Three Personal Essays on Teaching

I wrote these three essays over the past few days for my Intro to Teaching course. I’ve decided not to go into the education field (I would like to do something with computers instead), but enjoyed writing these essays on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, my philosophy of education, and creating a positive learning environment in schools.

Professor John Connor, Student Richard X. Thripp
Course EDF 1005 Spring 2011, DSC, 2011 April 25

Three Personal Essays (15%) (Introduction to Teaching 3rd edition, Kauchak/Eggen)

6.) What is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Why should teachers know Maslow’s theory? What are the implications for good teaching?

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a categorization of the needs which Maslow considers most basic to humanity to most abstract, organized into five categories, which are, from most basic to most complex, physiological needs, safety, needs of love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. The physiological level includes needs that will result in quick death if not met, i.e. inhalation of oxygen, ingestion of food and water, and excretion thereof. This level also includes sleep, sex, and homeostasis. The safety level includes security of life, family, liberty, and property; the love/belonging level includes friendship, family, and sexual intimacy; the esteem level consists of self-esteem, confidence and achievement, and bidirectional respect; and finally, the self-actualization level involves morality, creativity, spontaneity, the search for truth, just behavior, and problem-solving. Like a pyramid, all the levels build on each other and the higher levels rely on the lower levels. Maslow has an optimistic view of humanity and says that once a human’s deficiency needs (D-needs) are met, he/she can focus on B-needs (being needs), which could be the high-level pursuit of personal growth. By this definition, people in third-world countries may have a hard time reaching the self-actualization level, by no fault of their own. In the Farther Reaches of Human Nature (New York, 1971), Maslow also writes of a higher level of self-transcendence which is above the other levels but may be experienced by people at any of the lower levels.

Teachers should know about Maslow’s theory and read some of his writing about it because it serves as a useful explanation of humanity and human achievement. In questioning moments, teachers should remember that whatever they teach their students now will be carried on through the rest of K-12, onto college, and into the rest of their students’ lives, so they have a definite and meaningful impact on the future of the world and can carry themselves as such.

Some of Maslow’s comments have direct implications for good teaching [1], such as “be authentic,” “transcend their cultural conditioning and become world citizens,” “learn their inner nature,” and “transcend trifling problems.” Maslow also encourages us to “grapple with serious problems such as injustice, pain, suffering, and death,” rather than glossing over them or leaving them to the children’s parents to teach. In this way, students will see school as a holistic explanation for the meaning of life rather than pigeon-holing it as something boring or pointless.

Both Carol Rogers and Abraham Maslow “advocate a learner-centered and nondirect approach to education,” including empathy, unconditional caring, and role-swapping, allowing the students to be teachers and the teachers to be students at times (Kauchak and Eggen 193). Learning communities are important, where teachers and students collaborate to accomplish learning goals, contrasted with the traditional teacher who tells the students what to do rather than showing them. For this end, technology should be integrated, as well as multi-sensory lesson plans, projections, auditory and visual instruction, frequent changes of periods, recess, physical education, and manipulatives such as plastic cubes, squares, circles, spheres, triangles, and pyramids for geometric and other mathematical concepts (253). These interactive lessons will keep students engage, encouraging them to move up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs quicker.

Citation 1:

5.) How would you describe your own philosophy of education?

First off, it’s difficult to define my philosophy of education concretely since I haven’t done any teaching yet, but I do have some ideas from being the Supplemental Instruction Leader at Daytona State College for Survey of Biology in fall 2009 and a math tutor at the Academic Support Center for four weeks in spring 2011. I observed many types of students in these brief work-study positions. Some would want an answer to a specific part of one problem and then would work out the rest of the problem on their own. Others might seem to be completely lost but would then join in when I explained the solution to a problem, for example, factoring a quadratic equation or labeling the organelles and non-membrane bound structures of a cell. Some students would want me to do their homework for them, and others would not ask for help even when they really needed it. But there were always students who needed help.

In all classrooms and learning environments, it’s vital that an atmosphere of friendliness and non-judgment is maintained. I wouldn’t want any student to feel stupid for asking a “dumb” question, or bullied for showing too much spark or initiative compared to his or her peers. In the words of John Lennon, “they hurt you at home and they hit you at school, [and] they hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool” (from the song, “Working Class Hero”). Down-trodden students would likely be a result of institutional issues, and I have a feeling such problems would be more present in middle and high school than elementary school, and in large, inner-city schools rather than small schools. Either way, the teacher is in charge of the classroom, so the tone of the classroom must be set from the top down (by the teacher) rather than by the grassroots (the students). This is why it’s so important to foster a nurturing, cooperative, and collaborative learning environment, where the students love coming to class.

