My Personal Philosophy of Education
Through out history, the human race has had a genuine interest in education and some have suggested that teaching is one of the oldest professions known to man. Children are born “void” of much knowledge, in that they are illiterate and ignorant of many things that are considered the norms and achievements of a society in which they have been placed. With the aid of teachers and educational resources, children begin learning the basic skills to read, write, and socially interact in a culturally diverse society in a very short period of time (Rozycki 1999). The purpose of education is to equip and prepare individuals with the skills and tools necessary to follow their dreams while allowing them to participate and compete in their society as independent citizens. Education is also an avenue that will prepare individuals to think for themselves as well as make moral and ethical decisions. The way in which educators teach their students is usually built around some sort of philosophy or a number of philosophies. Educational philosophy is a controversial subject that not everyone totally agrees on. But nevertheless philosophy has become the basis of educational styles and has enabled teachers to develop certain educational principles as they relate to students and schools (Webb, Metha, & Jordan 2010). My philosophy of education does not center around just one philosophy but instead is the result of many influences such as personal experience, instruction, intuition, and a combination of philosophies used by educators of the past. I hope to teach elementary grades 1-4, because I want to touch a child's life early in their development so that I will have an instrumental part in helping them build a solid foundation that will lead to their success in life.
There are many diverse meanings as to what the purpose of education should be because many educators define the purpose of education around their own values and experiences. Because of the differences in beliefs, the experiences of learners in today's schools will also be different. In my opinion, many times schools put too much emphasis on SAT and other test scores in defining the purpose of education. This is a mistake because the purpose of education to me entails more than a test score. I believe the aim of education is to attempt to instill a desire for learning and teach children how to think for themselves rather than what to think. Within every child is a need to be love, respected, and shown acts of kindness in order to unlock and cultivate the treasures and gifts placed in them. I also feel education should be a means to equip learners on developing their minds so that they can become productive citizens in an ever growing and changing society. I want to leave children with a desire to persistently ask questions thereby continually seek more knowledge. My beliefs about education encompass the whole person therefore this will lay at the heart of my teaching behaviors.
I believe a schools purpose should be one that desires to equip all learners to be productive citizens in their local community as well as have the ability to compete in the economic global society. Schools should provide multiple learning opportunities that would offer each student a high quality of education along with promoting respect for diversity, equality, and social fairness (Webb, Metha, & Jordan 2010). Schools have the ability to provide a social setting which would stimulate students to act as a member of a unity instead of a single entity. John Dewey was an educational leader of the 1800's who believed that the demands placed on a child in a social setting brings out the child's inherent powers. It is through these channels of demands that individuals learn to act in harmony with society as a whole thereby rising out of their narrow minded world of actions and feelings into the unity of a group in which they belongs. Dewey also believes schools should not only be a place for acquiring strictly “educational knowledge”, but also a place that provides moral education in an effort to produce ethical, productive citizens (Noddings 1998). A school's purpose should also be one that aims to provide a safe environment that encourages knowledge while at the same time nurtures the development and growth of each individual.
I believe that students are individuals (and should be treated that way), who bring a unique set of needs and abilities to the classroom and they should be responsible for much of their own learning especially as they grow and mature. This core belief represents a combination of three different classical educational philosophies: Neo-Thomism, Idealism, and Existentialism.
Neo-Thomism is rooted in the thoughts of Thomas Aquinas. “Essence precedes existence” is a distinctive feature that exists in Neo-Thomism along with a strong belief that God exists and can be recognized through faith and reason (Webb, Metha, & Jordan 2010). God is the Supreme Being and creator of all things including human beings, physical objects, minds, and ideas. They also believe there are different levels in knowing God with the highest level being through revelation and knowledge gained could not diverge from or be conflicting with revelation. Human beings are seen as a unit: spirit, soul, and body of which are interdependent. Like Neo-Thomism I view humans as valuable entities created with dignity and worth. I also carry a strong believe that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God and possess a mind that needs to be cultivated and used to its highest degree. The Neo-Thomism hold high regards for ethics and moral values and that God established unchanging moral laws that can be discerned by reason.
Idealism, the oldest philosophy known to man, is the philosophy of education that would also closely emulate my own. Idealists have different opinions on some of the specifics but they do agree on two main elements. The first is that the spirit is the most important aspect of the human life and the second is that everything in the universe is essential non-material. In other words, matter, is not real, it is rather an idea formed in the mind (Webb, Metha & Jordan 2010).
