What I love about teaching is that it's more than a job. In July 2021 I will get my certificate in elementary teaching through Ithaca College. Thereafter, I will be able to work in schools in New York, or other states that recognize NY teacher certificates.
Years ago, as a high school teacher in Russia, I liked the flexibility of choosing teaching methods that were most effective for my students. Now, after I got vast experiences in higher and environmental education as a Cornell University researcher and instructor, I want to become a teacher again, yet in an elementary school. I believe that I can make the most powerful academic impact on young minds on an elementary-school level, and I can grow professionally in the field that I enjoy.
I'm excited about integrating STEM topics, environmental themes and civic engagement into my teaching, especially through project-based and inquiry-based teaching. I'm committed to promote student-centered teaching, diversity, dignity, and other educational values to serve students' learning needs and foster their social-emotional development.
My Teaching Values
Our teaching is driven by our values and beliefs. I've been thinking a lot about my teaching philosophy that should guide everything I do as a teacher. This philosophy will continue to evolve, but I already would like to mention several values that I hold.
Teachers should support individual students' learning needs, and promote their autonomy and independence as learners.
Schools should celebrate multiple expressions of diversity: race, ethnicity, social class, gender, religion, sexual orientations, language, nationality, ability, and other characteristics.
Instead of promoting cultural assimilation, schools should affirm and validate students' cultures, traditions, and unique identities.
Students can express their ideas through various intelligences: linguistic, mathematical, musical, visual/spatial, kinesthetic, interpersonal, interpersonal, naturalistic, and existential.
Learning happens in a safe environment where everyone is treated with dignity. Schools should intentionally prevent violence, bullying, harassment, and prejudice.
Welcoming all abilities
Children have different abilities, yet they deserve equal educational opportunities. With appropriate support, all children can thrive academically.
Linguistically responsive pedagogy can help English language learners, recent immigrants, and bilingual students succeed in school.
Teachers, school administration, parents, peers, and community members are parts of a caring community that promotes students' positive development.
Students can construct their knowledge and new meanings by using inquiry-based learning, project-based learning, and their own prior knowledge.
Students should be engaged in the learning process through meaningful learning activities, and reflection on what and how they think and do.
Positive social interactions with teachers and peers are important for learning new knowledge, skills, behaviors, and values.
While creating different pathways for academic success, teachers should demonstrate high expectations and provide rigorous instruction for all students.
I have many academic interests that can inspire my teaching. For example, I'd like to highlight these ideas in my teaching: (1) the value of reading and writing, (2) STEM subjects, (3) environment and sustainability, and (4) civic engagement, and (4) reading and writing. I'll explain why I think these topics are important for students.
Value of Reading and Writing
I absolutely love reading and writing. And I know that all student can become avid readers and writers. Reading fiction and nonfiction expands your mind, unleashes creative thinking, and gives a greater perspective. Writing helps you articulate and refine your ideas. Reading and writing are complementary activities that help students achieve academic success, become more empathetic human beings, and develop an interest in lifelong learning. Reading and writing expectations for students are never too high if we use a variety of engaging and age-appropriate teaching tools such as literature circles and free writing.
Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields are vital for anyone who wants to better understand the world, and serve our society through exploration and discoveries. STEM learning benefits all students because it helps them spark imagination, question things, seek the truth, and creatively solve problems. STEM learning can also prepare students for careers related to scientific and technological innovations. Mitigating climate change, mapping community resources, building a hydroponic system, creating an educational website, or programming are only some of many STEM topics that can be used in schools.
Environment and Sustainability
Human health, prosperity, and well-being depend on the quality of our environment. We need to learn how to take care of urban and natural ecosystems. I look forward to helping my students become environmental citizens. Environmental and sustainability topics can be integrated into all subjects, and strengthen students' critical thinking and academic success. Students can find that sustainability topics are relevant to their lives – including nature connection, sustainable development, green cities, healthy food, and urban agriculture.
Civic engagement empowers students as democratic citizens and agents of social change. It teaches students about social justice and responsibility, contributes to their moral education, and empowers them to make positive changes in their communities, families and schools. To practice civic engagement in schools, students can make and deliver speeches on issues that are important to them and their communities, critically examine and influence power structures, and take action through service learning.
Teachers can use various prior skills and knowledge to improve their practice. While I'm working on my teaching certificate and learning teaching skills, I already have a number of relevant experiences that I can use in my future teaching. Here are a few of such experiences:
Since 2013, much of my work at Cornell University focused on training educators and teachers. I developed and conducted a number of online courses for educators from 60+ countries interested in environmental education, nature education, and E-STEM. As the first editor, I also published a book "Urban Environmental Education Review" (2017), which has been used in university courses for future teachers in several countries.
Science lesson about water quality
Observing schools around the world
When I travel around the world, I love visiting schools and nonformal education programs. In my practice, I'd like to borrow effective teaching ideas that I observed in several countries. For example, I saw how teachers and educators used problem-solving, inquiry, community resources, outdoors spaces, and positive youth development as learning contexts that were engaging and relevant for students.
Here are some photos I took in schools and other educational programs in various countries.
Through my research, outreach, and observations, I worked a lot with nonformal education programs in New York City, elsewhere in the U.S., and around the world. These programs included after-school education, nature centers, botanical gardens, and more. I believe that formal education can borrow many useful ideas from nonformal education, including relevance of educational topics to student's lives, connection with local organizations, interdisciplinary approaches, and building trust between students and educators.
Higher education teaching
I've taught or TAed a number of university courses. My own course that I've developed is "Green Cities." It's designed for high school students who come to Cornell University for the summer semester. Read more about this course. The main feature of this course is that students developed an ebook. I'm grateful for awards that recognized my teaching, which remind me to continue to grow as a teacher.
Everything below is in development!
Teaching is an inspiring and rewarding profession. We help young people grow, every day in school is different, and there is no limit for professional growth. At the same time, I'm also inspired by several broad topics that can guide teaching: (1) educational research, (2) educational systems, (3) positive youth development, and (4) meaning of education.
Educational research must be directly linked with decision-making in education. In other words, relevant research studies should inform our pedagogical approaches. Our old teaching methods can be constantly revised based on new evidence of what works and what does not work. One the one hand, we can use well-known educational and psychological theories to guide our practice. They include, for example,
Bronfenbrenner (ecosystem), Freire (freedom), Delpit (Cultures), Noddings (Care), Nieto (identity), Human strengths (hope, will, purpose...), Stages (4 stages of cognitive development), Vygotsky (ZPD),
We should not take our education system for granted.
Educational systems borrow from each other (mention Columbia university's research)
Think outside the box
Education in Finland (no grades, problem-based learning...)
Positive youth development
Relate it to student-centered teaching
Meaning of education
That's something that my certification program does not teach
Social change or perpetuation of status quo?
Empathy, being positive members of society
STEM, being competitive and collaborative contributors to the economy
Educating for the 22nd century
Here I will mention websites, standards, and books that can provide practical ideas for lesson planning
Cite important publications that informed my ideas about teaching.
Also, mention Acknowledgements and thanks to those who helped me develop professionally.