As a teacher, it’s very important to be able to define and articulate the reasons behind all activities and lesson plans chosen in class, because “[doing] activities simply because the activities are next in the text or curriculum guide sequence or because [you] did the activities last year . . . are inadequate and unprofessional reasons” (Kauchak and Eggen 204). Defining a clear educational philosophy is essential because it gives you a philosophical framework that you can make simple or radical changes to down the line, instead of making random or case-by-case decisions that muddle your professional growth.

For my educational philosophy, I would like to teach beyond the curriculum, because I think that students want to learn something more advanced or different than their peers in other classes, and that they would be generally interested in school if the lessons were more animated and displayed multiple ways to do things rather than showing one way. For example, I would want to teach the Cartesian coordinate system in elementary school, talk more about Nikola Tesla than Thomas Edison, examine the evidence of the moon landings being faked, bring in college students to lecture elementary students on the benefits of staying in school, teach music in class, not evangelize Abraham Lincoln (The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War is a good book about that), and teach about foreign languages, religions, space aliens, computer science, fiat money, and several key corporations such as Monsanto, Halliburton, Pfizer, and Chevron. I would also like my students to be divided into groups of 4-5 and take tests as a group like the sociological exams in the DSC Quanta learning community, and all homework would be done in class so there would be no homework.

However, in reality I would be bound to the curriculum and obliged to teach to the exams and not much beyond that, be them district writing tests, the FCAT, math, social studies, and whatever else is on the agenda. Thus, my philosophy of education would evolve organically.

7.) According to your reading, what can teachers do to create a positive learning environment? What special steps can teachers take to promote safe and productive classrooms?

One way teachers can create a positive classroom environment is by modeling their classrooms after learning communities rather than teacher-focused instruction. Learning communities are characterized by inclusiveness, respect for others, safety and security, and trust and connectedness (Kauchak and Eggen 343-344). Productive schools should be focused on learning, because this focus simplifies decision-making and serves as a guide in all policies (342). For example, respect and personal responsibility should be emphasized because they aid student development, including personality, morality, and socialization, which in turn helps students to learn. Students who are personally developed are able to learn new material and complete assignments even when there is no immediate reward, because they trust that there is a purpose behind school and they value the learning process. Getting students to write biographies about themselves is one good way to help students understand who they are.

The School District of Palm Beach County’s Division of Safety & Learning Environment attempts to establish safe schools through a variety of initiatives including a “single school culture” setting shared standards for academics, behavior, educational climate, and distribution of data, learning teams, classroom management training, a district-wide coding system for discipline, expulsion of bad students, in-house assistance for behavioral issues, case managers to dissolve and prevent the formation of gangs, “safe school” ambassadors, “RTI” response-to-interventionism, and peer mediation of conflicts [2]. Palm Beach County, Florida schools also have initiatives to prevent teen prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse, prepare students for college, promote learning efficacy, and protect students from bullying and intervene in alleged cases of bullying, including collaboration with the Kids Against Bullying national program, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, and the Compass program for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender support and awareness, including HIV/AIDS prevention and case management. While Palm Beach County is much larger than Volusia County and it may seem that such programs do not have an impact at the teacher-level, teacher awareness of such programs will encourage them to refer distressed students to case workers or supportive departments, and if those departments do not exist in a teacher’s school district, knowledge of their existence in other school districts will help teachers make suggestions to administrators or committees on what direction the school should take.

To develop self-awareness, motivation to learn, and social skills, students need a positive and non-threatening classroom climate free of embarrassment and ridicule (Kauchak and Eggen 346). Two good ways to promote this are by putting attractive, inspirational, educational pictures and diagrams on the walls of the classroom, and labeling all objects in English and Spanish, and/or other languages that the teacher’s students speak natively. The teacher should establish clear expectations of acceptable and unacceptable behavior, such as encouraging students to say “yes” instead of “yeah,” prohibiting text messaging in class, establishing time for conversation and time for lecture or quiet learning, and not permitting students to be rude or destructively critical of each other. Furthermore, the teacher should be caring, motivated, positive, enthusiastic, and dedicated to his or her students, not because these traits are listed in a textbook, but because the the teacher is genuinely concerned about his/her students. Finally, it is very important for the teacher to learn the names of all his/her students and address them by their names (first or last) rather than “you there in the blue shirt” or by pointing at them.

Citation 2:

PDF version of these three essays (6 pages, 86KB)

An Analysis of the Culture of India [Essay]

An Analysis of the Culture of India

Richard X. Thripp

Daytona State College

For Dr. Natalie D. Rooney

EDF 2085 Introduction to Diversity for Educators

Culture Paper, 15%

Sunday, 2011 February 6

Final First Draft


The culture of India is very unique and goes back thousands of years. In this essay, I will focus only on modern India, particularly on Mohandus K. Gandhi’s influence on the formation of the 20th century Indian government and culture, but also on religion and language. However, I will be ignoring movies, music, and postsecondary education.