According to Webb, Metha, and Jordan (2010), p. 52, “Idealism stresses mind over matter”. The epistemology is that nothing exists in the physical world that did not exist first in an individual's thoughts and spirit. Idealists believe that a person can know something intuitively without ever using the five senses. Idealists also believe that man's spirit has all wisdom in it and knowledge is an act of recall. This is based on man being eternal and everything he will ever need is already available in his spirit where God dwells (Cohen, 1999). Education is based on bringing this knowledge to the conscious mind. The philosophy of Idealism claims that it is the teacher's responsibility to motivate students to be responsive to ideas and be proud of and talk about their cultural heritage (Van Nuland, 2001).
This philosophy is like mine in that it purposes to develop the mind and self of the student. Idealists also have intentions to teach moral and value education in which I am also a strong proponent of. Curriculum is based around activities that stimulate the intellect, develop critical thinking skills, as well as, develop morals, values, self-realization, responsibility, and self-control.
Although I do not agree with all the aspects of Existentialism, I do support its belief that places a great amount of emphasis on individuality. They believe the primary role of a teacher is to facilitate opportunities for learning thereby improving student success. I believe, as a teacher, one of my primary roles is to teach students to become their own person while making responsible choices.
Teachers play many multifaceted roles everyday in the life of a student. First and foremost, I believe teachers must have a love for children as well as have a passion and desire to make a positive difference in their lives. Teachers have a responsibility to provide a safe environment that respects cultural diversity. When students feel valued and secure with their environment, it increases their chances of success. A good teacher is not one who rules like a dictator but instead respects each individual and acts as a guide for them. Depending on the needs of the students, educators need to develop the curriculum so that it is designed to meet those needs and guide them toward success. Teachers also have the responsibility of modeling ethical and moral behavior because often time's students look up to them. Finally, I believe teachers should always treat learners as individuals who bring a unique set of needs and abilities to the classroom and who should be encouraged to become responsible for their own learning.
My ideal vision of the way schools should be regarding curriculum consist of a few major key points. First, a curriculum should allow learners to practice and experience equality. Next, I believe a curriculum should create a safe, warm, environment where students come together for a common goal. It should enable students opportunities for critical thinking while at the same time allow students to solve problems by applying learned knowledge (Webb, Metha & Jordan 2010). Finally, a curriculum should reinforce respect for diversity as well as make learning applicable to valid issues. I believe it is essential that character education should be included in every curriculum. Teaching students ethical and moral behaviors such as respect, responsibility, positive attitude, self-discipline, caring, trustworthiness should be included in every curriculum. These are vital characteristics that individuals need to go into the real world and be successful. Character education is best taught by the teacher modeling the behaviors. I believe every time a teacher comes in contact with a student, they help in shaping the character of that child. Character education is simple helping students understand and put in practice core moral values (Webb, Metha & Jordan 2010).
The instructional strategy that I tend to defend would be Perennialism. Perennialism believes that teaching should comprise of not only addressing one's intellect but teaching principles that will have an everlasting effect on the student. Perennialism focuses on personal development so that students will feel a sense of value and worth and I believe this is essential to have life long success. Perennialists are most interested in tried and true teaching methods that have had the ability to discipline a student's mind. They also believe that students should be taught to think deeply, critically, and with great imagination (Webb, Metha & Jordan 2010).
An assessment or an evaluation is an essential part of instruction. Not only are assessments used to find out how much a student has learned but they can be used as a tool for teachers in evaluating their teaching methods. I believe assessments are useful in that they provide me, the teacher, pertinent information on areas that the students may need more help and whether they are ready to move on the more challenging material. Many times students do not do well on test, so observation and questioning students one on one is another form of assessment that would be valuable for student and teacher alike. Another form of assessment would include giving children an opportunity to correct their work and learn from their mistakes thus giving them a chance to improve their grade.
