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Philosophy of Education

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” I agree with this educational quote because I believe it is more important for students to be passionate about learning than to memorize facts. In my future classroom, I want to ignite a flame in my students to love learning and seek deeper understandings instead of just retaining facts for a test. This belief is part of my personal philosophy of education, developed after considering current educational philosophies, and reflecting on my own experiences in education. My philosophy of education is valuable as a future teacher because it will affect various aspects of teaching and learning, including learning goals, teaching practices, and classroom management.

The two major and opposing philosophies of education in contemporary American schools are teacher-centered and student-centered viewpoints. Teacher-centered viewpoints include essentialism, perennialism, and behaviorism (Oakes, Lipton, Anderson & Stillman 2013). Student-centered viewpoints include progressivism, humanism, and constructivism. These viewpoints are in opposition in terms of “aims of education, educational practices, the dichotomy of authority versus freedom, and the uses of subject matter” (Witcher, Sewall, Arnold & Travers 2001). By studying these traditional and progressive educational philosophies, I decided that my personal philosophy of education is a combination of both.

Additionally, my teaching experience  has shaped my personal philosophy of education. I have worked with a diverse population, including students with zero-English, special needs, and at-risk students.

With today’s technology, students could “Google” it when they need to find out facts. For that reason, simply memorizing facts is not necessary or enough in the 21st century. More importantly, today students need to become critical thinkers and problem solvers. My overall learning goal for my students is to understand foundations of content areas instead of learning by rote. For example, they would be able to analyze the information and determine whether the information is accurate. In this student-centered progressivist viewpoint, the focus is on teaching divergent points of view and diverse subject matter (Johnson, Musial, Hall & Gollnick 2014). Students would test their ideas through experimentation and discussions. This would help students in all aspects of their lives because they would be able to solve complex problems in their personal and post-high school lives.

Furthermore,  I agree with the teacher-centered approach of essentialism in which students are taught the importance of being part of the community. Connection to community is important for developing the kind of students who will be law-abiding and responsible citizens long after they leave my classroom. Students would learn behaviors and skills needed to be productive members of society.

From my teaching experience in student teaching, building sub, and formerly as an English learner Paraprofessional, successful teaching begins with engaging all students. Without it, I have seen students lose interest and disrupt the class instead of paying attention to the lesson. No learning is accomplished. Given this, I plan to utilize several teaching practices, depending on the needs of my students and the subject matter. For example, I plan to facilitate cooperative learning in which students are given the opportunity to learn from their peers and not just from me.  I have used this student-centered approach successfully by having students work with partners and in small groups. Not only did cooperative learning engage students, but it promoted learning for all learners, especially the English learners and struggling students who learned from their peers. Moreover, “[c]ooperative learning provides students with an environment that enables them to develop as leaders who have confidence and who inspire others with their sense of individual and societal responsibility” (Williamson and Null 2008). In other words, it also helps the higher level students.

Much of my teaching practices involves similar student-centered approaches, including constructivism that “emphasizes developing personal meaning through hands-on, activity-based teaching and learning” (Johnson et al., 2014). Not only are students more engaged through this approach, but they gain a rich and meaningful connection which will help them truly learn instead of learning for a test. Moreover, I create lessons that challenge students to become critical thinkers. For example, I created a lesson where fifth graders had to analyze text for deciding where a new paragraph should begin. This was a higher-order thinking skill and challenged students. Additionally, use ongoing open-ended questions and tasks to help students learn, adapt, analyze, ponder and stimulate thinking. Overall, I create opportunities for creativity and promote meta-cognition because these not only engages students, but promote active and meaningful learning.

While most of my teaching practices will likely stem from a student-centered focus, especially constructivism, there may be times when I rely on teacher-centered ways. For example, for certain lessons about abstract subjects I could use Socratic questioning, which is based on perennialism. By using the Socratic dialogue, “learners’ beliefs are challenged by the teacher through a series of questions that lead learners to reflect on their beliefs, induce general principles, and discover gaps and contradictions in their beliefs” (Johnson et al., 2014). Consequently, I will engage students through a lively discussion, rather than lecturing.

