This journey of identifying my personal education philosophy has taught me what we as educators have to focus on, we have to concentrate on what unites us in our career choice, we have to always remember that we are providing a service, and the customer is our number 1 priority. We have to capitalize on all of our individual resources to improve on methods, conduct, and community relationships. We have to continuously reflect on why we chose to teach and more importantly, why we continue to stay.
Education Philosophy and Application
I have found that while developing my personal education philosophy there are many different components that attribute to its construction. To discuss philosophy, I would like to define philosophy; Philosophy is a human being's attempt to think speculatively, reflectively, and systematically about the universe and the human relationship to that universe. (Gutek, 52) I can relate to almost all of the major philosophies that we have studied in one way or another. Contributors to these philosophies have improved upon one another to provide us with all the pieces of establishing a system for today’s day and time. Today’s current teachers also vary widely on what their personal philosophy is, from traditionalists to more contemporary thought processes. This eclectic mix of instructors provides our students with a nice reality that there are differing ways to achieving common outcomes.
I had the privilege and honor to interview 7 fellow teachers in the Cincinnati Public School District, years of experience ranging from 3 to 30 years. I was pleased and surprised about what you can learn about yourself and other professionals based on 10 simple questions. Once reflecting on the interview notes I realized that I share many of the same principles and values with my interviewees. I did notice, however, we all used varying approaches and reasoning to achieve our end goals.
One of the things I noticed very quickly was the commonality of what inspired us to become a teacher. “My biggest inspiration to teach was my 8th grade language arts teacher. It was his first year teaching and you could tell the excitement he had for it. He encouraged us to think outside the box, and he implemented strategies and ideas that I had never been able to use before. He was amazing.”(Pascha) It was always a story of inspiration, the story of a teacher that did their job well and stimulated a young mind. An awakening, an excitement, and an awareness that every student deserves the opportunity to experience. I know in today’s society, it is harder and harder to stimulate a generation of “instant gratification” children, competing with the Internet, video games, television, and all of the other flashy gadgets sold to distract, means that we have to be more creative at how we approach learning. Consider this, “I have argued that intellectual excitement grows from teaching where (I) students see the discipline as one of central importance, but one in which not everything is yet settled, (ii) the teacher's enthusiasm for and commitment to the discipline is evident, and (iii) some striking demonstrations are introduced that will arouse students' curiosity and/or provoke reflection.” (Sowey 2001) I have noticed that teachers that are able to bring that excitement and commitment into the classroom have a much higher success rate with the individual and the class as a whole.
Society and an individual’s self defined reality dictates how we as human beings view philosophy, create an ideology, and accept theory. These views and beliefs guide us in our life, effect how and what we learn, and define who we are. For thousands of years scholars have been discussing and theorizing what the effects of nature, personal experiences, and beliefs have, and still have, on a society and the individual. I discovered very quickly that much of what was dictating my interviewees’ philosophy was determined by what they perceived to be real. As in the philosophy of Pragmatism, I feel that a human beings reality is based on that individuals’ experiences in their life combined with societal ideology. As a teacher, it is my goal to expose my students to as many different experiences and situations as possible, so that their reality can be expanded upon. I believe that we know what we know based both on experience and on our individual beliefs of reality, i.e. Spiritual, analytical, empirical evidence, etc. Challenging our students to question why and how they know what they know, as an individual and as a group, intensifies the learning experience.
“I believe that the number one problem in public schools is that they have taken God out of school. When I went to school, people prayed, and you didn’t have kids acting like they do today.” (Miller) Although, I do agree that children are more unruly today than historically, I do not believe that it is our right as teachers to debate, foster or instruct religious theory. . An idealist defines reality in spiritual nonmaterial terms; that which drives humankind is an obedience and love for a greater meaning or being. A realist believes that reality is objective, fixed and based on natural law. (Ornstein, 163). That seeing is believing and nature provides the answers. Whereas a pragmatist feels that a human being’s perception of reality is based on what experiences the individual and society has encountered. How each individual chooses a personal philosophy is based on what the individual perceives to be “real”. We have no right to take away or interfere in the parent’s right to formulate this belief system.
