Monday, April 8, 2013

Philosophy of Education

I have been asked a couple of times what my philosophy of education is.  It would be so easy if I subscribed to one pure philosophy, but, like learning styles, there is not one belief to which I could wholeheartedly adhere.

My philosophy is this:

All students have the ability to learn.  Regardless of learning style or ability, students have talents.  While some talents do not necessarily translate to success in school, all students can do something well. If the student knows what talent he possesses, I believe the teacher should try to work with that talent.  For example, if I have a student who is a pianist and I am teaching To Kill a Mockingbird, I could research famous pianists of the times (both when the book was written and when the book took place) and play that music at the beginning of class.  While it doesn't help the student learn the themes of the book or offer lessons on characterization, it does make an effort to help a student become interested.

Teachers need to care.  Students want someone who genuinely cares about them.  Teachers should not be wooden people in the lives of their students.  We are human.  We make mistakes.  We tell stories.  We mean well.  All of that makes up a good teacher.  I like to tell stories.  While my stories are related to the lesson I am teaching, I use them to get students interested.  By telling stories of my life, I am modeling how students can relate their life events to the material at hand.  So, even if I'm teaching sentence diagrams, I can get kids interested by telling how I had trouble with them when I was in 8th grade.  And then tell them how when I was a first year teacher a parent suggested I teach sentence diagrams to her son to help him learn grammar.  I was scared, but I tried it and my student learned grammar.  I also show students I care when I use them as examples in the sentences I write for diagramming.

Students do not need to know a lesson's objective; students need to know how the lesson will apply to their lives.  While my students have never celebrated lessons on grammar, I have been able to show them how the building blocks of language will serve them in any avenue of life.  We need to communicate clearly to excel.  Grammar is but a step on that path.

Teachers need to do their part.  They need to come to class prepared and provide feedback in a reasonable period of time.  Students should not have to wait a month to get a graded essay back.  Students should know immediately if they are on track or not.  I believe teachers need to look at the accuracy of homework -- even if we do not grade it -- to ascertain if the material is being learned.  If students are having difficulty, the teacher should make him or herself available to the students.

Students need to do their part.  I will work in an environment where students are not required to do homework; however, they must work in the classroom.  Becoming a better reader takes practice.  Becoming a better writer requires practice.  Learning and mastering skills requires work.

Every project we assign should have a piece that requires reflection.  All students should be taught how to reflect on the work they do.  All teachers should have the opportunity to reflect on the work they do.

Good teachers are willing learners.

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