Additionally, I will list major American institutions, advice for Indian American parents and children immigrating to the United States, academic citations, and personal commentary.

Finally, I will include a lot of relevant metrics, subjective summarizations, and statistics.

Note: I did not use proper A.P.A. style or proper citations in this paper.

India has both a rich cultural history spanning multiple millenniums, and is the 2nd most populated country on earth with a population of 1,155 million (C1), trailing China’s population of 1,331 million but leading the 3rd most populated country on earth by a whopping 275% — the United States, which has 308 million people. (All statistics as of 2009.)

However, many people in India are very poor and under-nourished, lacking proper food, water, shelter, infrastructure, education, and job opportunities. Despite this, many world leaders and scientists hail from India, and extrapolating the previous 90 years over the remaining 90 years of the 21st century, it is safe to say that India and China will surpass the United States in planetary dominance. The Indian people are some of the most hard-working and resolved people in the world, much like the Americans were in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

On 1869 October 2, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in Porbander in modern-day Gujarat, where his father served in the Indian government under the rule of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (now the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as of 1927 and commonly known as the U.K.), of which the Indian portion was called the British Indian Empire (commonly known as the British Raj). Gandhi married at 13, had a son at 19, and left for London to pursue a law degree several months later. After enrolling in the High Court of London in 1891, he dropped out and went back to India. (

After failing his law practice, Gandhi spent 22 years in South Africa, where he declared himself a seeker of truth attained by love and celibacy. He also invented the term satyagraha to mean non-violent resistance, and he wrote a short treatise called “Indian Home Rule” subtly denouncing the United Kingdom, industrialization, and contemporary technology in general.

Gandhi’s first political campaign in India spanned 1915 to 1922, when he earned the title of Mahatma meaning “Great Soul” for initiating a movement of peaceful, non-violent, non-cooperation with the British government, which wielded great power but inferior numbers. When a large crowd killed many Indian policemen at Chauri Chaura in the United Provinces in February of 1922, Gandhi was arrested, convicted of sedition, and sentenced to six years by the British Raj, despite delivering a powerful self-defense and indictment of Great Britain at his trial.

Gandhi was released three years early due to poor health, after fasting three weeks in 1924 to stop Hindu-Muslim riots at Kohat. In 1932, he began his Fast unto Death to destroy the caste system which prevented people of the untouchable caste from marrying, doing business with, or associating with anyone outside their caste, and vice-versa. He also wanted the government to do away with separate electorates for the untouchables and the other castes, which angered Ambedkar, the leader of the untouchables.

Before surviving his fast, Gandhi broke the salt laws in 1930, by marching to the sea with his followers from March 12 to April 5, and, upon completing the 240 mile march to Dandi, collecting natural salt from the Arabian Sea as a symbolic act of resistance to the British Raj—specifically, the British monopoly on the production and sale of salt. Britain arrested Gandhi and thousands of other Indians, but it was at this point that the government relented and agreed to hold a Round Table Conference in London with Gandhi to discuss liberating India. The negotiations led nowhere, and upon Gandhi’s return to India, he was arrested again.

Prior to the Salt Satyagraha, the Indian National Congress further angered Great Britain by raising their saffron-white-green tricolor flag and issuing the following Purna Swaraj (Declaration of Independence) at midnight on 1929 December 31:

We believe that it is the inalienable right of the Indian people, as of any other people, to have freedom and to enjoy the fruits of their toil and have the necessities of life, so that they may have full opportunities of growth. We believe also that if any government deprives a people of these rights and oppresses them the people have a further right to alter it or abolish it. The British government in India has not only deprived the Indian people of their freedom but has based itself on the exploitation of the masses, and has ruined India economically, politically, culturally and spiritually. We believe therefore, that India must sever the British connection and attain Purna Swaraj or complete independence.”

In his mid-60s in the mid-1930s, Gandhi established homestead in a remote village called Segaon (now Sevagram) with no power or water in the very center of India, refusing to return to Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad under a non-sovereign India. When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Great Britain wanted to drag India into the war, but Gandhi correctly identified the hypocrisy in the U.K. claiming to fight a war for democracy while attempting to maintain dictatorial control over India. It was at this point that he launched his “Do or Die” and “Quit India” campaigns, the former being a message to the Indian people and the latter being a message to the British Empire, which ultimately succeeded with the Indian Independence Act of 1947, effective 1947 August 15. However, Gandhi considered himself a Hindu, Muslim, and Christian, not considering divergent religions to be mutually exclusive and wanting India to remain unpartitioned. This did not succeed, and India was divided into the sovereign states of the Dominion of Pakistan on 1947 August 14 (now Pakistan and Bangladesh) and the secular Union of India on 1947 August 15 (now the Republic of India), mainly to separate the Muslims from the Hindus and Sikhs. Immediately following the partition, 7.226 million Muslims fled India into Pakistan and 7.249 Hindus and Sikhs fled Pakistan into India to avoid being religious minorities.

