Thursday, July 14, 2011

Learning is social

Philosophy of Education

            As a life long learner, I am continually pondering the purpose and value of education and my role as a classroom teacher. My decision to become an educator was forecast by a series of life experiences and lessons that have touched me deeply and produced further self-examination.  My many entrances and exits on stage as a performer, actress and musician, have lead me to this new arena of teaching and upon reflection of my own process as a life apprentice, I have learned and continue to discover the reasons why I want to teach. As students and teachers we are presented with sophisticated “isms” based on the cumulative history of education and as a result, I have gleaned and discerned from valuable perspectives, and now consider myself a “retrogressive” teacher who embraces both traditional philosophies and progressive forms of teaching.
            My own philosophy of education hinges on what I believe to be true of two compelling factors: Children are inherently good and learning is social. I have divided my philosophy into two parts, the former exploring behavior and the latter knowledge. The debate over epistemology has prompted me to ask: “Where is the poetry? Where is the philosophy? Where is the art of learning”? The twofold application of knowledge, both material and philosophical, is being lost on our young. It is in the art of teaching that we can transcend the invasive pragmatism that has occupied our schools.
            As a teacher I am not only dedicated to student achievement and success by providing equitable opportunities and experiences, celebrating differences and developing relationships, but I equally want to cultivate a classroom culture that inspires a sense of beauty, creativity and responsible citizenship that addresses the whole child. Through dedication and commitment, I am hopeful that I can be a vital part in shaping character and young minds to question, discover and nurture mutual respect for the common good and not merely provide students with basic skills to serve a job market in constant flux.
            I know now that my own behavior and self-discipline will be the anchor for the classroom. Setting up a sense of belonging through morning meetings and shaping behavior is essential to teaching content and creating a safe environment for my students to ask questions. My children will benefit from the reflective listening approach and the positive example that I set in the classroom. I believe that children grow up with a *private logic and belong by constructive behavior or destructive behavior. The concept of private logic is really for me the bull’s eye as far as understanding children and their goals of misbehavior. The ability to shift that private logic in a child is powerful and resonates on many levels, as it is something that can serve not only in the classroom, but also in all relationships. I am excited to implement a chalkboard acknowledgement strategy as a class management tool to recognize, publicly, the children who are demonstrating constructive behavior. It is in them—they are waiting for us to see it.
            In my student teaching experience, I witnessed an imbalance of recognition of destructive behavior and when I had implemented my “chalkboard acknowledgment method” the results were immediate. I watched children compete for constructive behavior, which increased the more they were recognized among peers. I had the chance to reflect with misbehaving students, which intrigued them. This was effective because they felt cared for and acknowledged and I was able to find the root of their problem. The advantage of the probing and reflecting is that I am modeling for them how to listen and articulate themselves, incorporating state standards into class management and encouraging character building through accountability. I use goal incentives in my classroom, which motivate students to be self-reflective and raise their emotional I.Q. establishing a pre-emptive plan to reduce misbehavior and enhance a rich learning environment.
            I can’t help but wonder how we have disadvantaged children in our public school system in terms of our axiology. This is no doubt a reflection of our own discouragement and our disconnection from wonderment and beauty. Is there a way to move beyond a utilitarian and capitalistic scope? In a sense we are preparing our children to offer us services rather then their minds, their creativity and their dreams, which will in the long run benefit our society both economically and socially. Should our curriculums be adapted to suit specific professions and industries as Spencer suggested? Is the study of beauty or “otherness” trumped in a technological world? Should we be strictly utilitarian in our goals for our children? Plato and Aristotle certainly did not see the contemplation of mysteries and beauty as a threat to human kind, nor has the wisdom of Arabic and Nigerian proverbs lost its efficacy.
            I am dedicated to motivating children to succeed by employing the higher order thinking skills that are embedded in arts pedagogy. The visual and performing arts in particular require children to analyze, evaluate, synthesize and create. I know how to reach children and because I am a kinesthetic and visual learner I am keen in delivering instruction that explores all learning modalities. The social aspect of learning is important to me as it extends outside the classroom into the hallways, next-door, in the collaboration with teachers, staff, para-professionals, parents and the community. In processing this new language of teaching as a student myself, I think about my own future students and wonder how my little ones will process information and knowledge. How will I instruct them and encourage them? How will I comfort them when they feel overwhelmed? How will I model practical ways of learning that are tailored to their needs and interests?                                                                                                                 
      The best way to learn is to teach. If I am to impart my students the kind of rigor that I propose for myself, then I need to be my own advocate for higher education. As a creative person, it is in the teaching realm that I can be fully realized and this is an observation that I have made over the years working in multiple avenues of the arts. I have been given the desire and ability to enter the field of education with a vision for my children to create a playground that is safe, conducive to learning and inspires in them the passion to question, discover, create and synthesize what they have learned in the classroom. I want to step into the ring of public education in a way that is compassionate and supports diversity in order to revisit and assist my community in improving the way we view education. What are lacking in education are expectation and a redeeming attitude that all children possess the highest potential for excellence in proportion to their comfort levels and I firmly believe that it is my role as a teacher to instill this kind of confidence in them.
      As a teacher, I am embarking on another course of formation, one that hopefully will influence the culture of my classroom and will benefit my students. I am confident now that I have so many tools to use and I am prepared for the very slow, incremental but life changing effects it will have on them. The art of teaching facilitates my own growth as an educator, mentor and coach by demanding self-examination, inter-disciplinary knowledge and social awareness. The art of teaching transcends the sphere of formal knowledge and requires me to consider their personhood of my students and not just their apparent abilities and skills based on a set of standards. I want to teach in order to equip my students with an awareness of universal principals and virtues, which inform education and enhance learning outcomes for the greater good of society and social redeeming value. It is my social responsibility to advocate the kind of holistic approach that bestows my students the freedom to explore their highest potential as honored members and active participants in our society.                            

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