I believe students have many important roles in their education. The most important role for students to have concerning their education is to be actively engaged in their learning. Engaged learners become responsible and self-regulated learners who are able to set goals and achieve them. I believe learning energizing them thus leading to a lifelong mission to seek more knowledge and a passion to transfer this knowledge in a way that solves problems creatively. Students should also take the role of an explorer. Exploring the physical world and interaction with other students allows one to discover greater concepts and apply different skills. Students should be encouraged to think critically about new concepts and skills learned while at the same time determine how these discoveries can be integrated in real life situations. Self-discipline, responsibility, positive attitude, motivation and respect are character traits that ultimately are up to the student to acquire for their long-term success. I believe infants and young children are intrinsically motivated to learn which is often seen in the form of curiosity and an immense desire to explore their environment.
Unfortunately, when children get older the motivation seems to dwindle. When children come from a loving and nurturing environment, they will tend to take risk and have a better attitude toward their education verses when children exhibit low self-worth and fear failure. Goal setting as well as the reviewing the teaching methods used by the teacher will impact the child's motivation to learn.
Child abuse and child neglect in the home are two risk factors that can cause a young child to miss a lot of school and fall below grade level academic achievement. If I ever suspect child maltreatment, immediate intervention must take place for their safety as well as success in school. Victims of children abuse will often exhibit a number of different behavior changes including anger, aggression, withdrawal, anxiety, or fear (Webb, Metha & Jordan 2010). The first moral and legal thing I would do is to report any suspicion of child abuse or neglect. Next, I believe programs should be set up in the schools to educate children on what is appropriate discipline and what is not, and in the case of sexual abuse, what is the appropriate touch and what is not. Sometimes children are afraid and do not know a way out. It is important that a child feels safe and comfortable enough to confide in a teacher so that appropriate measures can be taken to stop the abuse. Also I would recommend the child to the school counseling department to help him/her work through the problems.
One of the most important things that a teacher needs to be successful is a teaching philosophy. My philosophy of education is centered on three mutually supporting concepts: relationships, environment, and feedback. I believe when there is a positive student-teacher relationship; the child is much more apt to excel in school. Children need know they are loved and valued and it is up to me, as their teacher, to treat each with respect, dignity, and equality. I believe the learning environment should be democratic, in that it is a place of shared responsibilities. The student has the responsibility to do what it takes to learn while the teacher acts as a guide. I must welcome diversity and provide an environment which allows all learners to have an equal voice. As a teacher, feedback is necessary for me, and can be obtained in a variety of ways. Not only is feedback good in assessing students but it also gives me pertinent information on the teaching strategies that I am using. This will cause me to continually strive to find better, learner centered, approaches to teaching. The elements of my philosophy will be the source of the enthusiasm for creating this type of environment and of the passion for teaching and my own ongoing learning. These two emotions, enthusiasm and passion, coupled with student success, will become the foundation of my teaching practice and my desire to stay in the game for many years to come.
As teacher I not only want, but need feedback. Feedback can be obtained in a variety of ways. In my classes feedback comes from such activities as assignments, term papers, exams, and peer or self evaluation. While such forms of feedback can be used solely as a source for student assessment, I believe the information can also be used as a reflective tool to ascertain my success in guiding students through the learning experience. If the students' assessment results are not positive, I need to reflect on how I can improve the course to ensure students will experience success. Peer and student evaluations offer a valuable feedback. Yet, I find peer and student evaluations create two opposing and challenging feelings - anxiety and need. My anxiety is finding out I did not meet a personal goal of offering a positive learning experience to all students. My need is to find out what I can do to improve the course - to ensure student success. Past experience with evaluations indicate my need is much stronger than my anxiety, as I enjoy the challenge of reorganizing and modifying course content. I also enjoy the challenge of trying to offer different ways to involve students, by incorporating role plays, dioramas, and class debates. In addition, feedback encourages me to employ different methods of assessing student growth, such as, creating portfolios, varying the types of assignments. My experience suggests that a student takes more ownership, becomes more involved in, a learning experience if they can be active participants in determining how their progress will be assessed.
Noddings, N., (1998). Thoughts on john dewey's “ethical principles underlying education. Retrieved on from http://www.humboldt.edu/~cca/AIE491/courseReadings/noddings.doc.
Rozycki, E. (1999). Philosophy and education: what's the connection? Retrieved from http://www.newfoundations.com/EGR/PhilEdCon.html
Van Nuland, S. (2001). The developing reflective role model teacher building a personal philosophy of teaching continues to meet and debate philosophy. Retrieved from
Webb, D., Metha, A., Jordan, F., (2010). Foundation's of american education.
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education