My Teaching Philosophy
Okay – yes. I am an advocate of the Socratic method of teaching. Even before I knew it as a pedagogical system, it was the way I conversed, learned and taught. Cerainly then, my predisposition to its practice was what drew me to the study of philosophy as an undergraduate and as a writer throughout my life. Dialogue is a natural approach to arriving at answers and deeper questions. So aside from actively engaging students in a listening, questioning and dialectic system of learning, the Socratic system also enables the fine tuning of much needed and rarely developed skills including the organization of observations, a logical presentation of ideas, respect for free speech and different beliefs, and the use of precise linguistics.
Before teaching -- while I was a theater director, a mother, a journalist, and even a student myself, I had an ingrained philosophy about imparting knowledge, which while founded on Socratic pedagogy went beyond dialectic to take into account that knowledge and information are greatly influenced by the cultural forces of time and place. In combining the Socratic method with the theory that truth is relative, I followed a tenant prescribed by Alexander Pope in his poem An Essay on Criticism, written in 1709:A little learning is a dang’rous thingDrink deep, or taste not the Pierian springI am fully on board with Pope’s claim that while a small taste from the spring of knowledge causes us to be “intoxicated” with our own learning, drinking deep “sobers” us so that we realize how much more there is to know. This brings it back round to Socrates who said, I know that I know nothing. It is also the foundation for the Buddha Sakymuni, who after a lifetime of teaching held that he taught his disciples nothing and that to know is to discover one’s self..
The process of learning requires the student/teacher relationship to go through three stages which can be said to progress from the concrete to the ephemeral:
1) acquire fact and opinion;
2) engage in a logical dialog;
3) recognize and trust the insight of the imagination.
In remembering that the Sun once revolved around the planets, the Earth was flat, and that it was once the case that nothing could go faster than the speed of light (or even that margarine was healthier than butter) – then we already know that there is much more to be gained below the surface of the spring of knowledge. I believe that it is the teacher’s job to impart the facts in his field of expertise and to build a supportive architectural frame and strong foundation. I also contend that it is the teacher’s role to provide the student with the tools to drink deep, to guide him to the wonderment of discovery, to be there when he comes up for air, and to keep him from getting lost in the current.
Teaching is tied to the supposition that learning is attained through a process of re-creation and discovery, and it is founded in the development of a student as an individual and complete person. To move on this path, the teacher’s role is to provide an environment of intellectual discourse, emotional trust, and respect.