Way back in grad school and more recently in job applications I’ve been asked to write my philosophy of education. Oy. Some ideas I’ve had, kept, and believed in since I was a student, others have changed several times this morning. The following is from 2011, and I regret that the namedropping begs explanation, but it can start the conversation here…
I have learned that it is good to come to school with a really big toolbox. That way you are more likely to have the right tool for the job, and since people are so different, it takes a lot of different tools to help them come to learn.
Many of these tools I found in schools, as a student of learning. The Socratic Method in it’s various manifestations, the doing of Dewey, and the insights of Skinner, Kohlberg, Vygotsky, Chomsky, et al., are all part of building knowledge. I have been inspired by the ideas of Marshall McLuhan, George Leonard, Neil Postman, Howard Gardner, and Doug Lemov. I use the tools of Developmental Stages, Attribution Theory, the Inquiry Method, Problem-Based/Discovery/Experiential Learning, as well as Constructivism and all combinations thereof. Add a little Elbow grease, and one can really start to get things done!
Some of these tools are not found exclusively in the workshop of education. In war and sports, competition and cooperation are like a reversible power tool. The businessperson’s shrewd cost/benefit analysis is a tool, and interest (really important in education) can help or hurt depending on where you are invested. Real estate, insurance, securities – just the ideas as metaphors are tools for students and teachers. Transportation and communication are full of tools. The school bus, oh yeah. Computers, phones, cameras, xBox, eBooks – you know it! Technology in general, in all its new and exciting manifestations, is an essential tool for learning, exploring, and understanding.
I’ve also found some other, very valuable tools along the road of life. Patience is a good one. Tolerance, compassion, and a rollicking sense of humor can get used a lot when working in the heat of a classroom. Infectious curiosity, trusty respect, and demonstrable integrity can be used to great effect. And fun can be the lubricant that gets all the parts moving. If you have got some industrial strength enthusiasm and a big bucket of love, you can definitely get the job done.
Of course, the job won’t be done, and really, the teacher can’t do it. The teacher can only show students how to use those tools themselves, to empower them to realize their unique potential. “Wax on, wax off,” “teach the man to fish.” The students are learning the craft of learning, the trade of knowledge, they are becoming journeymen on the journey of life, and maybe of wisdom.