Maritza Medina Gonzales (2019)
“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” I open my teaching philosophy with this famous quote from the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein because the idea to give new names to the things around me in was the first point that allow me to become passionate about teaching languages. “Passion” is a good word to explain what teaching means in my life. “Passion” is what drives me, every day, to convince myself that my mission, while I am here, is to teach – to transmit to others something they can get from me to become better.
At the beginning of this path, it was incredibly wonderful for me to realize that millions of people worldwide agreed to produce the same oral and written symbols to communicate, to construct a culture, to create an identity. This made me appreciate the power of language, causing me to encourage my students to understand that language is more than a group of sounds and symbols; it is a vital vehicle which permits them be the people they are because all aspects of their lives are related to language. Consequently, I try to incorporate my teaching philosophy into all of my classes. My teaching philosophy begins with name: “MARITZA”, and can be understood in the following way:
The first letter “M” means motivation.
I bring to all my classes enough motivation to teach, to believe in my students, and to have the best expectations about their learning processes. This is the same motivation I try to increase in all of my students, since without it, it could be impossible to effectively pass along the knowledge I possess. For example, I have worked in some schools where I have met many students who love soccer. I encouraged all of them to learn English, showing them that this knowledge could help them get an excellent position on an international soccer team. It became their dream, so they studied English with great dedication to reach this goal. Also, in my classes I urge my students to use technological tools to strengthen their learning, helping them discover that technology can vastly increase their engagement, interest, and understanding of English.
- The second letter “A” means action.
I bring to all my classes the idea that the best way to learn is by being active. As the American politician Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” I think that only if a person is completely involved in an activity, can he/she reach real his/her goals. I usually enjoy observing my students doing different tasks which require them to be involved because I define my role as a teacher as a bridge between the language and my students. I try to help them overcome barriers and face different obstacles by encouraging action. For example, in my classes, my students should produce output in different ways (oral and written), using their language to describe, narrate, and understand their world. I encourage them to feel that they are learning a language to be used in a real context, making their learning processes more meaningful. To contribute to real linguistic interaction, I also incorporate multimodal materials, authentic examples of the language, and authentic tasks to introduce new knowledge. using technology as a vehicle to integrate these elements in order to increase the dynamism in my class.
The third letter “R” means risk.
I bring to all my classes the intention of having a learning adventure with my students, inviting them to challenge their own fears. From my experiences, I know that the fear of making mistakes is one of the biggest difficulties my students face in order to find freedom in their own learning processes. I try to help them discover that in this life, only someone who risks can win or lose, although in this case, the benefits outweigh the risks. For example, in my classes I like my students to read aloud, even if they do not have the best pronunciation. This exercise lets me give them immediate feedback, and they feel they can learn more comfortably when they discover that the others have the same mistakes and fears they experience in the class.
- The fourth letter “I” means inclusion.
I bring, not only to all my classes but also to all aspects of my life, the idea to be included and inclusive. As a teacher and a person with disability, creating an effective, real, inclusive educational environment is one of my most significant objectives. Through my pedagogical practices, I work hard to increase opportunities for everyone, teaching with the same guarantees and resources for all my students. I try to maintain a factual equality in my classroom, and I encourage other teachers to think about their students’ qualities and needs, to promote teaching with fairness. In my professional experience I have fortunately had the opportunity to teach English to blind students, from different contexts and ages, in mainstream classrooms and through social projects. These experiences have been very meaningful in my life because I have been able to reflect on my own learning process, and I have identified realities other than mine that make me ask about the importance of quality education for everybody. These challenges have been very hard; I have had to reinvent a different way to teach, thinking more about my students’ needs, designing accessible materials, being more patient to get the best results, explaining with more details, working with multisensorial support, and developing new ways to include all my students in my classroom. Fortunately, advancements in educational technology and digital tools have permitted me to create more suitable learning environments for students with disabilities, emphasizing in the vital role of the Computer Mediated Communication, as an instrument to generate a real, inclusive education. The most important thing for me to remember is that some of my students, who may not have gotten the support they needed elsewhere, really learned English and are now capable of using this language in their own lives. This is my biggest satisfaction and greatest reward in this profession.
The fifth letter “T” means tenacity.
bring to all my classes the idea to inspire my students to become more persistent in their learning. I like them to understand that the most valuable goals in life are sometimes the most difficult to reach. To learn a language takes a lot of time and considerable effort, and surely also big struggles, but with determination and discipline, it is possible to improve one’s linguistic abilities every day. My students discover in my classes that they should be patient, understanding that learning is a process, and it is necessary to create good study habits to get effective results. Fortunately, I have always had freedom to choose the syllabus I want to execute, making it possible for me to select what to teach according to my students’ needs. When I see that some concept is not clear enough, I prefer to spend more time working in it before continuing to a new one. In this way, my students learn to study with more dedication; they learn to try to understand concepts better before going on to the next topic.
- The sixth letter “Z” means zeal.
I bring to all my classes the enthusiasm and energy to instill in my students a love for learning. I like them to realize that, as Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. It is the most vital instrument needed to change their lives, and learning a new language is a valuable key to opening many doors to other cultures, realities, views, etc. I consider that my life as a blind person can be in an inspiration for my students, encouraging them to not give up their dreams and goals. I teach them to put in the most effort they can to become successful people and try to show them how to live life with enough zeal to construct happiness.
- The last letter, but not the least important, is “A”. In this case, “A” means autonomy.
I bring to all my personal and professional endeavors the idea to believe in myself. I like my students to recognize their capacities, and in that way, they can increase their own self-confidence. From my experiences, I can say that by believing in our own abilities it becomes easier to get new knowledge, especially, when learning another language. This is because with the enough autonomy, students can be in charge of their own development and can propose which resources and tools are best for their individual learning. Therefore, my role as a teacher is to be a person who facilitates and guides, but the students are the main characters in the process of learning. This is even more true nowadays, due to advancements in educational technology. Language learning tools can give students the ability to manage their own learning process, providing them with different ways to acquire new knowledge. On many occasions, I have received good materials or websites suggested by my students. I really liked this because it is another way to discover that they are interested in learning, and at the same time, they feel really excited when they can contribute to their own learning processes.
Finally, it is in these ways that my name has become my teaching philosophy. In my future, I expect to continue believing in my seven guidelines, practicing all of them in every setting. I also hope to have enough creativity, discipline and responsibility to realize my dreams of becoming a better teacher, serving my society (especially the most vulnerable communities), and guiding those who need more opportunities to improve their quality of life.