Allergic to philosophy

What do I think when I hear the word philosophy? Old bearded men dressed in sheets. Long classes with reading materials from the 50’s. Vague ideas sprouted by teachers. Overly important high school students showing repeating what someone else said ages ago. Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines the word as follows:

1 “the study of ideas about knowledge, truth, the nature and meaning of life, etc. ”

2 “a particular set of ideas about knowledge, truth, the nature and meaning of life, etc.

3 “a set of ideas about how to do something or how to live”

The first two definitions are vague to me. They even have etc. at the end. But the third definition is more encouraging. This is the definition I can connect to teaching. Figuring out what my ideas about teaching really are in a concise way will be challenging.

I don’t have enough teaching experience to actually have tried different approaches and styles. The advice offered by Gabriella Montell in her article in Chronicle of Higher Education (2003) is extremely helpful. The concrete questions really opened my mind to thinking about my teaching philosophy.

Dr. Karen Kelsky’s blog post on the common mistakes made in writing a teaching philosophy really hit home for me. The failure in linking research to teaching is something I can see myself running into. When I first read the assignment in the syllabus, this did not occur to me as a potential problem. To avoid this, I will have to think about my general work ethic, research interests, and the strategies I use in developing new ideas. They should all have a common thread and somehow connect in a statement.

The approach of Dr. Kelsky and Montell to humbleness in writing a teaching philosophy differ. Montell encourages to “adopt a tone of humility” while Kelsky warns about too humble statements. I get that writing this sort of document is a balancing act of correct tone, humility and grandiose ideas. But this makes me worried, that I might not hit that balance and come off as pompous know-it-all or a shy little mouse with no desire to advance in my career.


Leave a Reply