“Teachers today seem less professional, more laid back in dress, attitude, and conduct.”(Cooley) Ms. Cooley went on to talk about a local pub-crawl that many of the first and second year teachers had participated in and bragged about in front of students. She voiced her concern questioning what type of an example were they setting. As a teacher, it is my responsibility to make sure that expectations and guidelines are very clear. A teacher has a responsibility and duty to display and set the example of good moral conduct in the classroom and in life. Good moral conduct should encompass all aspects of the “Golden Rule”; the ethic of reciprocity is an ethical code that states one has a right to just treatment, and a responsibility to ensure justice for others. (Wikopedia) Every individual administrator and teacher are going to find different ways to balance their influence of moral beliefs and freedom of speech, the main thing that has to be considered are the right’s of the learner. A teacher has to ensure that his freedom of speech never steps on anyone else’s rights. Parents and Students have the right to expect the schools to be maintained in a safe, healthy, PG rating environment.
I believe being given the opportunity to instruct the youth of today and the leaders of tomorrow requires high moral and ethical standards to be met. Teachers, although they are still human, need to be held to a higher level of accountability than most other professions. We are not only being expected to instruct subject matter, but to set standards for the social ability of our students. This list of ethics would not only strengthen the profession, but society as a whole. I know it is difficult to enforce codes of ethics and morality, but as does a physician swear to hold up ethical standards, so should our teachers. We touch the lives of thousands of youth, promote their wellness, and educate their minds. Being entrusted with such a remarkable opportunity to mold our society requires an unwavering commitment.
“I believe that we as teachers are simply resources for our students. Students need to be able to learn on their own and with their peers, and teachers should provided students with structure and guidance. Children will not always have someone there to hold their hand and provide them with the answers.” (Bittner) Upon further probing, I realized Ms Bittner felt that the fundamentals and memorization of facts were not extremely important skills in education. Knowing the information was not nearly important as knowing how to find it. I feel that as the building blocks for societies, educational systems, have to devote much of our time to the philosophies of essentialism and pragmatism. We have to build confidence in our students based on them conquering skills. We have to nurture the entire child, the individual and the future productive member of society, incorporating existentialist ideology. We have to ground our philosophy utilizing realism to explain and instruct the explainable, leaving the unexplainable to individual preference. I feel that we have to always progress, reform, and improve upon proven methodology.
I feel that it is the teacher’s responsibility to get to know everyone of her/his students, their weaknesses and their strengths. To build a personal trust and mentorship with the learner, much as the early scholar pupil relationships were built. “One of the most difficult challenges I find is in the number of students we are expected to inspire and motivate. As well as the difficulties they have with home lives and outside influences. I initially thought this would be an easy hurdle to overcome. I have found it much more difficult than I had thought.” (Cooley) I have also realized that my inate desire for knowledge is not always shared by some of my students. That many have been “Left Behind” and have turned their energy’s towards the immediate, the now. I have found that many of the urban districts have lost their students attention before many of them are old enough to understand what and education is. We spend the majority of our time throwing curriculum at them without them ever understanding what we are trying to teach. During my first year, as a long term substitute for the Cincinnati Public School District, this philosophy was challenged at every level. I realized that I could not go in and expect my students to Want to know the information I was trying relay. I had to adjust my philosophy to nurture the whole individual. To make them believe in themselves, and to lead them to what a good education can provide. I had to make them want if for themselves, not for me, not for their parents, but for them. As a teacher, I foolishly thought, that this was already in place, that I could just share and they would as well. I have realized that our educational philosophy has to be tailored to who and where we are teaching. Many of today’s youth are lost, they have found that dealing drugs and being gang members are more advantageous paths than a good education. That the financial and societial awards of a good education do not compare to the instant rewards of the streets. We as educators and as a society have to change our students’ philosophies before we can ever institute our own.
The strongest concern my interviewees shared, was the reality of dealing with a system that is broken. The field of education is in dire need of an overhaul from the ground, up. With under achieving, misguided, bloated budget bureaucracies at the center of most public school systems, there is a lot that has to change to ensure the sanctity of learning. Administrators and Staff need to realize and recommit themselves to the career they have chosen. This is not a show up to work and collect a paycheck job, we have been entrusted with an important responsibility, to educate and stimulate the future business people, teachers, and community leaders of our nation.
