Introduction Education is an ongoing process based upon experience. The old adage you learn something new everyday is very true, and nothing fascinates me more than simply talking to other people; you can learn so much from them. Education is the foundation of our American society, and the children of today are the future of our country, but educating them is not enough; we must be good role models and present a system of morals and values in our classrooms. Our objective in education is directly related to the social sciences in that the classroom is a microcosm of our society.
As teachers we try to prepare our students for real-world situations. Interacting socially, communicating effectively and understanding other peoples’ emotions, feelings and points of view will help our students blossom into productive and understanding adults. Howard Gardner wrote about multiple intelligences, which I think is a huge step in improving the classroom environment and lesson plans to include ways that everyone can learn (Tomlinson, 2002). He identified eight different ways to be “smart” that traditional IQ tests would not show.
This model allows students to excel in these categories through different types of instruction, such as verbal ability, referred to as the linguistic intelligence, or the ability to play an instrument, referred to as the musical intelligence (Johnson et al. , 2005). My classroom will be entertaining, first and foremost. I understand the material I am teaching elementary school children, but delivering that material effectively depends on how they feel about school. Motivating children and getting them excited about learning is not always easy, but it is a key ingredient to a successful classroom.
As a male entering the elementary education field I understand my role as a possible father figure (Kindlon and Thompson, 1999) and recognize the importance. I want to make a difference in the world, and I see no better way than through the efforts of education. Definition of Philosophy From the perspective of a future educator, I see myself identifying with the qualities of existentialism the most. This theory can be hard to explain at times because it relies so heavily on the meaning we impose on our lives through education, an idea that cannot be expressed in a limited amount of words and one that differs from individual to individual.
Existentialism is routed in the fact that our lives are meaningless; we live in a meaningless world and a meaningless period of time no different than any other. In essence, the quest to find meaning in our lives defines our life. A large part of this view is the idea that we are all free, an idea embraced in America but not typically recognized throughout the world or throughout history. Given this, our freedom allows us to make choices and these choices define us. The goal of the teacher through this philosophy is not to teach freedom, but to embrace it.
Tracking, measurement and standardization homogenize the classroom, whereas our goal as teachers is to individualize the classroom and foster a healthy student-teacher relationship. The students’ feelings are important and we should not compare ourselves to an ideal self but who we actually are, and education is the tool that fills the gaps of understanding this. Because I have yet to become a teacher, I am not quite sure how and in what ways measurement and standardization negatively impact the classroom, but I am aware of the separation and animosity created my tracking.
Getting the students to think positively about themselves will foster healthy learning and create a positive self-esteem that will drive them to learn both in the classroom and through questioning on their own. Sparking that fire is the idea behind existentialism, and in a world where we are essentially meaningless, it is up to us as teachers to inspire our students to grasp the freedom they have, bring meaning into their life, and use that excitement to find meaning in all that they do.
Also, in sparking critical thinking, students will engage in a thoughtful and reflective process similar to Bloom’s taxonomy where a number of levels of learning are happening, dependent on how information in the classroom affects them and their existence as well as essence. Another important tool we can use to define our philosophy as a teacher is the Ways of Knowing. I feel like I identify most with the Eastern Way of Knowing, particularly the Chinese thought because of the emphasis on moral development.
Understanding facts and theories is important in education, but sometimes it is hard to distinguish what is actually necessary from what is trivial. Preaching morals allows us to respect others, particularly elders, and gain from their knowledge, something that cannot always be taught in the classroom. Also, it will foster a more productive and peaceful society, one that is the best to learn in. Confucianism and Taoism play a large role in this type of knowing as well, and the reliance on harmony can be compared to the need for smooth transitions in the field of education.
Although Confucius implemented the need for rules and standards, contradictory to my belief in existentialism, he has influenced society and education in particular for thousands of years. These rules help keep life orderly and efficient, and the success of Chinese government, business and family life can be attributed to this as well as the harmony between the three. Taoism affects the Chinese thought by suggesting that we should leave things alone and not force personal desires onto the way things will naturally occur.
This eliminates the need for competition and is more consistent with the existentialist view. Competition can be good in many ways, but when comparing students we must be careful and considerate. There is no place in the classroom for making anyone feel inferior, and I feel more strongly about that than any other aspect of teaching right now. In relation to morals and respect, I will never allow a student to think they are better than any other student, and hopefully using this method will prepare them for life in the “real world,” where manners and morals can actually take you pretty far.
Even if it’s not for achievement, preaching this will promote self-improvement and a genuine compassion for other students, which is what I strive for in the classroom. Based on the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and rooted in existentialism, humanism is the educational approach that I fell closest too. Humanism makes the assumption that we are essentially born good and that children enter the world not as a blank slate, but with innate qualities and dispositions.
Consistent and nearly identical to existentialism, humanism stresses the role of individualism in the classroom and says that society turns people evil. Group-oriented education is rejected because it weakens the student-teacher relationship, limits self-actualization (based on the student’s feelings), and measures students as objects, effectively doing away with the individual self. Teachers involving humanism in the classroom look for student interests as guidelines for instruction and assessment and even go as far as letting the students pick the material and activities.
Students discover their own opinions through divergent thinking and should not be influenced by the teachers’ views. Eastern influences on Humanism are also prevalent, as people should be looked at as valuable individuals that deserve respect, not as objects to be manipulated, described by the I-Thou and I-It example, respectively. I am an optimist; the glass is always half full. Therefore, I strongly believe that people are created equally, good and free. Society can have a negative impact on individuals, but it can also have a positive impact.
Our goal as teachers is to become that positive force and to let every student know that we care about them as individuals. The book cites how a college classroom can consist of more than one-hundred students, leaving know room for a personal relationship with the professor. One of the main reasons I came to W and J was for that small school feel where I could have a personal relationship with my professors: I feel like I do better in my classes and that I also learn more and feel more confident about my abilities.
If we can achieve this goal, rather than making our students just a number, we will truly succeed as educators. References Johnson, J. A. , Musial, D. , Hall, G. E. , Gollnick, D. M. , & Dupuis, V. L. (2005). Introduction to the foundations of American education (pp. 448). Boston: Allyn& Bacon. Kindlon, D. , & Thompson M. (1999). Raising Cain: Protecting the emotional life of boys (pp. 333). New York: Ballentine. Tomlinson, C. A. (2002). Different learners, different lessons. Scholastic Instructor, 9, 21, 24-26, 91.
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