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Category Archives: Teaching

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.

 
 

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

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

 

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Book Review: Beneath the Slashings

Beneath the Slashings captivated my attention from beginning to end! It is Michelle Isenhoff’s third book in the Divided Decade Trilogy, but each book stands alone.  Not only is Isenhoff an expert storyteller, but she also teaches the reader a thing or two about history and — get this — she does it painlessly.

History was not my favorite subject in grade school, but I never read a book like this one back then.  Beneath the Slashings brings history to life!  The characters are convincing in their dialogue and have true-to-life problems and issues.  It is easy to picture the lumberjacks as they squabble or tease each other.   Also, Grace Nickerson is a compelling main character because she is easily relatable and filled with an appealing  sense of wonder.

It takes place in Michigan during post Civil War times, when soldiers are returning home.  It is an era of reconstruction, but 12- year old Grace Nickerson wants no part of it.  She wants to stay on the family farm and resume normalcy, thank you very much.  She lost so much already and craves the stability she’d get from the farm she’d known her whole life.  Her father, however, returns from the war with the firm decision to take her, and her twin brother Sam, far away to a lumber camp.  This dampens their relationship and sets off the journey from her familiar home in Saginaw County to the unknown forest in Manistee.

When Grace arrives at the Bear Creek Lumber Camp, she is fearful as she meets colorful characters with strange names like Fiddlesticks and Ivan.  Despite her anger at her father for taking her there in the first place, she starts to adjust to the completely different lifestyle.  However, she discovers that mayhem and even attempted murder are afoot.  Grace is determined to find out who is behind the wrongdoings, but she must first overcome her fears.

Readers can’t help but learn about history as they read this entertaining book.  Isenhoff is a children’s novelist who writes with students in mind.  Further, she provides teachers with a Classroom Resources Series to help them get “maximum mileage” of her books.

My favorite thing about the book is that the characters’ voices resonated with me for days after I finished reading it!  It was as if they were real people that I visited….back in time!

Rating for Beneath the Slashings, by Michelle Isenhoff:

Maggie’s View ~ Two Thumbs Up MUST READ!

For more information, go to:

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To purchase, go to:  KindleNookPaperbackSmashwords

“I write for kids.  In my books, you can expect adventure and substance, but I’ll always respect the innocence of our children.” Children’s Novelist, Michelle Isenhoff

 

 

 

Other books by Michelle Isenhoff:

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2012 in kids, Teaching, Writing

 

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Travel Tip – staying connected for cheap

My adventures in Japan included walking about town in Asakusa where locals ride bikes everywhere.

Vending machines were abundant.

You could even buy BEER from vending machines. Hmmm…

Needless to say, I saw a lot of different customs.  To combat the culture shock, I was happy to stay in touch with family and friends back home.

I played Draw Something … on the bullet train en route to Hiroshima, Japan.

I introduced my host Japanese family in Toyota City, Japan…to my family back home in Michigan.  They even got a tour of my home (thanks to my daughter) and watched a YouTube video of my son’s garage band gig. How cool is that?

I kept up my blog posts, including pictures, during early jet lagged mornings and airport layovers…in Japan and later Seattle, Washington.  Writing as I went helped keep things fresh.

I exchanged texts with my teenagers in the U.S…while I was in Tokyo, Toyota City, Hiroshima and Kyoto.  I loved seeing what they were up to and they knew they could text me any time. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Hiroshima – Days 7 and 8


Toyota City was an interesting place.  While in my Japanese homestay, I felt like I was in the country side because there were many trees, gardens and nearby rice fields.  However, the town is very much a Toyota manufacturing town with buildings sprinkled throughout. There were trains, cars and buses running at all hours of the day and night, yet many people walk to work.  It was such a mixture of nature and industry. Despite that, there was a peace among the people, who smiled at you on the streets.

Day 7

After breakfast, I went with my Japanese family to watch the youngest (6th grader) play basketball at another Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2012 in Family, Teaching, travel

 

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Tokyo – Days 3 and 4

The jet lag is getting slightly better and it’s been unexpectedly cooler in the mornings. Also, it’s been sunny in the afternoons — during this “rainy season”.  I lucked out!

My breakfasts consist of fish, like salmon, veggies, white rice, fruit and LOTS of coffee.  (The coffee is really to help the jet lag).  Of course, I’ve been eating from the hotel’s amazing buffet, so this is not necessarily what everyone eats.

Counter-clockwise: fried vegetables in the small bowl on the left, sweet potato, salmon, fermented beans, white rice, bread with chocolate filling,and  seaweed.  I LOVE the fried vegetables but the fermented beans are gooey and needs lots of soy sauce. 🙂

Day 3:

I went to an elementary school to both observe and teach classes. This is the main purpose of my visit.  When we first arrived, I was struck by the combination of urban and nature areas.  The school is across from a train station and large senior citizen apartments while it is also surrounded by beautiful old  trees, fields and gardens. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2012 in kids, Teaching, travel

 

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