Brad Craddock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Philosophy of Teaching

There are moments in teaching when I am reminded of my vocation. After a recent production of a former student’s new play, she took me aside to thank me. I had, she said, prepared her not only for a successful freshman year at university, but helped her find her creative voice. While not uncommon to any teacher, these affirming moments crystalize the good we do as educators. Education is a life-changing event. As an urban teacher, I am proud to be poised at the crucial moments of a person’s growth. The stories we tell each other carry the gamut of human wisdom and experience. Language Arts education enables us to communicate in the present while simultaneously connecting us to the past. Education, as John Gardner writes, “improves us.” It brings us together, it teaches us wisdom, and once given, cannot be rescinded.

For fifteen years I have taught creative writing and literature at Rochester’s School of the Arts (SOTA), alternating the responsibility of running the department with two other instructors. School of the Arts is Rochester’s best performing high school. It has consistently shown a graduation rate in the mid-90%—a statistic that rivals many suburban schools. People often attribute SOTA’s achievement to our audition process. While auditions help ensure that students attending SOTA want to be there, it does not explain why the school has been so peculiarly successful when other district schools with similar selection criteria have not. I believe that SOTA’s success stems from the centrality of communication to the school’s liberal arts curriculum. All art, whether musical, physical, verbal, or visual, is centrally about communication. Communication is a bridge between two minds and communicating effectively requires critical thinking. One must dismantle and organize one’s thoughts, then reconstruct them in a manner that is appealing and convincing to others. Although taught in the context of art, the ability to critically approach one’s own thoughts, and the thoughts of others, is at the core of successful education and skills developed in one discipline improve all others. Throughout my teaching career I have helped students from the Rochester City School district obtain these critical skills.

Students are, by inclination, hands-on learners. In my curriculum design and classroom management, from public performances to crafting poetry in off-site workshops, I endeavor to include a variety of ways to engage and inspire students from a diverse background. Students in my classes are not idle. They are asked to brainstorm, discuss rigorous questions, create stories, scripts, and poems, read and analyze texts critically, as well as learn how to become better communicators. Experiential and cooperative learning techniques are useful in building a classroom community, as are the 21st century learning skills and methods I use in my classes through blogs and online forums. I foster the development of these interpersonal and communication skills by designing a curriculum that addresses the diverse needs of our student body, as well as establishing an organized classroom environment that is safe, supportive, and when possible, entertaining. By successfully preparing students to appreciate and seek out opportunities to enrich their lives, we make life-long learners that enrich our community.

For more about my work in the Fellows Program, please see my e-portfolio on Writing Across Cultures:  Problem-Based Learning and Cross-Sector Strategies in 12th Grade Creative Writing.