Years ago, when I was a student in the teaching credential program at Sac State, I was asked to write a statement of my teaching philosophy. This assignment turned out to be harder than it sounded at first. Out of all the many educational theories I had been learning, what did I personally believe about teaching? What matters most? I remember staring for a long time at the blank computer screen, trying to somehow boil down all the things I believed were important to just a few words. It was not easy, but it was a good assignment, and taking the time to define what I believed about teaching was worth the struggle. After a lot of thought, research, and many drafts, the first part of my teaching philosophy said this:
“The development of a positive student/teacher relationship is the cornerstone of a successful learning environment. The classroom should be a positive learning environment in which students are respected, encouraged, and challenged to learn and grow.”
I wrote that years ago when I was just learning to be a teacher, and my philosophy hasn’t changed; I fact, now that I have years of teaching behind me, I believe this even more strongly. One of the many reasons why I love working at Community Collaborative Charter School is that we – along with all schools in Gateway Community Charters — follow the “Capturing Kids’ Hearts” (CKH) program, which is a way of creating that positive learning environment. Creator of CKH Flip Flippen said, “If you have a child’s heart, you have his head.” Here’s a modified summary of CKH from our school handbook:
Truly remarkable outcomes are possible in a classroom where trust, respect, and caring relationships flourish. Capturing Kids’ Hearts provides tools for administrators, faculty, and staff to build positive, productive, trusting relationships among themselves and with their students. These processes can transform the classroom and campus environment, paving the way for high performance.
The link between positive relationships/positive learning environments and better educational outcomes for students is research-based, and the CKH strategies give us a way that we can be sure we are focusing on doing what’s most important: caring about and for our students in every way, academically and beyond. Many of our students have had previous negative experiences in school, and our hope is that those students feel the difference at CCCS from the moment they first walk in the door. One of the most rewarding things about teaching at CCCS is seeing students who didn’t feel successful in the past discover how successful they can be: earning higher grades, completing more credits, discovering strengths and talents, envisioning a positive future and identifying steps to get there, and walking across that graduation stage in cap and gown. We have high expectations for our students: we want them to know they are valuable and capable, and if they are willing to put forth the effort, they can achieve anything.
As part of CKH, we send students off with a motivational “launch,” and for some teachers this takes the form of a quote that students can take with them. As a staff, we also do launches from our meetings, and we collect quotes to inspire ourselves and each other too. One of my favorites is this one by Rita Pierson: “Every child deserves a champion: an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they can become the best they can possibly be.”
I consider myself fortunate to work with a staff of such champions and to have the privilege of seeing students invest in themselves through education, discover what they can do and achieve, and ultimately become the best they can possibly be. In the process, we hope we capture kids’ hearts, but I know they capture ours!