Students often become unwilling spectators of a chaotic ping-pong match between disruptive classmates and their teacher. In the meantime, all productive learning ceases. An effective classroom management plan is essential for optimal learning and must encompass preventive, supportive and corrective strategies.  On the first day of school, I plan to use a student-centered approach in teaching behavior expectations and consequences. For example, I will involve the students in developing rules and consequences. I can model acceptance of other cultures or differences, by giving all students a voice in the discussion. After that, students will sign a class contract on chart paper that will be prominently displayed. I will send home a letter to the parent that includes my high expectations, as well as a copy of the rules and consequences and a brochure about the school’s zero tolerance for bullying. Then, during the first ten days of school, these rules and consequences will be continually and clearly explained, modeled and practiced. Students will then fully understand their limits or boundaries. If students choose to break these rules, I will consistently enforce consequences. Consistency is crucial in correcting misbehavior and/or stopping it from recurring.

Moreover, students learn best in a safe environment. To ensure this, I will have a bullying plan in place to help and educate students. For example, students may report bullying privately or anonymously (by using the bully box).  Also, I can teach students problem-solving skills, through the Leader-in-Me school wide program. With these skills, students learn to make better decisions, including to “think win-win”, “seek first to understand, then to be understood” and to “synergize”. With this support in place, disciplinary issues would decrease and the classroom would be a positive learning environment.

“Every battle is won before it’s ever fought”, by Sun Tzu, means that if one spends time preparing now, problems will be avoided later. My classroom management plan is more of a systematic approach of managing a classroom that has practices and procedures in place to prevent the disciplinary problems from beginning or continuing. This includes strategies to make it clear what is expected of students and to consistently enforce the rules with consequences. Overall, my role as the teacher is not that of a disciplinarian, but that of a manager and facilitator

The beauty of creating this philosophy of education is that I was able to “swim in the same social stream as the prophets of old, but a little farther down. The office of philosophy is to bind their times and ours together in a commonality of reflection on experience” (Walcott 1966). In other words, I can pick and choose what works with my students, based on my experience. Thus, my personal philosophy of education is a blend of traditional and progressive ideas. My learning goal would focus on developing critical thinkers, problem solvers and good citizens. This is essential for helping students become successful in their personal lives and in society as a whole. Furthermore, most of my teaching practices will involve student-centered approaches, including cooperative learning and constructivism. This will depend on the lesson and on the students. I will also use some teacher-centered practices, such as the Socratic dialogue. Lastly, my classroom management will be student-centered whereas I include students in creating rules and consequences and I plan ahead in order to prevent disciplinary issues. Overall, my personal philosophy of education is a combination of traditional and progressive ideas and will likely expand through the years. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.”

References

Johnson, J. A., Musial, D., Hall, G. E., & Gollnick, D. M. (2014). Foundations of American

Education Becoming Effective Teachers in Challenging Times (16th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Oakes, J., Lipton, M., Anderson, L., & Stillman, J. (2013). Teaching to change the world (4th

ed.). Boulder, CO: Paradigm.

Walcott, F. G. (1966, April). Importance of a Philosophy for Teachers. Educational Leadership,  556-559.

Williamson, A., & Null, J. (2008). Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Educational Philosophy as a

Foundation for Cooperative Learning.American Education History Journal35(2), 381-           392.

Witcher, A. E., Sewall, A. M., Arnold, L. D., & Travers, P. D. (2001). Teaching,  learning: It’s all about philosophy. The Clearing House, 74(5), 277-279.

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Unique Perspective

Last night I was inducted into the education honor society. It was a beautiful ceremony, complete with inspirational speeches, prayers and candles. I felt very much part of the college community, despite my ripe old age. There, I said it. I’m not a young’n anymore. However, this does not stop me from pursuing my dreams.

