauty as well as truth and beauty.
I believe St. Thomas Aquinas spoke a beautiful truth when he said that God calls us out of double darkness, out of ignorance as well as sin. I believe that growth in knowledge is both an obligation and a joy.
I believe it is important to keep the obligation and the joy in balance. Real learning is work, and we do our students no favors if we pretend it will always be fun. But OH my friends, we have been given minds made for learning and a world that tells forth the goodness (and creativity and purpose and wisdom and whimsy) of a living God. Real learning should also bring us joy.
I believe the first teaching philosophy I ever heard (way back in 1985, when we performed Up The Down Staircase in high school) might be the best. It is surely the most succinct: Chaucer said of the clerk of Oxford "and gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche." I believe that a good teacher must first and foundationally be a joyful learner, someone who can delight in discovering more about her topic. I believe joy is catching. One of the great rewards of my job is hearing from students who say, "I thought this class would be boring. But you have changed my mind and now I want to learn more."
Why am I telling you this? Because my sixth-grader's social studies teacher told them that they should expect to find their unit dry and boring. She said they didn't need to remember the material after the test was over, that the purpose of the unit was to teach them how to learn rather than to impart actual content they would need to retain.
This would bother me in almost any context. But she was talking about ancient Greece.
Homer: dry and boring. Aristophanes, Aeschylus, Sophocles: dry and boring. Thucydides: dry and boring. Plato: dry and boring. Joe is my military history buff -- he has spent hours poring over diagrams of Thermopylae and Salamis. "Mom," he said in pained tones, "she told us about Salamis and she said, 'All you need to know is that the Greeks won because they had faster ships.'"
Reading the ancients was one of the unexpected pleasures of my undergrad career -- peering inside the minds of people who long ago returned to dust. They had thought and written and eaten and laughed and desired and fought and prayed -- and then died. But I could still hear their voices.
Of course it's fine with me if my son's teachers do not share my belief that creation sings of the goodness of God. It's a public school. But it seems to me that a teacher's duty is to observe the world with interest, to watch for connections, to be enthusiastic about her topic. Enthusiasm is contagious.
Apathy is contagious too.