Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My Educational Philosophy

"I am not a teacher; only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead–ahead of myself as well as of you. "

My teaching philosophy is to be an advocate for learners of all creeds and backgrounds by offering a diverse and nurturing learning environment. As a teacher I believe in assuring that every student develops confidence, competence and independence through the education they receive in my classroom. My mission is to offer a challenging, safe and secure learning environment that promotes high academic standards, fosters self-esteem, and empowers students to be well-rounded individuals who are life long learners and productive members of society. I am student centered in my approach to teaching and I believe my role is a guide along the trail of learning.

While studying the many different philosophies of education I related most to Social Reconstructionism, Progressivism, and Existentialism. I believe that these philosophies are student centered and more progressive than the other philosophies. After reading about Essentialism and Perennialism, I realized they were very different from how I view the role of teacher and schools. The ideas related to students learning key things and enjoying the learning process I did believe to be true. I feel my philosophy puts the learner first and allows for new an innovative ways of teaching.

There are three main philosophies that I share many common beliefs with. I want to look at each one and then some of the statements I related to most strongly. The first and highest scoring amongst the three was Social Reconstructivism. The main concept that Freire focuses on in this philosophy is that school can be a place where people can gather education and rise above their socioeconomic status and then turn around and offer a hand to others who are in need of help through education and reform. Freire wanted to rebel against-institutions that create oppression and treat the elite as if they deserve wealth and the poor as if they deserve their situation. Freire believed if we do not learn in school how to change the world for the better, where will we?

The statement from the philosophy I most identified with from Social Reconstructivism was, “Education should enable students to recognize injustices in society, and schools should promote projects to redress social inequities”. I do not think there is a subject that a good teacher could not tie to that statement. Math teaches the numbers and statistics of our poor and mistreated, language teaches us the way to express ourselves in order to reach out to other cultures and groups. Education can help us make the world a better place for ourselves through success in education and for others by what we contribute to society.

The second philosophy I related with was the Progressivism philosophy. I think education should be about progress and giving the learner the tools they will need in an ever changing world. As I watched the news I saw a great example of Dewey’s real world experience learning on television. A local school had a smashed car on display to show teens the negative effects of reckless driving. This was teaching the kids a real world lesson that could save their lives. In education if we can give the student the experiences that can create great thinkers it is a valuable way to teach. You can have gravity explained to you a thousands times but the first time you try to fly from your roof it really sinks in. Personally I am a strong believer in real life experiences. After college I traveled Europe for 3 months and learned more there than I had in many a classroom. The concept that best describes my take on Progressivism is, “The gap between real world and schools should be bridged through field trips, internships, and adult mentors”. This becomes painfully obvious to fresh from college graduates who sit in an interview and are asked, “What experience do you have?” This gap between the textbook and the real world is often wide and deep and it should be a main objective of teachers to fill it.

The third area I encompass in my own beliefs is Existentialism. This philosophy is learning through self-direction. No one can tell you what you value but yourself. This teaches you to decide for yourself what you want to do with your life. This is very important. Too many times people wake up at age 40 and say, “What have I done with my life?” It would be better to be guided in this question at an early age with the help of an experienced teacher. “Effective teachers help student to discover and develop their personal values, even when those values conflict with traditional ones”.

My philosophy of teaching is concentrated around the goals I would like to accomplish as a teacher. My ambition is to teach learners to use higher-level cognition is every subject I teach and take these skills with them in every aspect of their life. To help learners develop creative thinking and learn to be self guided will be a valuable tool they can carry with them as they develop. I do believe that reflection and adaptation of my teaching style will benefit me and the learner. I love to learn and teach and plan on sharing this passion with every student every day in my classrom.