An educator needs to understand his/her philosophy when facing their first classroom. A teacher must be fair, flexible, understanding, and have a full appreciation of students’ abilities and the multiple intelligences, which may not always be apparent in the classroom. The classroom should be student-centered with the teacher acting as a moderator for the students. Some structure needs to be in place in order for students to understand their boundaries in which they can explore. The curriculum should be flexible enough to permit spontaneity and creativity as well as critical thinking that can be applied to real world situations. Resources need to be readily available for the students to access, and these students should feel comfortable when taking risk without facing negative consequences from their peers or other teachers. My philosophy is eclectic with layers of Existentialism, Progressivism, with a psychological aspect of Constructivism when teaching.
RATIONALE FOR MY TEACHING PHILOSOPHY
I have seen with my own teaching efforts and learning experiences that students are left behind because they cannot learn through the “cookie-cutter” model of instruction. I grew up in an educational system where behaviorism reigned and audio-lingualism was a must. It was a teacher-centered environment, and students did not ask questions. Wrong answers resulted with students singled out, wearing a dunce cap on their head, and sitting in the corner, while their peers laughed at them. This is a prime example of a teacher-centered classroom. I remember clearly reading with a small group of students using primers, and the teacher would read the story while we followed. We had to memorize the story and recite it orally back to her. Speaking out of turn meant that wooden rulers were smacked across the palms, which caused the lack of participation in the classroom by students (Operant conditioning).
Why do I feel that I have a layered philosophy of teaching? My area of focus will be with adult learners in the community college, although a layered philosophy will work with younger students as well. With adult learners, they have already established themselves in a community. They have a basic understanding of what they hope to achieve with their education and in their lives. Because my students will be foreigners, primarily Spanish, I can provide them opportunities to learn that they cannot learn in a traditional learning environment. Many of these students have only completed a fourth or fifth grade education in their native language. Some of the ones that I have worked with in the past could not even sign their own names. This group of students realizes that they need English to better themselves in America. The student’s realization to improve their human condition is a component of existentialism and their insight into self-actualization.
One of the first things that I would do for my students in order to ensure their success is to conduct a need’s analysis of my students. Student diversity will be expected in any classroom. Most of the students that I will be teaching will be undocumented and documented workers, some will be living below poverty while others will establish homes. There will be multiple families living in one household while one or two individuals might have them a simple room. Some of the students they will be working extremely long hours while others will have and eight to five jobs.
I have a love for the Hispanic population. I think this race has been mislabeled and stereotyped falsely. They are a proud people, family oriented, and some of the hardest workers that I have had the honored of meeting. It is my feeling and expectation that teachers can, and should, work in the community and establish a positive working relationship with families of students. It is at this point of education that John Dewey and I would agree. Education should be a democracy, and everyone is entitled to it. Dewey (1897) said, “Education is a social process; education is growth; education is not a preparation for life but is life itself.” Students need all of the support that they can get, and this includes family members as well. If students have the resources available to them, then the motivation will tend to be stronger to achieve. I have served in my community, ensuring that if a family member needed medical help, clothing or food, the proper agencies would be notified to assist these people. It is hard to teach a student, when their mind is wondering how they were going to find their next meal, have a place to sleep for the night, or warm clothing for their bodies.
It is only then, peering through a lens of Existentialism that students can perform task-based exercises, which can be equated as immersion in the English language, e.g. going to a restaurant to order off a menu in English with a group of other students. Students need to learn what is subjective in their lives. Part of my philosophy is that everyone has free-will to decide for themselves. However, there are times that individuals do not realize they have these choices. I am authentic in my choices and have told people what you see is what you get. I hope that my students can learn from my own modeling of authenticity and grow as a student and an individual.
Utilizing a constructivist approach, I can incorporate co-operative learning with my students. According to Howard Gardner (Slavin, 2006), individuals have various intelligences in regard to learning (p. 117). Students can learn best through other peers, especially if those peers can demonstrate a process, ideology, or concept to other classmates. Students can learn in alternative ways and this includes understanding the type of intelligence that they possess. For myself, I need to identify what the student’s needs are so I can them fulfill their learning goals. This needs- analysis can focus on issues such as students’ current economic situation, language issues; such as cross-cultural interferences, and/or identifying learning disabilities. I have been diagnosed as a dual-dyslexic (Dysnomia and Dyscalculia) with Adult ADHD, but I refuse to be labeled by an institution. It is not a matter of pride; it is a matter of learning through alternative paths in order to achieve my educational goals. This is not a weakness but a strength. I can guide students about their own unique learning styles and help them to develop them. Working with others students will promote other avenues of learning. Diversity comes in many forms and this includes student disabilities and disadvantages.
According to Sadker & Sadker (2008), an existentialist is a student-centered philosophy that permits students to determine their own pace of learning (p. 327). I agree with this statement. If students are pushed and kept on a time table, there may be certain components of language that will be loss. A learning situation, which intensifies the stress level of students, will increase the affective filter; this will generate a non-conducive atmosphere for learning. My curriculum will not be centered on criterion-reference testing but on completion of a task. I would implement some norm testing for my own benefit in order to gauge the students to see if they were learning the subject matter, or if needed, I would switch to more of a Progressive philosophy by revisiting the material, provide scaffolding, and make available additional supplemental material. Of course, this would put me in the position as the educational mediator to guide instruction. Curriculum is a continued process and constantly shifting. I would like to think that my curriculum is just as flexible as the class that I would be teaching.
I can appreciate Dewey’s stance (Sadker & Sadker, 2000) on Progressivism, and I tend to lean toward this philosophy. Students learn by doing. Learning styles such as the kinesthetic, oral, and visual will be embraced in my class. Each student is important, and I recognize that everyone does not learn the same way. To guide and integrate learning activities for students at a younger age would be appropriate and unique learning styles will be utilized. Students can utilize critical thinking skills and interpret meaning within these specified activities. Vygotsky proposed that students learn by talking with each other and stated that problem-solvers will usually vocalize their thoughts, which allows for other students to hear the process of learning occurs (Slavin, p. 232). It is my hope that all avenues of learning and expressiveness will be obtainable in my classroom.
However, I believe that students need to be responsible for their own individual learning. It should be noted, that I usually learn as much, and sometimes more from my students, then I would from a textbook alone. Many of the adult students that I have worked with in the past were truly grateful for the opportunity to learn. Self-actualization is the ultimate achievement of mankind. Maslow said it quote eloquently, “If we want to be helpers, counselors, teachers, guides, or a psychotherapist, what we must do is to accept the person and help him learn what kind of person he is already” (Mayes, 31). It is part of my philosophy that the ‘whole’ student needs to learn about themselves as much as the process of they are going to get there. The focus of students should always be based on their own individual needs.
What do I get out of this as a teacher? I greatly accept the satisfaction that if my students can fill out a job application, speak survival English, and become self-sufficient after learning English, then I have fulfilled my role as a moderator. Teachers are in many ways comparable to a psychologist. Although the counselor does not do the work to mend a relationship between a couple, or do they expose the underlying issues to an individual up front, the psychologist can guide, suggest, and direct that person in a direction in which they can better understand their place in society.
Dewey, J. (1897). My pedagogic creed. School Journal, 54, 77-80. Retrieved from
Mayes, C. (2010). Five dimensions of existentially authentic education. Education for Meaning and Social Justice, 23 (3). Retrieved from
Sadker, D. &Sadher, M. (2008).Finding your philosophy of education.McGraw Hill.
Slavin, R. (2009). Student Diversity., Educational Psychology: Theory and Practice, (9th
ed., pp. 91-125). Columbus, Ohio: Pearson.