Philosophy of Community College Education
Few years have passed in my life when I have not been a student or a teacher. Education
is the one constant in my life. I believe in Community College education because I am the
product of Community Colleges; I began my higher education in two community colleges before
transferring to a university and earning an honor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in
Education. After teaching for six years, I returned to graduate school for my English as a Second
My interest in higher education began as a college student; I fell in love with the
environment of adults sitting in a circle and discussing ideas on an equal level with the
instructor—the antithesis of the lecturing and note-taking method that some call the sage on the
stage. These smaller, more intimate and relaxed classrooms were how I envisioned my own
classroom would be one day.
Because of the good career opportunities at the time, my teaching path began in
elementary school, where for six years I experimented with various teaching methods, constantly
reflected on and modified my practice, and developed my current teaching philosophy. It was
from my experience interning for an entire school year in a culturally diverse school that I first
encountered English Language Learners. From the very beginning, I was intrigued by watching
them acquire English and loved having students from around the world. The children seemed to
have a love of learning that not all students had, and the families—many who had a very limited
education—were so appreciative of what we did for their children.
As a first-year kindergarten teacher, I was amazed at how Spanish-speaking Carlos and
Vietnamese-speaking Kevin, both five-year-olds who entered school without a word of English,
finished the year having complete English conversations—this with only a first-year teacher who
was trying to stay afloat each day (ESL services began in first grade). In subsequent years, as I
co-taught with ESL teachers and arranged to have the clusters of English Language Learners in
my room, I realized that I wanted to specialize in teaching ESL one day.
The following is a brief outline of the teaching philosophy that has grown out of my
education and my time as an educator. As a reflective teacher, this philosophy is always subject
to change based on research and my own experiences.
I believe that learning is an active process rather than a passive one. In my classroom,
students learn through social interaction: they play games, perform readers’ theater, write
and perform skits, make movies, and help each other in small groups.
Students are not passive computers to which I can upload knowledge. Recognizing that I
cannot force anyone to learn, my role as the instructor is that of facilitator, guide, and
cheerleader. My greatest tool is encouragement.
I am a constructivist who believes that students construct their own learning and
knowledge when they are given choice and presented with themes that they can connect
to their own experience. Along these lines, I prefer thematic, project-based learning
rather than isolated and disconnected lessons.
When possible, I believe that using a student’s first language will aid in the acquisition of
a second language. On a human level, I also find that students appreciate the teacher
learning even a few words of their first language; it shows respect for the students’
background and gives them a chance to play the role of teacher.
The languages and cultures of students should be valued as an asset. Students learning
additional languages should be considered gifted, not deficient. I am constantly amazed
that I can have conversations with students in English, only to find out that they have
been studying English and in the country for less than a year!
The instructor should set the student up for success. Students should know in advance
what the class expectations are and how they will be assessed. I believe in performance
assessments over paper and pencil tests, and I believe in the use of rubrics and self-
evaluation so that students can take part in their learning and assessment without being
taken by surprise.
Assessment is ongoing and drives instruction rather than being only a terminal activity.
Daily classroom activities can double as assessment to inform whom I need to re-teach
and whom I need to give further challenge; assessment is varied, including formal and
There is no one size fits all of education. I believe in using differentiation for students of
various levels and multiple means for them to show what they know.
Learning should be made fun whenever possible. Most skills taught with worksheets can
be made into a game. Games and social interaction make education more enjoyable, aid
in student retention, build classroom community, and students are more likely to
remember the skill that was taught.
Skills should be relevant to the student’s life and answer the question, “Why do I need to
I believe that all students can learn. To quote a poster that used to hang in my classroom,
“Not everyone is good at everything, but everyone is good at something.”
I am a proponent of educational technology. Besides adding interest to a lesson,
technology can tailor lessons to particular students, aid in differentiation, provide another
means of a performance assessment (e.g., a PowerPoint presentation), instantly provide
graphics and images to aid in language development and vocabulary, and teach computer
skills needed for the job market.
While grammar is important—I was an English major, after all—I was deeply influenced
by a German teacher I had in college who instilled in us the importance of
communication over precise grammar. By focusing lessons on basic communication, I
believe students will lower their affective filter and be more likely to get out and use the
language with native English speakers, thus building their vocabulary and a desire to
perfect their grammar.
In order to learn whether I wanted to work with adults, and in order to create my own
student-teaching experience in adult-ESL, I have been volunteering for the past several
months in a free adult-ESL class hosted at a local library. Last night, the instructor had to
leave the room and I spent most of the class directing the conversation. Hector, a quiet new
student from Mexico who cleans houses for a living, walked up to me after class, shook my
hand, and thanked me for my help. This is what teaching is all about for me. To know that I
am in the service of others, to see that I have made a small difference in a life, and to
experience the gratitude that follows is my greatest reward—much more so than money or
status. It is this mission that drives my career goals and my philosophy of education.