"Sacrifice who you are for who you will become."
Alex Szwed initiated his college experience at Western Connecticut State University. Following this, Alex transferred his studies to the renowned Physical Education teaching program at Central Connecticut State University. Since being enrolled at Central Connecticut he has delved in to his studies improving his GPA to a profound 3.86 while making the Dean's List and the President's List. Furthermore, he recently became an Acting Performance Minor thus widening his array of skills and passions. In the spring of 2014 Alex was an assistant coach for the Branford High School Lacrosse team where he guided student athletes to peak performance on and off the field. Following this, Alex landed an Assistant Coaching summer job for the Connecticut Canes Lacrosse team which is part of the Progression Lacrosse. During the summer of 2015, Alex coached student-athletes within a number of showcase tournaments in New England including Long Island, NY, Umass, MA and Gettysburg, PA. This past spring, Alex completed his student teaching placements in Enfield, CT and graduated from Central Connecticut State University with Magna Cum Laude honors. Alex graduated with a major in Physical Education/Health and an Acting performance Minor. Even more recently, Alex landed a teaching job at Westport Day School where he currently teaches a class labeled Mindfulness and Movement which embeds teachings from physical education, mindfulness, yoga and theatre.
Philosophy of Teaching
A few teaching theories in particular have molded my own idea of what teaching should be all about. Humanism, Cognition, and Social Cognition have impacted my views of teaching considerably. The idea of being a facilitator rather than a teacher provides students the freedom to explore the content with a sense of autonomy. An empathetic teacher will show compassion towards students and acknowledge their feelings without lacking the genuine consideration of their notions. Cognitively, students will learn by processing information from experiences that focus on their five senses. Constructively using socialization involves students politely voicing ideas or opinions while respecting their fellow classmate's responses. The environment or climate of the classroom will impact the student's overall learning growth.
One important question must be asked to all teachers and that is: Why do you want to teach? Well my answer is simple, I want to compassionately change the world and I plan to do that by empowering the future professionals of the world. I have always loved unlocking the minds of young students so they can see from different perspectives and be successful. During my field experience at the urban environment of Pulaski Middle School in New Britain I established vital relationships with students by listening to their feelings and their opinions. Modeling an open-handed approach to whatever the student’s beliefs were at the time claimed to be an effective tactic during my observations. This strategy engaged the students and helped them understand the purpose of their class. A small instance that included a particular student who wanted to become a NBA basketball player became a perfect example when he insisted on procrastinating about class work. In response, I began to ask the student how he could become a basketball player. After pondering the question, he discovered that he needed to go to college. This prompted me to explain that he needed good grades in order to be accepted in to a renowned basketball college. This interaction enticed the student to participate throughout the class period and possibly made a significant impact on his life. Even though this student may not become a professional basketball player, he was motivated to believe in his dream which will most likely lead him towards a sport that can help unlock his future education. A physical activity or sport can provide students in tough socio-economic areas a more beneficial path to pursue. Oddly enough, a few years later I was playing basketball at the outdoor basketball courts at CCSU. I saw a young man ride his bike up and it was same student. As we talked, he explained that he was a freshmen at New Britain High School and he had good grades because he wants to play basketball in college.
In addition, in order to facilitate the class one must accommodate to every student’s learning type. An adapting teaching style is crucial within the classroom. More importantly than this fact, is the notion of being completely and genuinely passionate about what you are teaching. An admired teacher of mine claimed this statement in the beginning of the semester; “you need to sell the class.” One of the most impactful lessons that I was a part of within my classes is this idea that a teacher must enthusiastically believe in his or her lessons. This contagious attitude will inevitably spread to your students. In order to grab the student’s minds, you must grab their emotions. A personal theory of mine explains this; if you are emotional within the classroom then the student’s emotions will follow. Becoming an Acting Minor at CCSU will continue to assist my teaching abilities by allowing me to entertain and intrigue the student’s emotions and grab their attention. I truly believe that every time you are teaching, you are on stage. This construct is based solely on the Cognitive Teaching Theory.
