“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.”
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
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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 Journal, 35(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.