Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Take Control of What You Can

Educational Philosophy

Let's Begin at the Beginning

An educational philosophy is a very personal thing. It is influenced by beliefs, ideals, and life experiences. A strong philosophy provides a solid direction in pursuing one's place within the field of education. It helps maintain a center when the day-to-day grind tries to wear you down. It offers a tangible touchstone to remind you why you chose to enter the world of education in the first place.

I believe that many educators compose their philosophies during their pre-service years filled with hope, passion, and idealism. Unfortunately, after a few years, many have forgotten these feelings. The truth behind the bureaucracy of the system, the pressure to achieve high test scores above all else, and the battle against poor public perception simply erodes their beliefs and ideals.

According to an article by Claudia Graziano on edutopia, "Every year, U.S. schools hire more than 200,000 new teachers for that first day of class. By the time summer rolls around, at least 22,000 have quit. Even those who make it beyond the trying first year aren't likely to stay long: about 30 percent of new teachers flee the profession after just three years, and more than 45 percent leave after five."
Credit Mark Wagoner
I would say this proves that the bloom is definitely off the rose. Now I'm not saying that I believe anyone can be a teacher because I don't; but when nearly half of the people entering a profession are searching out a new career within five years, I have to believe that there is a major problem somewhere in the system.

Now, we can argue about what is causing this crisis in teacher retention from now until the end of time. Teachers are under-paid and over-worked. They are disrespected, blamed for everything by everyone, and expected to work miracles in classes that are too large with little support, poor resources, and few materials. These are all valid points; however, short of massive reform and a miraculous change in funding and public opinion, these are things that will not change overnight, if at all. Is it tragic? Yes, of course it is, but why spend time and energy lamenting situations that we have no control over? And before I get jumped all over, I am not advocating we give up on working for change in education. In fact, I believe it is the duty of every educator to stand up and do everything in their power to influence those in power to reform our system of education and to put our students first for a change.

What I am saying is this - when we begin to feel that we have no power left, we should remember that we always have power over ourselves, our attitudes, and our beliefs.

This is where our personal educational philosophies come in. While being an idealist can lead to great disappointment when the reality doesn't match the dream, I believe that keeping a certain amount of idealism alive is necessary to successfully remaining an effective educator. So, go dig out your philosophy, remember why you chose the field, re-energize your psyche, and get out there and keep trying to change lives!

My Personal Philosophy of Education

Here is my own personal educational philosophy. I keep it handy because reading it does help me focus on the big picture and exactly where my values lie.

I believe education should be focused on the needs of the child above all else. Therefore, John Dewey’s educational philosophies of progressivism and pragmatism have had the biggest effect in the construction of my personal educational philosophy. Dewey’s The Child and the Curriculum has been particularly influential. Learning should place active participation in the highest regard. Human beings are social creatures by nature and I feel that interaction between my students and me, as well as each other, will foster creativity and a true passion for learning. In turn, this will provide a foundation for life-long intellectual, as well as moral, growth in my students. All students are unique individuals with inner strength and various talents. It is my privilege to be involved in their lives and to help provide them opportunities, challenges and encouragement to help them release those qualities and nurture them on their way to becoming intelligent, well-spoken, productive citizens of the world. I want to prepare my students not only for further academic success, but also to make informed decisions about all that life has to offer them in a way that best serves their individual interests. Using a wide range of learning resources and a flexible curriculum, I want to encourage my students to learn both independently and in a group dynamic setting, focusing on collaborative class projects, as well as independent study projects. I want them to develop their own beliefs and convictions and also understand the importance of respecting others beliefs especially when they differ from their own. I plan to have a democratic classroom by having multiple projects integrated into my lesson plans to enable flexibility and the opportunity for students to choose between lessons based on what is of interest to them. I will maintain a strong emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving. We will not only discuss lessons, but gain a deeper understanding of the concepts through role-playing exercises, individual reflection writing and group projects. In my classroom I want each person to feel respected and valued. I want them to learn to form relationships governed by honesty and respect. I want to instill a sense of community in my classroom and an understanding of the rights and needs of others. Creating opportunities for moral and social growth will allow the students to develop self-discipline and self-control.

My greatest hope for all of my students would be for them to grow into respectful, empathetic adults with the intellectual capabilities to live a fulfilled life and to affect powerful, positive social changes to the world around them. Any role I can play through educating and mentoring these young adults will truly be my greatest reward.

Is this idealistic? Perhaps. Overly simplistic? Maybe. Measurable through data? Not really. Aligned with the standards? Nope. The evidence of success is purely anecdotal, but I know it when I see it and that is why I got into education in the first place.

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