During my Education class at Central Connecticut I learned a valuable lesson during a walk through down-town New Britain. The nick-name: “Hard Hittin’" New Britain” has mirrored the town’s tough cultured people and impoverished image. This unfair generalization needs to be put to rest. It is necessary for teachers and students to understand the enriched culture within New Britain before we start making unfair assumptions. A teacher should recognize the type of community or culture they're teaching in and understand that the students are a product of their environment. A teacher should never become discouraged because a student is tarnished by his or her environment. In contrast, a passionate teacher will always reach out to these students with enthusiasm and willingness. Furthermore, lessons may be different based on the community they are teaching. Generally speaking, different communities provide different types of students which require the teacher to use an array of teaching styles and methods. Contextualizing the history of that particular community within your classroom is vital for the students to understand where they came from and who they are. Yet it is also important to understand that a student's environment does not entirely define his or her integrity. This knowledge will help students develop a sense of pride and interdependence within their community.
“How to Talk to Kids so They Can Learn” is a book that I related to considerably during my undergraduate years. The book makes countless points on how to deal with a variety of student’s behaviors using communication strategies that make complete sense. If a student does not respect or like the teacher then he or she will not want to participate within that class. Using a humanistic, empathetic teaching style will help the students recognize that their teacher sincerely cares for them as a student and as a human being thus earning their respect. Different techniques such as listening intently to students, accepting their feelings, the use of humor, offering choices rather than punishments, and creating class rules based on student’s point of views are methods that I plan to use as teacher in order to achieve respect.
One of the many reasons why I love teaching Physical Education is that there is a sense of autonomy in teaching the wide array of subject matter. I have a passion for teaching fitness, health, yoga, sports, dance and cooperative games. I strongly believe that teachers need to be an expert in all sub-areas of their focus. It is obvious that all students will learn differently and be interested in different subject matter. In order to grab the emotions and minds of all your students, a teacher must not only offer an array of teaching styles to his or her students but the teacher also should provide many different types of content and activities. Providing students with interdisciplinary activities will add to the teacher’s repertoire of teaching suits. In addition to the many focuses of Physical Education, mindfulness is an area that I would love to facilitate. I strongly believe that it is important for students to be able to be aware of their feelings and emotions. Allowing students for quiet meditations and self-reflections during the day will help them independently create their own inner sanctuary in order to cope with a chaotic life outside of school and a stressful school day. Studies across the nation have provided integral data that conclude mindfulness and meditation practices to be very beneficial to the school community. Specifically, statistics show the percentage of fights and suspensions decrease and overall attendance rate improve dramatically. Using technology within the Physical Education setting can be very useful for a teacher assessing his or her students. At CCSU, I have had the privilege to work with heart-rate monitors that are projected on a screen for the students to see. I also have worked with fit-bits that help students comprehend their physical activity rate. As technology becomes more and more apart of students’ lives, it is crucial for teachers to use certain technology- tools in order to adapt to the new generation of students. I have had the opportunity to delve in to many technological tools such as google drive, coaches’ eye, smart boards, moodle, wikispaces and many more.
Becoming a reflective teacher with a growth mindset almost always depends on the teacher’s ability to assess his or her teachings whether it be from tangible data on fitness test or an observable moment in the classroom. Making sure that a teacher meets the criterion for the psychomotor, cognitive and affective domains and meeting all of the five standards of physical education is essential in their ability to provide students with positive, life-long educational habits. Whenever I have been peer-teaching at CCSU or teaching students at a school, I have always been provided with instrumental feedback from professors and veteran Physical Educators in different school across Connecticut. Through copious amounts of constructive criticism I have been able to focus on certain teaching tactics and areas such as “with-it-ness”, transitioning during activities and projecting my voice to my students. Furthermore, I have been videotaped and recorded during my lessons for one of my methods to teaching games classes. This helped me visually see the mistakes I was making as well as certain aspects that I was doing well. This feedback has helped me improve in a variety of areas including my ability to assess. I plan for my future co-physical educators to provide the same feedback to me so I can continue to grow as an educator.
Overall, my philosophy has been shaped from different experiences within my college career as well as my experiences as a student. I will use the best of these experiences to develop a reflective and ever-adapting passion towards teaching a diverse body of students. In addition, I understand that learning is a life-long process and I will continuously improve my teaching styles for the betterment of my future students. My teaching philosophy will be forever evolving based on my future endeavors. If I could have my heart’s desires from teaching physical Education, it would be that I could impact the students’ school life effectively enough to provide a positive, life-long habit outside of school.