My personal philosophy of education is difficult to describe, mainly because I believe that as my experiences change and grow my philosophy of education changes and grows along with it. At the moment I feel that the philosophy I have come to adopt is based heavily on my experience within an alternative education environment. My placement at SEED Alternative school this fall reinforced a lot of ideas I had about education but was hesitant to discuss because I had not seen this model adopted widely in traditional schools. Having had an alternative educational experience I feel a lot more at ease with my beliefs around education after having seen them be implemented successfully in an educational environment.
I have always believed that the reason why we send young people to school is to become educated about our world. Our lives are so short and I feel that it is the responsibility of each one of us to learn something and contribute to this world in order to make it a better place. This being said I think the actual content of what we should be teaching our young can vary greatly depending on the interests of the student in front of us. I am very pleased with the recent movement in education centered on differentiated instruction and assessment that allows both students and teachers creativity in the process of education. I feel that a major setback to our current system of education is that a large number of teachers lack creativity in their lessons and do not provide opportunities for students to accurately reflect what they know based on their individual strengths.
I believe that the question of what kind of individual we would like to produce ties directly into what relationship we value between teachers and students. Personally, I feel that it is not our mandate to produce any type of individual but to allow each individual student to exemplify their own beliefs to the best of their abilities. I feel that by trying to produce certain types of individuals we fall into a complex power dynamic which places teacher above student as a omniscient source of what is good and what it bad. Being a teacher does not mandate one to be a moral compass to an individual student (at least that is not what teacher education is focused on developing in teacher candidates).
My experiences within an alternative framework have allowed me to witness the benefits of educating students based on the idea that we must work collaboratively. I tend to approach students based on the belief that we are first and foremost both equal human beings and by this I mean that we have good and bad days and we both deserve respect, we come into the classroom each holding our own particular beliefs based on our own individual experiences. Importantly neither of these beliefs or experiences should ever be undervalued. Because of this belief I encourage my students to call me by my first name, as I see no reason for them not to besides the establishment of a hierarchical power structure which I have no interest in maintaining. I also strive to let my own personality shine through my teaching by taking opportunities for humor and informality; central to my approach is to provide students with an easy and genuine rapport.
Finally, I would like to briefly discuss my views on our expectations on student learning outcomes. My own view is that although I feel like the purpose of education is to learn something about the world, I also feel that each of us undergoes this process in a different way. I do not feel that it is fair for us as teachers to impose and expect students to adopt our particular ideas about the kinds of learning outcomes that are expected. I feel that we must first and foremost approach our students and inquire what they would like to get out of us. Learning can then proceed as a reciprocal process in which both the teacher and the student meet the needs of each other and not a process by which students are molded into teacher prescribed outcomes deemed necessary for student success.