At the start of every year, I send out a letter to parents introducing myself. I have always had a great response, and I think it is worth the time to lay out what I am doing and what my personal philosophy of teaching entails. Please feel to copy it, adjust it and use it for your own classes.
I just thought I’d drop you a note to introduce myself. I’m Sean Hampton-Cole and I’ll be teaching your child this year.
I am very well-qualified and experienced. I will make use of this knowledge and experience to the best of my ability, in a professional manner in order to best fulfill each of the objectives outlined below:
- I believe it is more important to know ‘why’ and ‘how’ than ‘what’. My subject is most successfully taught in terms of a series of problems to be solved and issues to be debated.
- I will endeavour as far as possible to foster in my students the ability to think critically, logically and to offer their own well-reasoned insights on a range of topics. More than helping them academically, I believe that this approach will provide my students with the skills they will require in any higher education institution, as well as in any field which they choose to make their vocation. We do cover content and terminology, but I do try to situate these in the manner described above.
- I will strive to push my students to think more. I state this categorically: Education is not just about remembering facts; it is about developing the ability to innovate, question, reason and apply. This is true of every subject and every field. It is narrow-minded and short-sighted to pitch one’s teaching at ‘doing well in the exams’ or to ‘teach to the test’. The ability to remember facts is never as important as what you do with them. My aim is more to inspire and to enthuse my students to grapple with the subject matter critically and creatively, in place of purely pummeling them with content. Core knowledge emerges and can be consolidated as part of a well-designed series of problems to be solved, issues to be debated and challenges to be negotiated.
- Our students are wonderful young people and I care for them deeply. I will never be so petty as to harbour a grudge or penalize any child in any way because of any misconstruction, disagreement or ‘personality conflict’. I am a teacher and an adult first and as such I am the one who will step back and attempt to resolve any type of conflict or misunderstanding. It hurts me deeply to think that any student might be unhappy in my class.
- With reference to the preceding point, I do, however, reserve the right to prod and test any and all poorly reasoned ideas and beliefs my students may have. Perhaps most controversially, I do believe that the most successful teaching is often ‘un-teaching’… We live in an enlightened age that encourages an open mind and the free play of ideas. However, ideas and beliefs that are not soundly reasoned and / or justified are dangerous as they lead directly to a blinkered existence. As such I will challenge any form of zealotry, narrow-mindedness, racism, and bigotry – in any form.
- It is not my job just to ‘get on with the syllabus’. The syllabus does not matter as much as where it takes my students cognitively. I will, however, attempt to balance the acquisition of core knowledge with my focus on improving thinking skills.
- I believe that it is preferable for all concerned that I be humorous, friendly and approachable rather than a strict disciplinarian. I have quite simply found this to be the most effective way to teach.
- I am willing to adapt my lessons and my approach as much as I am able to suit the needs and particular aptitudes of each individual student. I am, however, not willing to compromise on my core belief: that it is more important to teach my students how to think than what to think.
- I do not believe that IQ scores or even tests are an accurate method of determining intelligence. I believe each child has their own particular blend of intelligence types and these are as malleable as they are dynamic. There is no such thing as a ‘stupid child’ – just those whose particular strengths have not yet been identified. I will not abide anyone calling any of my students ‘stupid’ – this includes parents.
- I am thoroughly and passionately committed to what I do. I will not tolerate anyone calling into question my integrity as a teacher or as a person.
- Finally, and this may well be considered unfair – but it is honest: I am firmly on the side of the outsider and the under-dog because it is them who are in most urgent need of my care and attention. Also, it is because I am a former ‘lost cause’ myself. I will, however, not neglect to extend those who are performing and coping well at school.
I hope you will support me in my endeavours to offer a more child-centred, holistic and relevant education. Please make use of this opportunity to let me know of any problems you might have with any of the foregoing, as well as any other issues I might need to be aware of.
I am on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/@SeanHCole
Please also trot along to my blog at: https://seanhamptoncole.wordpress.com/author/shamptoncole
for a listing of my blog posts. Your comments are most welcome.Yours sincerely Sean Hampton-Cole