Due to NCLB policies’, they fear that many states and districts have had no choice but to lower standards and expectations. As we are all aware, funding is necessary to keep our public schools operational. No Child Left Behind states clearly, that if certain expectations are not met, schools will be subject to closures or reorganization. Many states and districts have been forced to lower expectations not only for the entire institution, but for the individual learner as well. Students being placed on Individual Educational Plans, IEP’s, not due to learning disabilities, but due to academic achievement gaps. We are not only hurting and cheating these students, but we are cheating society as a whole.
Standardized testing being the qualitative measure by which NCLB evaluates and rates our schools is a failed practice. We have known for decades that standardized tests are not a reliable evaluation for a vast population of students. In the Cincinnati Public School District, standardized testing has reduced instruction time by five weeks a year, this is not including the extensive preparation time. The students are tested quarterly for one week, to make sure that they are reaching set forth benchmarks. Then, of course, we have the annual OAT’s, which in today’s school systems is the sacred measure of a year’s worth of blood, sweat and tears. We structure class work and curriculum to model the language of these infamous tests, to make sure that the students aren’t thrown off by the different wording. What ever happened to teaching the English language well enough that we could follow directions? Accountability plays such an important role in NCLB, that administration and staff have altered decades of proven techniques to make room for instruction of test taking strategies. The students are not getting the basics, the 3R’s of ole.
I feel that a true commitment to the children on behalf of the government, the school system, and the parents are absolutely the most important steps to us thriving as an educated nation. Although technology is a great asset, we have to give our children a strong foundation in the rudimentary fundamentals. We have to hold the child, the parents, and the system accountable to ensure every child receives an adequate education. We have to stop making excuses, and we have to stop patting ourselves on the back. “It takes a village to raise a child. “
I have discovered that what unites most teachers in their field is why they continue to be a teacher. “I have been discouraged many times and wondered if I was in the correct profession, but it’s those few students who at the end of the year, say you were such an incredible teacher. I enjoyed being in your classroom, and I really enjoyed the hands-on activities we worked on. It is all about the kids. We don’t do this for the money or anything else. We get into teaching because we believe we can make a difference even if only in the life of one child, and it makes it all worth it. And we come across the students whose lives we have impacted and we know that what we do, does make a difference.” (Pascha) Just as the reasons were similar for why we became teachers, the reasons for why we remain ring familiar. I feel that the teachers that had been in the field longer were more appreciative and reminiscent about question. Very eager to share stories of successful adults and family men that have returned to Thank them for caring.
I embrace teaching as an opportunity to inspire and empower. As a teacher, it is my goal to enhance student learning as a personal growth experience. Ideally, I want students to feel personally changed by their participation in my class. Relaying an understanding that social and political forces shape the construction of knowledge, that the winners’ write the history books, and that the losers’ have a variation on the same exact history that we do not teach. This encourages them to think outside the box, to examine what they know, and why they know it. I work to encourage students to examine boundaries by guiding them to make what they know strange and question how they have come to know what they believe to be true about their world. This helps students see boundaries, whether personal or social, as constructed and affords them an opportunity to challenge and move beyond them.
I sincerely feel to be a good teacher you have to incorporate a few different philosophies to make sure that you are educating the whole child. If I have to pick one philosophy that I can relate to most, the philosophy that I align myself most closely to would be progressivism. Progressivism is the term that refers to ideologies and movements favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement, or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are.
I take a very progressive approach in my day-to-day instruction. I work with my students, and they with each other, to find new and exciting ways to make what they are learning have validity. Thus, giving them the power to be vested in the learning process, not only as students, but as creators as well. Progressivism is a very vague term that can encompass many different applications to achieve the goal of reform and progress. We incorporate proven methods, such as, mastering multiplication facts, and phonetic development and combine them with new technologies and techniques to improve the learning process. The students interact with one another and develop social qualities such as cooperation and tolerance for different points of view. In addition, students solve problems in the classroom similar to those they will encounter in their everyday lives. I believe that education should be a process of ongoing growth, not just preparation for becoming an adult.
I feel that to educate the entire child more than one personal education philosophy is needed. A teacher needs to discover what philosophy or philosophies work in today’s classroom dependent upon the teacher and on society. I incorporate essentialism, perennialism, and progressivism, with a dash of realism to challenge and foster my students as individuals and as productive members of society. It is my goal for my students to have complimenting dimensions, a strong individualistic nature that works and plays well with other members of society.