Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My Philosophy of Education

Interviewing again. I haven't actually been turned down for any jobs yet, which I guess is good. I almost feel like I'm in some sort of Olympic event, making the rounds among the judges and in the end, all of us will be parcelled out to our respective corners to grapple our way through another year of school. For some, the grappling will take on the look of a ballet or a beautifully performed opera. For others, it will look like a WWW smack-down. I think mine probably looks mostly like a ballet, except the prima donna's toe shoe is dangling from her left foot where, in her haste to be ready, she didn't get it secured just right. Nevertheless she twirls on with such vigor and grace that eventually, even the dangling shoe becomes part of the beauty of the piece; that is, for anyone with any sort of appreciation for ballet and a fondness for the ballerina it does. I guess to some folks, it still just looks like a crazy little girl in a tutu dancing around with her shoe coming off.

All this talking about and thinking about education is good. We used to do this all the time back in Granbury, ad infinitim, but I see more clearly now that such rethinking of your objectives and motives in teaching is valuable far more so than the alternative which is to keep doing the same thing every year just because we've always done it that way. I'm in a place now where this is the norm, and it's frustrating. The thing is - the education of our young people is a living breathing organism all its own. If we treat it like something static, we've lost the battle before we've even begun. Educators are the worst at BMWing (i'll clarify that in the comments if anyone needs to understand that acronym) about how messed up the parents are and how screwed up society is and how America has gone down the tubes. I admit to bouts of this sort of ranting myself. And while it's true that there are parents who are absolutely part of the problem not the solution as far as the education of their children, I can't change parents. I can only change what I'm doing. And I have to be honest and admit at times that what I'm doing needs to be changed.

There are certain aspects of education that do remain the same. Children have always been and will continue to be little human beings who, in given situations will react a given way. However, the landscape we teach them on has changed tremendously. This ever-changing landscape causes shifts in values that affect what we do in the classroom. And, I'm not talking at ALL about social issues like gay rights, abortion or sex-ed in the curriculum. I'm talking about things like cel phones, Ipods, video games, the Internet, fast food, and debit cards.

I got my first phone at the age of 16; it was connected with a cord to my room at home and I never knew who was calling until I picked it up and said hello. You practically had to have a court order to get any sort of "caller id" from the phone company.
MTV played music videos and that was all. Sometimes it was just music with a picture of the album on screen. I believe that the world I grew up in was full of more mystery and suspense. Voyeuristic behaviors were either very rude or outright criminal, not the norm for conducting daily business or the basis of over half the television I watched.

I like this quote from Gandhi:
"There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”

As an educator, it's my job to figure out what "bread" looks like to the kids I serve. I personally think it looks like someone taking the time to meet them where they are. The problem with some educators today is that they say they want to meet kids where they are, but they really mean that they want to meet kids where they expect them to be or where they "should" be according to the world as it was when they grew up. At the heart of the matter, what kids really need has never changed, but how we present them with what they need, so that they can accept it, has got to change.

Interviewing can be a pain, but it does cause me to stop and reflect about what I'm doing and why I do the things that I do. If I truly believe that all kids have worth and value, then I will treat them with dignity and respect. Even when they misbehave. I will honor them as human beings even when they don't deserve it. I will give and give even when I don't feel like it and even though there's no way I could ever be compensated enough for my troubles. It's what I want done for my own children as they find their way in the world. It's what I choose to keep doing for the children I teach.

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Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts. And I absolutely loved the ballerina metaphor!

-- Jarred.

Anonymous said...

As someone who is most likely going to begin homeschooling my oldest (age 15) I have this to say. There is NO one size fits all approach. And there is only so much public schools can do when there are parents who don't give a shit. I say this having gotten nothing but kindness from our local public school. I needed that because after a horrendous experience as a teen myself, I really had a huge axe to grind. They may be the best solution for some kids. My kids were (and one still is) in an awesome freespirited private Christian school that only goes up to eighth grade. I am slowly getting converted to the philosophy of homeschooling or small schools that replicate that mind set. It is very hard to keep the love of learning alive when a bunch of the kids come from homes where the parents see the school as the babysitter and do not even interact. After eight years at private school with tons of parental interaction, my first public school open house, I was floored that all the teachers gushed over the tiny number of parents that attended. We were given quite a few goodies and incentives for having shown up. Something that should be a given for a parent. The amount of time I invested hanging out at the school and nagging about homework could have been much better spent homeschooling for a few hours. And then sending a teen off to work or volunteer in the real world.

Jenny said...

From one educator to another, that was absolutly beautiful and inspiring. Thank you so much Pam! If you don't mind, I'd like to share it with a few collegues.

Jenny said...

Oops... "absolutely" and "colleagues"
Even teachers need spell check!

grace said...

Of course Jenny! I'm humbled and honored by that request.

don't EVEN start checking my stuff over for grammar and spelling... heehee!

Journeyman said...

"The education of our young people is a living breathing organism all its own."

In my mind, there are all kinds of things like this in our world. Things that should be picked up and examined (and danced around). Thanks for sharing.