Paleobio Home Jennifer A. Collins, Educational Philosophy
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I believe that science is best understood and appreciated if it is taught as an ongoing process of discovery where the emphasis is not placed on finding the "right answers". Rather than teaching science merely as a set of facts to be memorized, I strive to present science as an inquiry-based process that reveals questions as well as answers. I encourage my students to think critically, to communicate ideas, and get them out of their seats doing science. Combining an inquiry-based approach with other student-centered activities gives students of varying abilities and learning styles an opportunity to be successful. I believe that students should learn that it is OK to be wrong in science because it is often the unexpected results that lead to further discovery. I also strive to help dispel the myth that only scientists do science, when in fact we all do science! Encouraging students to ask questions, and to seek answers for questions that interest them is what makes science a fun and rewarding experience.

Because I believe in the "whole student", one of my goals as a teacher is to create an educational experience that encourages students to explore and enhance their sense of self and community. I want my students to leave my class and school with a solid starting point for continuing their chosen direction in life. This includes helping students develop basic life long learning skills that they will be able to use later in different aspects of their life. Subject content and knowledge is important and is the material that I use to teach the students to think critically about themselves and the world around them. Also important is helping students communicate and interact in a diverse community by giving them opportunities to work with a variety of different students. I also want students to explore the diversity of people who do research and the variety of places where research is done.

Mutual respect between students and myself is crucial for maintaining a classroom environment conducive to learning. This respect is developed by setting fair and clear boundaries, then being consistent about maintaining those boundaries. I also believe in setting high but attainable expectations for all students and helping students fulfill those expectations without enabling. Creating a favorable classroom environment also requires great enthusiasm and passion for the subject and for the students. Its important to create an atmosphere in the classroom that allows students to feel safe, yet challenges them to set goals, work cooperatively, analyze information, and apply what they learn to our world and to themselves.

As a science teacher I believe that it is incredibly important to keep up with current advancements and discoveries in science and education. I am a life long learner and strive to continue expanding my own learning through continuing education, workshops, and involvement with school wide and educational programs. It is important for me to be a part of committees, and organizations that respond to the challenges that schools face, both at a local level, district level, and even state and national levels.

All in all, I love being a teacher. When people ask why, I fumble around with "I love kids," "I like a good mental and physical challenge," "I like to watch people grow as a result of their interaction with me and other adults," and other equally non-descriptive reasons. It is impossible for me to explain why I entered into a profession that demands immense energy, dedication, and time to meet the endless needs of adolescents, their parents, and society; a profession that is inconsistent with its rewards and pats on the back. Maybe its the student who stays after class who needs a listening adult, or maybe its watching a student grow from an insecure, troubled, and distracted youth to a young adult. Maybe it's the parent who says "thank you" for spending extra time with their child. Maybe its designing new curriculum that causes light bulbs to go on and interest to grow. Who knows. All I can say is "It is what I love to do!" And I say this with a smile!

©   Updated: June 2003   Contact: jen-AT-paleobio or allen-AT-paleobio