Building My Educational Philosophy
October 10, 2017
Tiana G. Waldbauer
Like many education students, I began building my educational philosophy in my first year. Being fresh out of high school, I had little knowledge about teaching and my first educational philosophy reflects that, however, I understood that current curricula and teaching practices needed improvement and I was passionate about change. Looking back at my first teaching philosophy I can see that while I certainly had the passion, I lacked the knowledge needed to initiate change. Two philosophers who have since aided in my growth of knowledge and understanding are John Dewey and Maxine Greene.
John Dewey is well known for his progressive and reformative views on education. Much of his work consists of challenging and evaluating past and current teaching practices and curricula while providing the world with new ideas and suggestions. Unaware that John Dewey would become a popular name in our lectures this year, I had quoted him in my first educational teaching philosophy all the way back in my first year of education. It reads, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow” (as cited in West, 2011). This is arguably the most referenced of all John Dewey quotes and I think for good reason. I came into education wanting to be a difference in student’s lives. The message within Dewey’s quote turned my want into a yearning and now that I am studying his work, I am beginning to know how to initiate such change. For example, previously I had never thought to question the curriculum. The curriculum as I now know it is full of flaws and outdated strategies. One might question, how then, is an educator to go about initiating change without wandering too far from our rule book. Dewey (1916) explains:
But it is also true that the innovator who achieves anything enduring, whose work is more than a passing sensation, utilizes classic methods more than may appear to himself or to his critics. He devotes them to new uses, and in so far transforms them. (p. 200-201)
This suggests that those who are passionate about their student’s education will look at the curriculum as simply the skeleton of our teaching practice. As an educator, rather than teaching to my students I plan to put emphasis on teaching with my students— by listening to how they would most benefit from my lessons and then applying the curriculum accordingly.
Another educational philosopher who’s work highlights the flaws in common teaching practices is Maxine Greene. I especially appreciate her studies surrounding the arts in education. A large component of my philosophy defends the notion of art as a necessary tool among teaching practices, especially with other subjects. I highly believe, and urge other educators to consider, that art can benefit not only a student’s ability to learn but also the student themselves. Common teaching practices today deny creativity and individuality. The arts, when applied to other subject areas, can enable students to address their questions, thoughts, and ideas in a fun and more personal way. Greene (2013) argues:
Given the changes in our cultural and social world, many of the possible roles of the arts learning have to do with the specific contexts of the contemporary education…If we are going to affirm, extend, and expand the role of arts in education, we must give up the kind of standardization that wipes clean the diversity, richness, and humanness that infuses the arts as well as human beings’ individual—and sometimes collective—responses to the arts. (p. 252)
When students are learning kinaesthetically and creating their own learning they are, therefore, deepening their understanding of that topic in a way that most benefits themselves. To teach a constantly growing and differing society, our teaching practices need to also grow and change. Green’s philosophy challenged me to consider—specifically— how such theories would be demonstrated in the classroom: If we can change the common teaching practice enough to implement the arts, we will begin to see how dramatic skits and plays addressing social justice issues can create empathy, how using natural elements to create visual representations can foster an appreciation for the environment, or how learning to play the North American Indigenous flute can engage students in the Indigenous culture. The arts are the source to which such is possible; this is what I believe.
Dewey and Greene share a progressive and pluralistic view of education and both have expressed concern for the diversity that continues to grow within classrooms. Today, in our ever-changing world, diversity has become a hot topic amongst educators. Diversity within Canada is something known to be celebrated, however, the sharing and spreading of racist remarks is not uncommon. I believe that the root of narrow-mindedness is one’s upbringing, and the way to get rid of a narrow mind is to educate it; however, even those who are educated can become biased adults. According to Dewey (1937):
Our public school system was founded in the name of equality of opportunity for all, independent of birth, economic status, race, creed, or colour. The school cannot by itself alone create or embody this idea. But the least it can do is to create individuals who understand the concrete meaning of the idea with their minds, who cherish it warmly in their hearts, and who are equipped to battle in its behalf in their actions. (p. 474)
With this in mind, I am left to question how I as an educator am to create such individuals. Fortunately, Greene (1992) provides another explanation,“Learning to look through multiple perspectives, young people may be helped to build bridges among themselves. By attending to a range of human stories, they may be provoked to heal and to transform” (p. 259). Constructing a multicultural classroom can be a challenge when considering the barriers that persist. Art is an expression that allows cultural barriers to be crossed. Participants within arts do not need to share backgrounds, beliefs, or even language in order to yield the benefits.
Through my explorations, I have gained new perspectives, challenged old perspectives, and thus deepened and strengthened my teaching philosophy. While some of Dewey’s theories were known to me, Greene’s theories were new territory. Greene’s approach for implementing the arts mirrored Dewey’s progressive theories. Combining the two allows for a new teaching practice that better benefits the new generations of students and their differences. I am now more prepared and even more excited to begin this teaching practice!
Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education: An introduction to the philosophy of edu cation. New York: The Macmillan Company
Dewey, J. (1938). Education and democracy in the world of today. Schools: Studies in Education, 9(1), 96-100. doi:10.1086/665026
Greene, M. (2013). The turning of the leaves: Expanding our vision for the arts in edu cation. Harvard Educational Review, 83(1), 251-252,266. Retrieved from https:// login.libproxy.uregina.ca:8443/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.libprox y.uregina.ca:8443/docview/1326778684?accountid=13480
West, D. M. (2011). Using technology to personalize learning and assess students in real-time. Brookings. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/research/using- technology-to-personalize-learning-and-assess-students-in-real-time/