I usually stay on topic but more and more lately, I’m becoming a bit of a preacher in my workshops and lectures. It happened today and so I thought I’d share a bit about my philosophy of education and what I think is paramount for all teachers – English as a second or foreign language included.
When I first started teaching, I dotted every i, crossed every t and really was high energy. I had daily/weekly/long term plans and forms for even the smallest of things like “washroom signout”. I was ready. However, what I was really missing was a philosophy of education. Oh, I had one but it wasn’t rooted in real life experience, it was just your regular – Teachers should be conscientious, student centered, prepared yata yata….. (not to demean these things but they do begin to blend into each other. My students suffered as a result – I didn’t know what the priority actually was…..
What I was missing and eventually gained was an understanding of what life is about. HAPPINESS. I began to ask my students every lesson – “Are you happy?” and I suggest every teacher end their day with that question. It should also inform all teaching practice.
I don’t mean that happiness is everything but it is paramount. Other concerns can’t be realized, other goals will be left un or half met if happiness is not achieved or happening. And I don’t mean the smiley faced, cheerfulness that we usually call happiness. I mean, happiness as how we feel content within our skin. In my kind of happiness, I can still be a little sad but still overall happy.
A.S. Neill has a quote I’m fond of echoing whenever I need sustenance and perspective as a teacher. “I’d rather graduate a happy street sweeper, than a thousand neurotic prime ministers.” . A kind of paraphrase of e.e. cumming’s “I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing than to teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.”
Let’s remember that the objective of education is a happy and well adjusted individual.(in Korea, this is even written into the Nat. Curriculum Objectives as “Hongik Ingang”) Kudos to all teachers who make sure their students go home happy!
Here’s a fav. poem about teaching that also relates to what I discussed above…. How important school is and how important consequently is our job….our job to bring “happiness”.
THE MEMOIRS OF JESSE JAMES
I remember all those thousands of hours
that I spent in grade school watching the clock,
waiting for recess or lunch or to go home.
Waiting: for anything but school.
My teachers could easily have ridden with Jesse James
for all the time they stole from me.
From: Richard Brautigan, Rommel Drives on Deep into Egypt