When I applied for my current teaching position, I had to write a one page educational philosophy. I later discovered that this was a common assignment in ed classes. However, since I hadn’t taken any education classes in college, I was on my own 🙂 The prompt I said should be certain to address the purpose of education, classroom management, and the role of technology in the classroom. Looking back almost two years later, there are a few phrases that make me cringe slightly, but in general I’d stick by what I wrote. Looking back I hear a fair amount of Plato and Aristotle in my writing, although I wasn’t particularly conscious of that at the time I wrote it.
My Educational Philosophy (March 2008)
The best education offers a student opportunities to “live” the subject, to imagine the intersections of his or her life and the subject. A student’s experience of a subject is enhanced when material is presented in a variety of ways. I try to teach lessons that involve the senses and utilize varying methods of assessment. In this way, all students get the opportunity to learn and display what they have learned.
I believe that technology can play an important role in the classroom experience. For my history class, I regularly used multimedia presentations to allow students to encounter not only words about history but also photographs, art, and music. Students created advertisements for 17th century American colonies, interactive timelines of the Revolutionary War and used electronic archives to examine artifacts and then present the information they gleaned. Technology has its limits, though. Some days I felt it was important to spend time focusing on the human interaction that occurs in the classroom. While I am aware of the increasing role technology has in our daily lives, for me the “magic” of the classroom happens in the interaction both between teacher and student and between individual students. When used wisely, technology can enhance this interaction. A good teacher both models and instructs students in productive and thoughtful use of technology.
Discipline in the classroom is not merely a matter of keeping kids quiet and preventing them from jumping out windows; it is teaching practices which enable a student to develop self-discipline. Cultivating good discipline in classroom behavior spills over to good discipline in life, work, and study. To offer a student the tools to practice self-discipline ultimately serves both the ends of a well-ordered classroom and preparation for a well-ordered life. Expecting that students will discipline themselves (with guidance and training from adults) also keeps students from chafing under what they perceive to be dictatorial authority. In the past months of teaching, I have found that my self-discipline as a teacher affects the amount to which I need discipline my students. I am convinced that students are able to perceive when I am well-prepared and when I am not. A well-prepared teacher affects the atmosphere of the entire classroom.
Education ought to be about the business of formation. A good educator should work himself or herself out of a job, at least with regard to a particular student, by cultivating in students the habits that they need. If the teacher is merely a conduit for facts that a student is to learn, the student will be eternally dependent upon the teacher.
A good education ought to also inspire in children a love for learning. While every student may not be thrilled by every subject, the delight of a teacher in his or her subject can often be contagious. As one of my 5th grade students wrote, a teacher’s enthusiasm can “sorta rub off on you.”