Monday, October 31, 2011

Philosophy of Education, Part 4

My Foundations of Education class required an essay on my personal philosophy of education. The syllabus listed no page number requirements. When we asked the professor how long it had to be, he simply said, "Explain yourself."

Mine was six pages long and is reproduced here, section by section, for your edification and reading pleasure. Part 1 can be found here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.

What is my role as a teacher?
                As a teacher, I must help my students to be prepared for whatever lies ahead. I have to be aware of my students’ skills, abilities, and passions so that I can help cultivate their strengths and guide them to success and fulfillment. I must ensure that I never denigrate any student’s desires or goals, but find constructive ways to encourage them to reach for more.
Through personal, one-on-one encouragement and general modeling of my own life choices and where they have led, I can and must show my students that their lives are in their own hands to do with what they will. For better or for worse, we all have some measure of control over our futures. It is in my power to endow my students with a sense of the great responsibility and privilege that they each have: the freedom of choice. The choices are not always good or easy, but they are always present.
I must also teach them ethics and life skills, whether by direct instruction or by indirect modeling. The method of instruction will be partially dependent on the rules of the school. Some schools may not allow me to give explicit moral instruction, even if asked directly to give my opinion on an issue. But by striving to keep my two selves congruent and by always being honest with my students, I can at least show them how honesty, openness, and self-awareness have impacted my own life. Even if I rely on direct instruction, however, I can never try to force my own ideals or convictions on my students. All I can do is share my opinion and model my own beliefs and attitudes.
My final point is the most obvious of all: I must share my passion for my content. As a teacher, it is my job to share not only my knowledge, but also my enthusiasm. As an English teacher, I will encounter many students who find reading boring. I will encounter many who struggle with reading because English is not their first language, or because they are hampered by a learning disability. I will encounter students who do not care about parts of speech, who hate to write, who can’t be bothered to read anything that doesn’t feature vampires or wizards or whatever the current literary trend is. And I must teach them all Shakespeare and Dickenson. I must teach them all to avoid passivity in their writing. I must teach persuasive essays, analytical essays, and research essays. I must teach many forms of creative writing and adaptation. All of English language arts and literature are in my hands, and I must strive to pass as much as possible to my students.
But teaching a subject is not only about passing along information. It is also about sharing a passion. Not every student I encounter has to leave with a deep appreciation for Shakespeare. But they should all understand why I love him. I must make it clear that, while this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, there is nevertheless great value in the study of literature and language arts. There is value in being well-read. There is value in being a skilled writer. And no matter the path your life may take in the future, the study of English is not a complete waste of time.

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