Philosophies on Education
Josh Johnson, Mary Steele, and Tara Frank
The teacher I sat down and talked with is worried about education today and in the future. In the state of Illinois there are more and more loopholes that incoming teachers have to jump through to actually become certified to teach. Right now in the state of Illinois there is a budget crisis. The state government owes many schools well over 500,000$ for this past physical year. He said with the lack of funds and teachers being rift, it is a scary time to be interested in becoming a teacher in this state. His main goal thorough these tough times is to make sure to keep in mind that most teachers teach because they enjoy helping children. He sees classrooms in this state possibly going to a virtual type of learning system especially if the schools struggle to keep their doors open due to the lack of funding from the state. He said this would take away what he enjoys the most and that is getting to interact with the kids.
When I asked him about how his own life experiences played a role in his philosophy on teaching, a smile came to his face. He said he remembers a teacher when he was in third grade that really brought out all of his abilities. He said he was able to connect with that teacher on a personal level and that really helped him understand what he wanted to do professionally when he finished his education. He felt he got into coaching and teaching because his former third grade teacher inspired him to be a coach/teacher. He said he tries to bring that same approach when he is teaching. He tries to reach students on a personal level and figure out what makes them tick.
I got a chance to sit down with a teacher who has been in the field of education for almost forty years. She has served in both public and private schools as a teacher, a principal in a private Catholic school, and now currently a literacy coach for the school that I work in. She has given me quite a bit of insight over the last several months into what teaching looked like when she began in the classroom, where it has moved to today, and where it may be headed in the future. The district that we work in when she began teaching was a middle class blue collar area with several steel mills and other industries to drive the area economy. Today the community has deteriorated because of the loss of much of the industry in our area which has changed the dynamic of education.
I asked her about where she thought the future of education was going and the first thing I got was a sigh, she told me that she thinks that education is on the track of a downward spiral not just in our area but all over. The reason she believes for this downward momentum is there are too many charter schools and voucher programs for students to attend private schools instead of public schools. She told me that public schools are not valued the same way they were back when she started teaching or even as they were ten years ago. She also told me that she thinks there is too much standardized testing, which takes the fun out of teaching in general because teachers have to teach to the tests not to the students. Preparation for standardized testing has become a large portion of the curriculum in many schools and it has had an effect on the effectiveness of teachers.
We also had a short conversation about how her life experiences have effected or shaped her philosophy on education, she encompassed her feelings throughout her years in the classroom in a few simple sentences. She told me that it used to be fun to teach, she used to be excited about education, but with a lack of funding, discipline, and parent involvement it makes it very difficult for a teacher to perform as they need to in the classroom. She worked in a private school for many years but lived in the area where we work now, when she started in public school it was fine to teach but now it has become less so. Our district is now high risk and low income, there is a lack of communication in our schools that are a detriment to the students and it has changed her experiences of working education in the last several years
My philosophy on education is we must understand the whole child: cognitively, socially, emotionally, and physical abilities. Each child is unique and those differences need to be celebrated and adaptations need to be made when possible. Relationships of trust must be established first before we can really assist a child in their learning and development. Children need to be provided real world experiences that are hands on where they may explore and discover on their own with guidance from a teacher. Education should be child lead and learning needs to be about the child’s needs and interests.
Education has made leaps and bounds in the past five years, but we still have a lot more progress to make in the future. Political leaders are talking about the importance of education, especially early childhood education (birth through five), and recognizing professionals in the field. I think we have been so focused on the academics aspect the past 20 years, that we have forgotten what education is truly about; preparing these young individuals to be successful/functioning members of society in the future, whether that be in higher education and/or a career. I think we are seeing the disastrous effects of what an academic driven education can be to the children of our future and advocates for the field are speaking up and telling political leaders that do not have any or not much field experience what is really best for children; and they are finally starting to listen. I think we are going to see some major changes in the next ten years in the way our country implements education. I think we are going to see a more hands on approach, child lead learning based on their interests, and we are going to connect back with nature.
I began my career as a preschool assistant teacher in licensed child care center in a low income neighborhood. I worked with an amazing teacher who really sparked my passion in the field. She was so dedicated to her work, creating and implementing an environment and experiences that were developmentally appropriate, engaging, fun, and educational. I learned so much from her, life experiences she had taught me from her time in the field that my college courses could not teach me. But then there were my college courses that gave me the foundation of where the field had come and the theorists who provided philosophies on how children learn; and the changes and adaptations that have been made based on years of studies about what is best for children. I gained a lot of insight from my field experience working in infant – 5 grade classrooms. I think having an amazing mentor who had experiences so many years in the field as well as a professor with a Ph.D. and an author of many publications, gave me a well rounded ideal on the type of philosophy I wanted to have and they type of educator I wanted to be. I also enjoy furthering my knowledge by keeping up on the latest trainings and publications in the field.