Philosophies of Education….
Sooner or later, every teacher who is around long enough, will be required to submit/produce/write up, their philosophy of education.
I really think it invaluable to make this “thought visible”. The process itself helps to solidify your already held beliefs and give you some “clear road” as a teacher (but don’t make it too solid…life is a highway sang one great Canadian crooner!).
So in this spirit, let me share my own below. See the longer version too, if interested (16 pages). Why not link your own and share it? It can’t but help us and help us grown as teachers….
Statement of Educational Philosophy
“I’d rather Summerhill graduate a happy street sweeper than a neurotic prime minister.”
— A.S. Neill, Summerhill.
My philosophy of education has changed over the years. First, I thought teaching was about imparting knowledge. A classroom was a place to learn facts and subjects. A place to compare, judge and get marks. Then over time and with much reflection, teaching came to have a “softer” meaning. It was about guiding students and the art of discovery. It was no longer just about knowledge but about understanding and putting information to use. Now, after many years of experiencing the real thing, I think it is a much broader concept. Especially so with EFL teaching.
Education can’t be just “one” thing. We are all an experiment of one. There are so many people and so many teachers. The world is such a diverse place, it can’t be so. But I do think education can be minted into a few golden nuggets.
First and foremost, education is about “happiness”. As the A.S. O’Neill’s quote suggests, it is the teacher’s prime obligation to help ensure that the goodness of the child takes root and that the child’s happiness is the goal of education. Education is not just an intellectual enterprise but an emotional one. All our activities should be directed with this in mind.
Further to this, education to me is about “passion”, a kindling of a fire and thirst for “knowing”. The world never rests and it moves under our feet. We should prepare youth for change in general, not some specific point of change. Education therefore is about the process and involvement and not the product, knowledge. Education is not about teaching but about learning. This is something I constantly remind myself of.
Secondly, it is a teacher’s obligation to be passionate about their subject and through their own joy and curiosity, allow the students to be enflamed and educated. Much research has been undertaken on “good” teaching. Foremost on the list of what makes a good teacher is a passionate love of their subject. It is my hope to always be teaching in a contagious spirit that exudes joy and passion.
Teaching is much more about motivation than the subject/content itself. Especially in the EFL / ESL context, there simply aren’t enough hours in a classroom course to master a language. A teacher should be a great educational psychologist, knowing what buttons to push, to have the student(s) most effectively learn. We are guides and cheerleaders and counsellors in the modern process (rather than product) based learning environment. Teaching is “the art of assisting discovery”, as one great teacher (Mark Van Doren) once wrote.
Thirdly, education to me has a Deweyian like social agenda. Teachers are role models preparing students to meet the challenges of living together in a rapidly changing future. Particularly in EFL, education is about teaching tolerance and acceptance as we become a global community through the glue of the English language. EFL instructors are truly the missionaries of the 21st century. Education is about power – particularly the power of a person to create their own future and destiny. Teachers are often the key to that door into the room of power. We should always remind ourselves of this responsibility.
Finally, education to me means educating one person at a time. It means making a difference to one student, to one classroom, at a time. “Cultivez votre jardin” said Voltaire, “tend your own garden”. Education is about that special relationship between teacher and student. Trying each day to do the best job one can – to make a difference. I don’t want to ever be the teacher this student writes about in Brautigan’s fine poem, “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.
Happy teaching and learning to you all who might read this.
Thanks for the thoughtful reflection, David. How do you think the role of ESL/EFL teacher is changing or will change as a result of the Artificial Intelligence revolution? I think your philosophy can ride this wave but how will our role change? I think it’s just a matter of time before AI can foster AI (authentic interaction). Alexa, teach me English!
Good question and something a philosophy of education should address. For me, our role does change significantly in the sense that technology allows more self directed learning and the teacher doesn’t “tell” but “shows” the students and the teacher’s role is more about harnessing the power, the community, the access to knowledge that technology allows. The teacher’s role leans more on curriculum development than on delivering content in the classroom. That’s my short answer …. As for AI, it will have an impact but it will be a good ways out imho. Still a lot of issues and limitations to deal with.
Well noted. So does this evolving role change what it means to be an “expert” in our field? And imho I think AI advances will have an impact in near future. And I don’t think our teacher training programs are prepared for it.