My Philosophy of Education
As one of my last assignments before I begin student teaching in the fall, I was asked to revise the philosophy of education that I submitted when I entered the program in 2009. I dusted it off (digital dust collects faster than real dust, you know) and started thinking about how it has changed in two years. In 2009 I was young(er) and (more) naive than I am now and I felt that the purpose of education was less about the individual child and their development, and more about the strength and quality of the students a school pumps out into the community. That's not entirely a bad thing - in fostering all domains of development in children, we are basically ensuring that they leave our classroom and go out into the world with strength, resiliency, self-respect, and a compassion for others that transcends all society-driven barriers between us.
But it's not the only reason that we teach. Effective teachers are able to bring a classroom's test scores up a few points on average, and if they're lucky, they'll get by without any conflicts with the families of their students. Effective teachers look at a full classroom and see several distinct groups forming, often based on ability, age, and sociability. Effective teachers don't harm children and they aren't bad teachers. But they could do better. And I want to do better.
Below you will find my revised philosophy statement. I realize that this is essentially Cory “talking the talk” and not demonstrating any real, practical understanding of the education field. If looked at as a series of goals, however, you’ll soon find that your guiding principles shouldbe based upon the most perfect utopian vision of education. Will you reach those goals? Will your students leave each year with a halo around their head, their craniums packed with knowledge, and their hearts filled with the determination to succeed at everything they attempt? Probably not, but striving to be the kind of teacher who can unlock a child’s true potential is harmless when compared to the teacher that decides that the system doesn’t allow them to do what needs to be done. And gives up. And becomes part of the cycle.
Feel free to ridicule me for my beliefs. Feel free to tell me that I will burn out, that it’s just not possible. If, in two or three years, I am homeless, living on the streets and picking up aluminum cans in order to get some spare cash… well, then you can say “I told you so”. Until then, let me have a shot at this teaching business.
“The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered.” – Jean Piaget
I believe that children are constantly constructing knowledge about their environment. Facts, figures, dates and times will be doomed to short-term memory if we treat children like boxes that can be stuffed with knowledge. True learning requires children to be active and engaged in meaningful tasks. It requires children to build upon the knowledge that they have already acquired. Our role as teachers is to provide students with the opportunity to apply their newfound skills, and to determine what they are capable of mastering with assistance from a peer or teacher.
I believe that an exceptional teacher uses every resource at his or her disposal. Why apply only one theory of learning to your curriculum if you can combine elements of several in your classroom? Lev Vygotsky teaches us that socialization is essential, and that teachers scaffold a child’s learning by providing an appropriate amount of support. Jean Piaget stresses the importance of children manipulating and interacting with objects. Urie Bronfenbrenner’s ecology of human development leads us to form respectful, reciprocal relationships with children and their families in order to maximize their potential for learning.
I believe in the importance of authentic assessments that help shape the curriculum. Tests do not determine a child or teacher’s worth. Tests should be used to evaluate a student’s progress, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and meet their unique needs as individuals. Furthermore, students should be invited to assess themselves whenever necessary.
I believe that I am responsible for supporting a child’s cognitive, physical, and socioemotional development. A teacher’s role is not only to help students acquire knowledge, but to help them grow into healthy and happy adults. Trust, autonomy, and initiative are important qualities that are first attained in early childhood, but can be irreparably damaged if the classroom does not foster it.
“A poor teacher complains, an average teacher explains, a good teacher teaches, a great teacher inspires.”