Saturday, January 3, 2009

The first step...

I've been told that journey of 1000 miles starts with the first step.

I guess that's where I am now. At the suggestion (nagging) of a few friends, I have decided to experiment with a blog.

The theme of my blog is based on my journey toward my education degree. I guess the best place to start is with my philosophy of education. The following is my original philosophy I was required to write for one of my first year courses. I agonized over the content for weeks before submitting it. The grade I received was quite a surprise to me. I will reveal my grade at a later date.

{edit 01/04/09 My professor awarded me with an A+ on my philosophy statement. She said my paper was the first one she ever bestowed with such an honor. }

How would you grade my philosophy of education if you were my professor?

Philosophy of Education
My philosophy of education is a mixture of several influences and is difficult to label as one of the classic styles. My years in the workforce, my formal education, and my time in the elementary classroom have helped me form a unique perspective on education. I think my philosophy is best described as a mixture of old-school, high-tech, and holistic; with a bit of ethics and civics. My personal philosophy is that schools should not only teach strong academic skills, but should also provide instruction to help mold and develop the whole person, especially at the K-6 level.
The first objective of the school is to teach basic academics. Arithmetic, reading, writing, spelling, grammar, and rhetoric are as important today as they ever were. Students need to be able to perform the fundamentals of these subjects. Although being able to utilize a calculator, spread-sheet, or a spell checker are great skills, students need to be fluent in the basics. I have seen people fail in the workforce because they were ineffective without their electronic crutch. I have seen entry-level managers at a fortune 500 company that were incapable of writing a hand-written memo above a third grade level. I have seen engineers that could not make simple estimations. I have seen salesmen that could not calculate 25 percent off with a paper and pencil. In some ways academics are like sports; there is no substitute for being proficient in the fundamentals. We must ensure that our young students have the foundation they need for their futures.
Children learn in different ways. Some do better as passive listeners, some do best as active participants. Some are aural learners, some are visual learners, and some are hands-on learners. We must present the information in many different ways to have the best chance at reaching as many students as possible.
It is our duty as educators to light the fire of passion in our students. We must do our best to make every child excited about coming to school. We should try every day to guide our students to become life-long learners. Every child should be able to say they had a fun day at school every day. It is our job to provide the motivation to instill this attitude in our students. An old friend once gave me some advice that he said applied to almost anything. His advice was, “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong”. I think this applies to teachers and students as well.
We should ensure that every child is has a continual challenge with frequent success. Success should be rewarded with things such as special classroom privileges, a new book, or points toward a field trip; not with trinkets or candy. We must teach our students that learning is something that is more valuable than a candy bar or a super-hero eraser. We must also teach them how to deal with occasional failures and how to learn from their mistakes.
Students should never find the school environment boring. Lesson plans need variety to keep young children excited. My ideal classroom would utilize a mixture of individual work, partner work, and group work. Students should have a blend of daily in-class work, daily homework, short-term projects, and long-term projects. There should be programs to supplement the standard curriculum. I believe that elementary schools should have a science club, math club, ham radio club, gardening club, art club etc. similar to middle and high schools. Technology should be utilized as not only as a teaching aide but also as a creative outlet. Today’s elementary students are capable making podcasts, vidcasts, blogs, and many other creative works if given the tools to work with.
Many of the children that will pass through our schools come from unconventional families. Our students often spend more time with us than they do with their primary caregivers. Many of these children do not have strong role models in their lives. It is the duty of the school faculty and staff to be outstanding role models for all of the students. We need to be of good moral character to show the children right from wrong. It is not enough to just say it; we have to live it. Good ethics and morals are not something that can be faked. Children have the ability to see through the facades we try to erect and see us for what we really are. We must be good people in order to teach them how to be good people.
Elementary students should be introduced to the basic fundamentals of a democratic society. The classroom environment should function as an age-appropriate model of the democratic process. We should also try to instill a sense of pride and patriotism in our students. My ideal classroom would start the day with the pledge of allegiance, national anthem, and a patriotic themed ‘this day in history’ fact. Children need to know that it is acceptable to have an opinion and to be passionate about it. Our students need to be taught that there are right and wrong ways to effect changes in their society.
The goal of elementary education is not to teach ‘the three R’s’, pass the standardized tests, and push them out the door to the next grade. We need to teach our students strong academic skills, strong social skills, and a solid moral foundation. We must take every opportunity to instill the love of learning into our students. They need to be kept excited and motivated. We need to help them want to succeed in school and in life. We must give them every opportunity to succeed by helping them become the best moral, ethical, inspired, and educated person they can become.

As I have progressed down the path of my journey I have learned new things and made edits to my philosophy statement. If this blog grows and develops as I think it will, my philosophy statement will become a living document. Maybe I'll make it a wiki or a Google document so I can go back and see all of the revisions I've made.

Well, I think this enough for my fist blog post. I originally planned to just dip my toes in to test the water.

I think I might have got more than a toe wet....... Photo by Kim Marius Flakstad

Please leave me a comment or suggestion...