Goal: What Do You Believe?

Part of the Goals 2010 Challenge Series, Goal 19

One of my favorite NPR shows is This I Believe where people from all walks of life share their personal beliefs. This is in the form of an essay, which if selected is read on the radio and sometimes shared in a book. Reflection is important for our growth and to solidify our personal beliefs. Sometimes, I will browse through my writings and journals I completed years ago. I like to see what I thought then and evaluate how much these beliefs have been refined. I like to see what I steadily hold on to and which beliefs I have discarded.

We all have first-hand experiences about the learning process. We understand how we learn best. We have spent four years or more learning and testing several learning theories. We have observed the way our students with various learning needs think, evaluate, problem solve, and inquire. We have evaluated how our own children learn. As educators we sometimes forget to reflect on the educational philosophies we wrote when we first started teaching. Are your beliefs about how students learn still the same? Do you still believe the same instructional methods you first used are effective? Do you believe the way you were taught is still relevant for students today?

I know my educational beliefs have changed and today reflection is my short-term goal. However, by the end of the year I want to develop a new educational philosophy. I am a different teacher than when I first started and perhaps you are a bit different, too?

Our Students

We can also inspire our students to reflect on their beliefs. One way is by having them submit This I Believe essays. This statement should focus on one core belief and be 350 to 500 words. Visit the This I Believe website for more tips and to submit your students’ essays. You can take this one step further and have students make a video essay they can share with their peers. Below is a video of Michelle Gardner-Quinn’s This I Believe essay. Many famous actresses are reading this essay, because two days after Michelle wrote this essay she was murdered. Her essay has been shared at the Live Earth concerts and published. You can read the transcript of her essay here.

Please visit Michelle Gardner-Quinn’s foundation, Michelle’s Earth Foundation, that continues to improve the environment.

You can check out this post where I state some of my philosophies about teaching with technology.


Reflect on what you believe and inspire your students to reflect on what they believe.

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This is goal 19 of this series! If you’d like to join the challenge, please read this post with more details!

Don’t forget to leave a comment that you accomplished this goal using the hashtag #30Goals!

If you are inspired, tell us what you believe in a video comment! You can also share links to your educational philosophies, students’ belief statements, blogs with belief statements, or videos/ podcasts of belief statements.

Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) is an award winning digital innovator, an international speaker/consultant, and the author of Hacking Digital Learning with EdTech Missions, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught English language learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert by organizations, like the US Embassy, UNESCO Bangkok, Cultura Inglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, ISTEK Turkey, and Venezuela TESOL. She has been recognized by several organizations and publications as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development as the founder and organizer of various online conferences, Twitter chats, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Two of the projects she co-organized were shortlisted for ELTons, #ELTChat and the Virtual Round Table Language and Technology online conference. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning. Her greatest joy is being the mother of baby Savannah and Rosco the pug. Shelly has an Honors BA in English with a Minor in Communication and a specialization in Electronic Media from UTSA, a Masters in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix, and a CELTA from CELT Athens. She regularly shares her tips for effective technology integration via Twitter (@ShellTerrell), Facebook.com/ShellyTerrell, and on her blog, TeacherRebootCamp.com, which has won several awards and recognitions as one of the top ESL, Edtech and Elearning blogs. Find over 400 of her slide presentations at https://www.slideshare.net/ShellTerrell/presentations


  1. […] Everyone has them. So when @ShellTerrell suggested reflection on your personal beliefs as goal #19 in the #30Goals challenge on Teacher Reboot Camp, I had to question the beliefs that I held. What do I believe? And do I still […]

  2. Fascinating and stimulating post. This is where it has led me (as ever off at a slight tangent).

    One of the thoughts that has been swirling round my head quite a lot recently is this:

    The language learners who worry me the most are those that keep on doing exactly the same thing. If the same thing means a mistake, then I am worried that I am not helping them to learn from their mistakes. If the same thing means getting it right all the time, then I am worried that they have simply stopped learning and I am not giving them the right input or I am not engaging them sufficiently to make them want to learn more.

    By the same token is it fair to say that teachers who keep doing the same thing have stopped learning how to teach and have fossilised? For me it is. The teacher/fossil is a dangerous beastie simply because to my knowledge no one has yet come up with the perfect teaching system. Change/process/learning/teaching are 4 inextricably linked concepts.

    • Dominic,

      I enjoy your thinking. I was mulling over fossilization with my director this week. I like how you connect this with teachers. Yes, I have met many teachers in the system who represent what you have said. They are burnt out and stopped learning. However, I realize there is a root to this problem and maybe taking care of the root should be the focus. One of the best teachers I know has “burnt out” this year. I thought it would never happen to this teacher, but it did. This made me start to wonder how we lose great teachers. Perhaps, this is another post?

      • @Shelly Terrell,
        what a wonderful forum this is. Yes, how do you lose our best teachers? First, I have to put it out there–I elieve that good teachers will probably never be paid what they are truly worth, especially in certain settings. And yes, some move on because they simply cannot support a family on that income if they are the sole provider. But in my observation that is not the main reason good teachers leave, because educators don’t get into the field with money as their primary motivator in the first place. I don’t have all the answers but I’ll throw a few out that applied to me to see if they resonate with anyone. First I felt teaching is a game for the passionate and I felt I was beginning to lose the passion. I also began to suspect I had limited ability to motivate my students–“either they were intrinsically motivated or they weren’t,” and I became discouraged by those who didn’t respond to me. Finally, I wondered if what I did in the classroom on any given day would make a difference to anyone ten years from now. I think today (now in a more admin role but looking back on teaching with some nostalgia) that there are ways to rebut/counter all of these thoughts–what do you think?
        Susan M

        • Susan,

          I agree that teachers don’t get into the field thinking they will be paid a lot. I agree that passion is key. However, I believe reflection is also key. There has to be a time when we step back and evaluate ourselves. If we do this frequently, then we can evaluate if we are losing passion or getting burnt out and find the root of these problems. I have to often step back and evaluate. Sometimes, I want to accomplish too much, then my students will say something and I realize is the stress worth it. I rather be happy about the teaching which has greater impact on the students then accomplishing too much and stressing the students out because I am stressed. This only begins to touch on this subject.

  3. I love this idea. This would be a great way to get to know my students at the beginning of the school year or a semester. Sometimes we, as teachers, forget that students have their own sets of beliefs that truly do impact their learning. If I could gain some insight into what they believe, I could find better ways to reach them. Great job!


  4. After reading your post, I went on a search for the educational philosophy I wrote 8 years ago in college. It was fun to see how my ideas have evolved and grown and which core values I still hold. What a great exercise in reflection, thank you for the challenge!

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