What does it mean to educate? My favorite definition of the word educate is “give intellectual, moral, and social instruction to (someone, especially a child), typically at a school or university.” It highlights how the word educate is not exclusive to intellectual development and has a broad array of learning possibilities.
Throughout this chapter, I learned of five different teaching philosophies. Before I started this course, I didn’t consider education more than what I now know is referred to as essentialism. Something I never considered is that as teachers, we are not only providing academic knowledge, we are helping our students develop a sense of humane values and ethics. The five different philosophies known as Essentialism, Perennialism, Progressivism, Social Reconstructionism, and Existentialism, are the driving force of what kind of teacher one will become. It dictates what type of role a person will play for their students and how an educator will interact with colleagues, students, and parents. There are certain qualities that are crucial so that both students and teachers are successful in the learning process and can empower each other to be their best self. If teachers want to succeed, we need to be very clear about what it is we are trying to accomplish, which is why teaching philosophies are so important.
Upon reading of the different philosophies and doing several book suggested exercises to determine which teaching philosophy would apply to me, I have concluded that, while there are many elements of each philosophy I agree with, social reconstructionism would be my personal teaching philosophy. This philosophy emphasizes the addressing of social questions and a quest to create a better society and worldwide democracy. Paulo Friere says that education does not change the world but changes the people that will change the world. As a mother of three children and a social activist, I undoubtedly agree with that statement. I am my children’s first educator. I have always said that my primary goal as a mother is to teach them kindness, acceptance, and love. I have open and honest conversations with them about the social issues we still face today such as racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. Never telling them how or what they should think, instead creating a safe atmosphere that promotes analysis, critical thinking and respectful criticism.
In so many ways, I feel that being a mother has prepared me to become a teacher. I want my students to also have a safe atmosphere to discuss social issues they and others unlike them face. In creating this atmosphere for my own children, they are comfortable coming to me with any issues they have dealt with. My son has been comfortable coming to me to discuss the bullying he has faced. My daughter has been comfortable coming to me to discuss the harassment she has received from boys. Not only have they been comfortable coming to me about these issues, they have also learned how to analyze and solve the problem in the event these situations occur again.
Implementing this in my classroom will help me build a social relationship with my students and them with each other, as well as maintain respect and trust so that if they ever find themselves in a social issue, they have no fear of coming to me or their peers to help them problem solve. I believe that cooperative learning and working together to solve problems is how children will learn and be empathetic to issues that they may not be familiar with.
In learning about social issues they have not faced but their peers have, they are expanding their minds and learning how their behaviors now and in the future might affect others. Ignorance is the cause of many social issues we are still faced with today. If we as adults stopped underestimating children’s ability to understand social issues and have open, honest, and respectful communication about the issues, it’s possible we can eradicate these problems completely. My goal is to teach my students to not settle for what is but to dream of what might be.