Laurie L. Hagberg
PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION:
To accomplish these goals, I choose activities which will introduce students to issues and ideas in literary texts, foster critical thinking, facilitate the acquisition of life-long learning skills, prepare students to communicate effectively in society, and develop problem-solving strategies.
My students answer open-ended questions, debate in small groups, and write personal responses to texts in order to develop an awareness of cultural, ethical, personal, and family beliefs other than their own. Students need to experience literature as it was intended by the authors -- as a means of expressing ideas, issues, and questions -- then use that experience as a catalyst for considering their own ideas, issues, and questions. Texts chosen are from both the traditional canon and from more contempory offerings. I enjoy teaching texts that "must be talked about," such as Golding's Lord of the Flies, Cisneros' House on Mango Street, or Gaines' A Lesson Before Dying. My role as a teacher of literature and composition is to provide texts which will engage the students intellectually and emotionally, to provide guidance in establishing students' individual purposes for reading and writing, to move students beyond their known interests and abilities toward discovering additional strengths and skills.
I focus on understanding students' learning styles and believe that teachers must "learn their students" to the same degree that they expect the students to learn the course content. Students with learning differences can succeed, do succeed in my classroom, as a result of conveying to them that all students can learn. It is my responsibility to provide the tools, and also the motivation as far as it's possible to do so, for each student in my classroom. I have "seats of success" in my classroom -- seats near my desk where I place those students who need encouragement and the freedom to talk, without the problem of class disruption. I've found that students who may disrupt class in other parts of the room, succeed in the "seats of success" because they can talk to me whenever they wish, obtain my full attention, and benefit from being able to ask questions without fear of others noticing them. I rotate students throughout the room so that I have an opportunity to talk with all students at some point during the course.
I also seat students in groups of four, utilizing these groups for debates, peer writing groups, and literature analysis discussions. I generally do not assign groups written projects; I prefer that group members discuss issues, participate in oral presentations, and share diverse perspectives as we read and write texts. I seldom lecture and notice that when my classes are quiet for extended lengths of time, I fidget. I use a Socratic seminar approach to discussion, having trained with Jenee Gossard, a Socratic Seminar consultant with the UCLA Writing Project. I prefer a classroom which invites discussion -- I admit I forget to wait for raised hands and instead, acknowledge the first voices I hear because I'm focused on the ideas rather than the protocol of the discussion. The most rewarding moments are those when the students take over the discussion, and I am free to listen, noting the students' development in using a text to support their opinions.
As mentioned above, I have the honor of being a Fellow/Teacher-Consultant with the UCLA Writing Project. The Writing Project provides numerous opportunities to share and develop teaching strategies with educators throughout the Los Angeles area. I have developed a poetry workshop which engages students in creating Poetry Anthologies and most recently, a professional-development session offering a strategy for introducing high school students to literary analysis, in preparation for taking AP English. Again, my goal as a teacher is to provide students with a variety of experiences using their own texts and those of others.
I devise assessment methods to evaluate students' understanding and improvement in both literature analysis and composition. When obligated to do so, because of time constraints, I use standardized evaluations. I prefer, however, to use written reflections, discussions and observation, and individual writing activities as assessment tools. I enjoy the positive feedback when I ask my students to reflect on the most important aspects of our course. I also solicit letters from my students as a means of informal "check-ups" -- these letters are not graded and therefore, provide students with another, less-threatening means of sharing with me what they do or do not understand, what they would like help with, and a general update on their personal needs in the classroom.
I realize that one teacher really cannot meet the individual needs of every student; yet the reason I teach is because my fourth grade teacher, Miss Findlater, once told me "I am only one, but I am someone; I can't do everything, but I can do something." Yes, she was quoting someone else, but for me, Miss Findlater's words were an invitation to follow in her footsteps...and I believe, to share her words with my students.
is hearing a student say,
"Thank you for understanding me."