During the past several decades, the methods educators utilize to convey information to our nation’s youth have gone through a great metamorphosis. Rapidly changing technology and ever-shortening attention spans have ensured that teachers have had to reach deep into their methodological tool bag to keep student’s minds engaged and learning. However, broadly speaking, the foundational goals of education perpetually remain the same. Teachers want their students to obtain new knowledge that they may build upon to lead a productive life. Engendering a sense of self-awareness to identify one’s own strengths and weaknesses and using that insight to succeed is another time-honored goal of education. Educators also want students to appreciate the fact that we are all different, and that differences are to be celebrated.
Instilling character traits in students is important and has remained relatively static throughout time. Academically speaking, I believe that the current broad goal of schools in our nation is to make students think more critically to gain new knowledge with the target being the obtainment of the common core standards. Unfortunately, administrators and school boards care less about the depths of a student’s understanding and more about good scores on standardized tests. Striking a balance between getting children to fully integrate new knowledge into their permanent core personas/ability sets to grow as people and having them memorize facts well enough to regurgitate them for a standardized test is a goal I aim for as a teacher.
Meeting the multi-faceted goals of the children I teach as well as the school I serve is an ideal that I am constantly striving towards. Integrating as many technological and modern delivery methods as possible in my instruction, I employ inquiry-based and collaborative learning to aid my students in making connections across our curriculum. However, I still believe in the seemingly “archaic” value of communicating face-to-face, not just through electronic means. Additionally, hand writing to work on an assignment, making something with your hands, and working on an assignment alone are all still viable means to deliver a quality education.
Educators can strive tirelessly to accomplish their goals, but if their students cannot read, then they have set themselves a fruitless task. Although I teach science and social studies, reading is integral for the students to unlock the content I must deliver. My students use my class to hone their reading and writing skills while simultaneously gaining new information across scientific and historical academic areas. My role in promoting the growth of good readers involves collaborating with my co-teachers across the curriculum. My peers and I will choose days to reinforce grammatical or literary concepts (and sometimes mathematical) simultaneously with whatever subject matter I happen to be going over that day. Not all the students in my room are good readers, so I try to gear down or up to tailor the content to their respective levels. Additionally, I try to relate the day’s material to things the students may be interested in (video games, cartoons, etc.), incorporating relevant examples from their lives into otherwise “dry” academic material to keep them motivated and engaged.
Besides being a facilitator of information, it is my fervent desire to help my students fulfill their dreams (even if they don’t know what they are yet). Giving my pupils a broader view of the world around them while making learning engaging will hopefully help them achieve their life’s goals. While I want to be a firm disciplinarian, I also want to be silly when appropriate. In my classroom, I strive to maintain a feeling of security and safety. I want my students to know they can come to me and I’ll understand, no matter the issue. Above all, I want the children in my classroom to learn it is ok to not be perfect, but that it is of the utmost importance to always try your hardest.
Teaching children reading and promoting good character traits is one thing, while promoting a certain set of values is another altogether. Because values deal with the “should-dos” in life, e.g. what religion to believe in or what political party to follow, they can be a tricky thing to impart without offending a parent. Considering that I am a social studies teacher, a safer aspect of values to disseminate to my students are the democratic ideals our country was founded upon. In my multi-ethnicity classroom, we strive to be civil to each other while also accepting the responsibility for our own actions. Daily I try to instill open-mindedness to the differences of others while simultaneously promoting an awareness that what is good for one person in a group might not be the best for everyone involved. Another important aspect of having good values, and one that kids sometimes have trouble with, is having compassion for the plight of others and being generous when others are not. Endeavoring to make these values innate within my students is the most powerful, least offensive way I can seek to produce caring, contributing members of our democratic society.
While instilling solid values in my pupils is one of my top priorities, I also give precedent to creating an environment of caring and warmth in my classroom. From the very first day of school, I strive to show my students that we are all a family when we step through my door. All year long, I ingrain in my pupils that we do not tear each other down, but rather we support and encourage each other. Although my intentions are from the heart, creating a caring classroom is a way for me to practice good classroom management. Helping my students to build caring relationships also aids in keeping my classroom calm and well ordered. Seeking to build community within the four walls of my class not only produces more healthy, well-adjusted students, but ones that are simultaneously more academically sound.
Providing a caring atmosphere, while of the utmost importance, is only one aspect of producing well-rounded students. Getting the parents involved with their child’s education is also a crucial factor in having my students reach their highest potential. My school, Northside Elementary in Cedartown, GA, has a diverse student population, but is predominantly Hispanic. Northside is also a Title I school, so several of my students’ parents can’t afford to have an Internet connection. Since not all the parents I deal with have the capability to communicate consistently, I find it is best to keep their involvement more “old-school” with a touch of technological interaction thrown in to the mix.
Parents are invited to volunteer throughout the year for whatever events we may be having as a class or school. Sending sign up forms home and posting them online is a way I give my diverse group of families every opportunity to get involved. Every document I send home is in both English and Spanish so that no parent is left out of the loop. Since I teach social studies, it is an excellent way for me to integrate children’s whose parents are from outside the U.S. into our classroom discussions by having them visit during the requisite time. Also, since my student’s parents and I are molding a growing individual, there are the inevitable behavioral, emotional, or academic concerns as my charges are not yet fully formed. No question or concern is too trivial as I try to practice an “open-door” policy when it comes to handling any issues that parents may have in relation to their child’s success/well-being.
Guiding my interactions with parents, and the way I carry out my teaching philosophy, are three underlying thought areas that form a core axis of philosophical tenants. Metaphysics, axiology, and epistemology are the three branches of philosophy that deal broadly with the “speculative nature of reality, value issues like morality, ethics, and aesthetics, and knowing/theories of knowledge” respectively. (book quote) While many of my science lessons delve into the examination of scientific concepts pertaining to our reality, I do not feel that basing my teaching philosophy solely on metaphysics would be wise or even possible. Teaching at an elementary school level involves helping my children develop concrete and factual ideas about the world around them, so there is not a lot of time in the day to ponder abstract concepts like the nature of being or God. From my perspective, teachers must be careful to not push their views on to any student. Since diversity is applauded in my classroom, why would I run the risk of ostracizing any student that didn’t share the same view as me?
Teaching morals or ethical behavior, which are two of the main concerns of axiology, was not in my job contract. Despite the lack of a morality/ethical education contract clause, when you get into the field of teaching, providing good character education to your pupils is implicit. We set standards in our classroom, putting value on the right and wrong choices our students make. My classroom environment is a direct reflection of my classroom management skills, but both rely on the values that I prescribe to my students as a part of our routine on a day-to-day basis. For example, I emphasize respecting the rights of other individuals as a good, ethical behavior. In contrast, I tell my students that behaviors like bullying other people and cheating on a test are unethical. Seemingly, axiology is not an area of philosophy that I can take lightly, as for some of my students I am one of the few worthwhile, moral/ethical compasses they interact with on a frequent basis.