Never in my wildest dreams did I think reducing the number of words would be the most difficult part of a writing project.
Philosophy of Education
Schools are a major influence on the lives of almost everyone, whether they like it or not. Many of our basic notions of good and bad are in part formed by our early education. Take for example “All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” One of the reasons this book was so popular was because so many people can identify with the premise. In our early years we learned that good people share, wash their hands, put away toys, etc... From the very beginning we learn some of our most basic mores in school. Are our school trying to teach this? Should we be teaching this as educators? Do we have a choice?
The average American spends 6 hours a day, 180 days a year, for 13 years in school. Whether we like it or not that is a large chunk of the social live of most children. This is not the greatest time influence on our children, but it is just behind family and peers. During this time schools and teachers will have a large impact on the lives of our students. We as teachers will educate the minds as well as spirits of our students. To be effective education needs to have certain goals to strive for as well as a plan to achieve these goals. As a part of society these goals must be acceptable to the parents of the children we are education.
Schools were originally build to teach specific intellectual goals. However, schools do influence children in ways other than just concrete curriculum subjects. School can, but don't always have influences on the morals and values of their students. If we had a concrete goal such as all students will have good morals how would we teach that? Who would be the final authority on what good morals are? Is it the teacher, the principal, the PTA? The problem is that the definition of morals would be different for each person asked. Schools should be aware of the effect they have on students orally and intellectually, school need to prepare students intellectually but also be aware of the effects on students morally and at least not do any harm.
So how do we teach this? After all we will have an effect on this whether we want to or not. We teach this by not teaching it at all. We must teach our students the skills to think and reason critically, by learning to use critical thinking building skills in more concrete subject like math or science the student will learn to use critical thinking in other areas of their life. Critical thinking is taught through the vehicle of other subjects when we ask students to solve problems rather than memorize answers. Students are given time to explore concrete areas until they discover regular patterns on their own. As these patterns are discovered the teacher gently pushes towards formalizing the rules. For example students are given blocks to count with; the physical presence of the blocks is something they are familiar with and they learn to add by putting blocks into a pile one at a time. The blocks are concrete and easily understandable to the children. As they become more familiar with the results they move into adding with fingers and eventually to doing it in their head. As higher levels of math are taught we can again go back to the blocks that are easily understood and build form there. The students are taught that when they don't understand they try to break down the problem to parts they do understand and build form there.
The idea is that as children are focused with the less concrete problems of morals and values they can break down the problems to a way they understand and build from there they can make and use their own rules. These rules don't become formalized by the teacher saying they are right or wrong but how the students discover how their actions make it easier or harder to get along with their peers.
With concrete goals in regular subjects schools have a solid curriculum to show that students are being educated well. The way we teach can either help students to become more independent or can foster a dependence on getting answers from “experts”.
The teachers' role is very intensive in the education of children. Teachers must be expert enough to lead the students as they need it, but be patient enough to allow the students to learn within the development stage they are currently in.
Children especially younger children tend to be more concrete. As we get older we develop the ability to think more abstractly. With students especially elementary students it is helpful to introduce concepts as concretely as possible. Using manipulatives or other hands-on work to illustrate the concepts. Eventually moving to the abstract by generalizing over different variations of the same theme.
Not all students will be at the same ability or developmental stage at the same time. At times it may even seem that individual students change from hour to hour, or subject to subject. It is important that as teachers our lessons give the students the opportunity to learn and demonstrate knowledge in a variety of ways. As long as students are moving toward the ability to demonstrate mastery to independent objective measures. This will give students who do not learn in the traditional teacher directed method the chance to develop their knowledge in their own ways.
The teachers role in education is not simply to impart information to students, but rather to guide students in the discovery of their learning. This sometimes means presenting the same concept to students more than once, but in different formats. Often each concept will touch on or relate to more than one skill so this often becomes a natural part of planning a curriculum.
Schools have always had and will always have a large impact on their students. It is the responsibility of the teacher to not only teach the subject matter at hand, but to give the students in his or her charge the tools to continue learning after leaving the school. To that end the school should be a comfortable place for students to experiment and take chances. Students should be encouraged to follow their interests and learn independently beyond the scope of the single class.