When people ask me whether they should go back to college as an “older” adult, I ask them if they were planning to retire in 3 to 4 years (or however long it would take to graduate). When they say no, then I point out that they would be turning that age anyway – why not with a degree too? I am extremely blessed because this is my second degree. My second career. And why not? We are multifaceted people. Many people have to change careers as they get older, for one reason or another. In my case, I took an opportunity and ran with it.

As an older adult in college, there are a few things to keep in mind. Firstly, we belong there just as much as everyone else, including high school graduates. I know that some may hesitate to speak up in class, for fear of coming across as the “older student who can’t stay quiet”. However, our perspective is unique and adds color to group discussions. Don’t hold back. Be yourself. We have years (maybe even decades) of experience that others can learn from. It’s okay to appear eager and attentive. We want to be there – why not show it?

Secondly, our challenges are different than younger students. We usually have jobs and families to juggle along with our studies. My advice is to find a certain time of day when no one interrupts you. My homework/study time is usually in the early morning. Yes, I get up too early and would rather be in bed. However, the early morning works for me because my mind is fresh and the house is quiet. I admit I also burn the midnight oil sometimes. I would be a liar if I said I had this completely figured out, but I do burn the candle at both ends for much of the semester. I’m still finding my balance here. One thing that helps is to plan ahead and use windows of opportunity. For example, when I knew I had a research paper to write and it would be due at the same time as essays from another class, I began to write the essays early so it would give me more time later. Of course, it helps that I love to write.

Thirdly, we can learn new things or refresh old – even geometry and algebra! I had to take a couple of college-of-education entry exams, which included math, reading and writing. After scheduling the exams, I began to study, especially for the math portions. It had been SO many years since I’d figured out these kinds of math problems and it was frustrating at first. I enlisted the help of my teenagers and used every resource I could, including library books and online exams/study guides. I filled out notebook after notebook of problems. I studied at every chance, including road trips and waiting at the dentist/doctor’s office. I took this quite seriously, as if I was taking a math course. Finally, I took the exams – a month apart – and I PASSED! Phew! My hard work paid off. I learned that you really are never too old to relearn math. Or anything.

Lastly, don’t worry about being the “oldest” in the classroom. So what? Get over it. There are always older people going back to college, even if they are not in your class. I met someone the other day who is getting a second masters and she’s at least two decades older than me! It’s actually great for our brains because we are putting off Alzheimer’s since we are challenging our brain cells. After studying for those math exams, I could practically feel my new brain cells growing!!  

If you get the opportunity, like me, to go back to school – DO IT!! It’s not easy, but it’s well worth it. Now, I’m considering taking on a leadership role in the honor society. It could be fun…

~~ Maggie

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2013 in education, Health, Teaching, Writing

 

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Study Maybe — a Decade (or two) Later

Guess who is going back to college after what feels like FOREVER? Yep – me! Today is my first class and I’m so GEEKED – I’ve already read all the books.  So what if the books were mostly picture books – for Children’s Lit & Drama – but hey – I’m beyond excited, okay? 🙂

Why am I going back NOW, especially when tuition is so expensive and I have two high schoolers who will be in college soon?  Why torture myself with late night studying and homework, projects and all that that entails? Two good reasons: I received a grant and I’m not paying a dime – even for books! Can you believe that? How can I pass that up? Secondly – I love learning and bettering myself — keep my mind active and all that.  I’ll have a teaching degree, so that’s cool.  Did I mention, it’s a FULL RIDE? 🙂

Butterflies in my stomach? Maybe a couple, but mostly I can’t wait!  I know there have been a ton of changes since I went to college.  Obviously – technology will make things easier – like studying apps – flashcards and such.

Before I go get ready, I HAVE to watch Dodson Study Maybe – a hilarious video by a dedicated and amazing staff.  LOVE IT!

I’d love to hear from anyone else who went back to college after so many years.  What was your experience?  What were your challenges and how did you overcome them?  Any tips are welcome!!

~~ Maggie

 
4 Comments

Posted by on September 6, 2012 in education, Teaching, technology

 

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