My philosophy of education is that all students need, deserve, and welcome care. My responsibility then, as their teacher, is to care. I care for people: my students, my fellow teachers, my administrators, my tech support. I care for things: my classroom, my desktop, my projector, and my daybook. I care for my body: staying hydrated, eating well, resting well, and maintaining an emotional agility. As an educator, I care.
This care and kindness in and outside the classroom demands my presence in the classroom, my full presence. As a teacher of students from kindergarten to college I have shaped and reshaped how I am present with my students and their work. I know how my body—my emotions, my energy, my wellness—affects my classroom. With this philosophy, I enter my classroom as a teaching and teachable body. One that is ready and on the balls of her feet. Alert. Moving. And even if I’m not sensing it on the surface, pressing and pushing warmth and kindness to the forefront of my feelings. I welcome each student by name as they enter, offering a high five or a hello, and a mark on my attendance sheet. And as I watch my clock, I prime myself.
When it’s time to begin, like the sound of the starting gun, I take off. With the wide opening of my arms as though I were about to hug the first child to run up to me I give a loud, “Welcome, everyone! It’s good to see you.” And so class begins.
I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.
- Albert Einstein
An embodied classroom is an awareness of the energies and literacies present among teachers and students, including how they affect the dynamics of the classroom. I teach in an embodied classroom. My goal is always to create a material environment that expects, encourages, and celebrates active contributions from my students, to craft writing assignments and activities that engage with reading and writing as a lively process, and to choreograph an environment that invites playfulness and enthusiasm. This is hard work.
Teaching is hard. It’s hard because it’s about leaving a fingerprint. The purpose of education, of the classroom, is to contribute to the conversations around us. With this comes a responsibility to take our craft, reading, writing, even making, and to share it with those around us. We are to continuously reflect upon how our thinking and situated knowledge changes. My position in relation to this process is: teacher. More specifically: white, female twenty-something teacher from a rural, lower-class home. Who I am and who my students are take up a significant role in why I teach reading and writing. I teach as a way to share myself. I teach to tell my story, my experiences, my uncertainties, and my successes, even my failures as a writer, as a rhetor, and as an educator. And I encourage my students to do the same. Their development as readers, writers, and meaning-makers is the nexus from which their ability and desire to contribute to the world around them stems. In sum, my students’ moving, doing, seeing, hearing, feeling, and thinking all impact my classroom. And as a result, lays the foundation on which I imagine and practice my own embodied pedagogy.
My teaching practice each year is centered on participation, process, and play. First, I emphasize my expectations for engagement in my classroom. My students offer their insights, ideas, and opinions through class discussion and by my calling on them, showing that I value their voice and their contributions. Secondly, I stress that development and growth are unique to each student and that this takes time—a process that requires celebration, challenge, and collaboration. To that end, I dedicate class time to speak to students (and parents) about the scaffolds involved in reading and writing development, being as specific as possible about what those scaffolds look like. I offer my students varying levels of support that are appropriate to their current reading level or writing experience. I celebrate my students’ work by praising them in class and providing detailed accounts of their successes in written feedback. In their written work, I support revision by leading them through multiple drafts and providing feedback at each stage of their project. Finally, I convey that a positive experience significantly influences our experiences with and motivations for learning. By asking my students to engage with their classroom space physically by clapping, standing, walking, dancing, and essentially moving, I stimulate student modalities in our phonics games, character debates, discussion activities, and writing practices. I embrace their bodiedness as a way of learning and as a way of connecting with my students.
Throughout my time as a teacher, I’ve found that connections - supportive relationships - shape not only how we teach but also who we are as teachers. Relationships, whether through mentoring, advising, or counseling, take time, patience, and empathy. While classroom instruction is critical to the development of our students as writers and readers, a lasting impact begins with teacher to student contact and empathetic pedagogy. All of these beliefs about teaching stem from my dedication to support students in the development of social engagement with the communities that surround them. By enacting this philosophy in my classrooms kindergarten to college, I prepare my students to participate alongside their peers, to have patience with themselves and their learning process, and to embrace the enthusiasm that comes with affecting the communities and world around them.