Philosophy of Learning
1. When I was a K-12 student, I always enjoyed school. I was always a good student, and got good grades. My district was really small so we had a K-6 building and a 7-12 building. I liked being in a small school because it was more intimate and you could get to know your teachers a little bit better. You also knew all of your classmates, whereas I know people who graduated with 500 or more students and they don’t even know some people that they graduated with. I remember my teachers always knowing me and my learning style on a personal level. It wasn’t like I was just another student. I feel that I was successful because of this.

2. Some things I liked about school were: small class sizes, group projects, personal relationship with teachers, freedom to choose my own schedule, and the support from my teachers to help me be successful.
Some things I didn’t like were: because of our low numbers we weren’t always competitive in athletics or scholarly competitions, the variety of classes we could choose from was limited, we didn’t have block scheduling in high school so I usually had six different subjects to juggle at one time.

3. How do students learn?:
I believe that each student learns in their own way. Many students may learn similarly but there is something unique to the development of knowledge and skills within each student, whether they be 6, 16, or 60. Students all have their own prior knowledge that they are continuously building upon. Students aren’t on the single track ladder climbing each rung as they learn new skills. According to Kurt Fischer and Thomas Bidell, students construct a web of knowledge and skills, in which there are pathways in all directions according to the background knowledge and connections that each student makes (1998). Each student’s web would theoretically look differently because of the student’s prior experiences and the connections they make with the new information, the pathways created would all be a little bit different. I also believe that students learn through interactions. That could be interactions with peers, teachers, parents, older students, and younger students. Especially at the early elementary level, I believe that social interactions is one of the most important components to my students’ learning. According to a study done at Temple University, teacher and student social interaction has one of the greatest influence on school learning. (Wang, Haertel, Walberg, 2002)

What do I want my students to learn?:
One of the biggest goals I have for my students is to learn HOW to learn. I want them to know how to ask questions that will give them more knowledge about a subject. For example instead of asking, “Does a chameleon change colors?” I want my students to ask, “WHY do chameleons turn colors?” In first grade I also want my students to learn the basic social skills. They need to know how to work in a collaborative group, respect other’s ideas and how to take turns. A lot of my students are only children, so they rarely have to share their things or fight for attention with other children. These are skills that I want my students to obtain while in my classroom.

How will my students learn this?
In my grade level, I believe that the best way to teach students how to ask probing questions to gain more knowledge is to model it. I think if they are exposed to it every day, it will become natural for them to want to ask those questions themselves. Modeling is a big way to show students what you expect of them. Another method is give them a subject or topic that they are interested in. If you have to have a conversation about Spongebob in order for them to get used to asking deeper questions, then so be it. “What kind of sea creature is Spongebob?” “What kinds of home do sea sponges actually live in?” They are learning skills that they can apply to more challenging content later in life.
The best way to get my students to learn social skills is to constantly put them in new situations in which they have the opportunity to develop them. My students work in cooperative groups at least once a day and they are always changing. I also try to give different students leadership roles in their groups. This gives these students the chance to lead their classmates and take charge. It also gives the other students the opportunity to learn how to wait their turn to give an idea, and that they need to listen to a fellow classmate for direction. According to study done by a school psychologist in Massachusetts, when creating cooperative groups, the students should have “different strengths and weaknesses with a range of coping patterns and defense mechanisms, such as shyness and withdrawal as well as assertiveness and aggression” (Mehaffrey & Sandberg, 1992).

What would my classroom look like?
If I was able to design my ideal classroom, I would love it! I think the biggest thing I would like is round tables instead of desks. I always group my desks together anyway in my classroom and I would love it if they could sit at actual tables instead. According to Diane Brook of the University of Oregon, students should be seated in "circular desks or flexible furniture" (Brooks, 2009). Brooks also believes that there should be areas for small group work. In my ideal classroom I would have tables where students could work together in collaborative groups on different types of projects. I also would have a quiet reading area where students could sit comfortably on beanbag chairs and read with each other or on their own. There would also be a white board that is at the students' height to also for easy use by the students as well as the teacher. (Brooks, 2009) I believe that a combination of these things will allow for learning. As I stated before, I believe that learning in first grade happens through social interactions and collborative groupwork. The only way to ensure that students are getting the maximum opputunities for both of these, they need to be in an environment that fosters interaction and collaboration. In my ideal classroom, there would also be technology that would help promote active learning. I would want several computers that the students would feel comfortable using and could bring with them to any place in the room. In my experience, I have found that an active classroom is a learning classroom. I am totally against forcing seven year olds to be completely silent all day long. I don't think that a class has to be silent and in rows to be a managed classroom. Having a collaborative classroom requires more control and a lot of organization but I think it sets the optimum stage for learning.

Ideal Classroom Floorplan