While there have been many skirmishes fought between India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Burma (now known as Myanmar and in perpetual martial law since 1962), there can be no doubt that Mahatma Gandhi had a major influence on the liberation of India and was overall a positive force in the world and one of the principle contributors to modern Indian culture. His writing, newspapers, philosophy, demonstrations, and particularly his autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, and his quote, “be the change you want to see in the world” will be remembered for centuries to come.

The Volusia County statistics on FedStats only include Whites, Blacks, American Indian and Alaska Natives, Asians, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders, and Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin. There are no statistics for Indian Americans. The U.S. Census Bureau reported on July 1, 1999 that the State of Florida contains an estimated 60,358 people of American Indian and Alaska Native origin, but it is unclear if this includes Indian Americans. Both the United States and Florida governments provide no information with regard to Indian Americans, because they recognize only the aforementioned six races. Notably, searching Google for “Indian American” without quotation marks returns only results regarding American Indians (Native Americans) on the first page. However, the Embassy of India in Washington, D.C. considers a Non-resident Indian (NRI) or Person of Indian Origin (PIO) to be anyone who has left India up to four generations removed. The Embassy says there are over 24 million such people, with 2,765,815 residing in the United States as of 2008.

A child immigrating from India would have to learn the English language and place a lesser focus on academics and memorization to thrive in the typical, interdisciplinary American classroom which includes recess, physical education, fewer students, mathematical calculators, and more artistic and creative assignments. While Indians and Asians are known for their strong work ethic and high intellectual intelligence, they may lack the emotional intelligence of their American peers. However, as with any skill, this can be learned or compensated for.

To accommodate Indian Americans, principals should hire more teachers who know Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, Punjabi, and other widely-spoken Indian languages. Similarly, the federal or state governments should provide grants or matching funds to purchase computerized translation devices or hire interpreters for Indian American students. At the same time, Indian American parents should make a concerted effort to learn American English fluently so they can communicate multi-linguistically with their children.

Finally, Indian Americans should be educated about United States heritage and history including the Constitution, our founding fathers, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, our conquest of the central North American continent, Alaska, Hawaii, Pearl Harbor, the atomic bomb, the September 11th attacks, the presidents, executive orders, the Supreme Court, Congress, the IRS, CIA, FBI, DHS, and TSA, state sovereignty, federal holidays, the U.S. Postal Service, baseball, apple pie, Puritanism, Protestantism and Catholicism as contrasted with Hinduism, Islam, and other religions in India, our relationship with Israel, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, OPEC, the European Union, and other governments, our status as a global economic and military power, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon, the Federal Reserve System, Harvard University, New York City, San Fransisco, Atlanta, Daytona Beach, the de-industrialization of the United States in the late 20th century, our dependence on China, and our contributions to all major fields of study including, but not limited to, the arts, music, sciences, medicine, pharmacology, military science, political science, and environmentalism. Particularly with the rise of not only the Internet, cell phones, Google, and Facebook, we live in a global, virtually interconnected world which facilitates the bidirectional sharing of information between nations, institutions, and individuals in multiple formats on a historically unprecedented scale.


C1: Population of India: 1,155,347,678 as of 2009 according to the World Bank’s Book of World Development Indicators.

C2: Volusia County MapStats from FedStats:

C3: Paragraph 7 of the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2003:

C4: 2000 U.S. Census: States Ranked by American Indian and Alaska Native Population, July 1, 1999:

C5: The Constitution of India, Revised 2008 July 29:



I decided to write my cultural paper about the people and government of India, including Indian Americans and with a major focus on the contributions of Mohandas Gandhi to Indian and global culture, independence, and philosophy. I haven’t learned APA style and I didn’t rewrite my essay or use citations, nor did I start it until 8pm before it was due, but I think it’s pretty good that I wrote a 2000 word essay in under 3 hours that doesn’t feel like (in my opinion), a bore to read.

You can find the full text of my paper here:

I think it’s very important for even elementary school teachers to have broad-spectrum knowledge of every major discipline, language, people, and culture, even if they never achieve mastery in any of them. Only then can they seamlessly flow from one topic to the next and present a complete picture of the world to their students in a way that is fascinating and inoffensive.