My educational philosophy rests on four major pillars; while the finer details of my philosophy are constantly changing, these four key beliefs are central to everything I do in the classroom.
- I must help my students to become anti-oppressive educators who question commonsense understandings and embrace discomforting learning.
“Learning is not just about “correcting” what students already know. Learning is not just about students’ acquiring what some in schools and society have already determined to be the things that they are “supposed” to know. Given the recognition that curriculum cannot help but be partial, learning needs to involve refusing to be comfortable with what we already know and what we are coming to know.”
~ Kevin Kumashiro
At the foundation of my teaching lies my belief in the need for anti-oppressive education. Our society is deeply rooted in inequity and is designed to further privilege those who already have a head start. In my classes, I ask my students to question their commonsense understandings of the world (i.e., the normative narratives that shape our perceptions) in order to see what these understandings make possible and impossible; this includes working to disrupt and dismantle commonsense narratives related to curriculum, instruction, assessment, and the education system generally. It is only by interrogating our own privileges and biases that we can begin to work towards social justice.
- The best skill I can give my students is to teach them to be adaptable, self-directed, social learners who have a personal learning network (PLN) that they can learn from throughout their careers.
“Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today. . . . As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses.”
~ George Siemens
The world is changing rapidly, thanks in large part to technological innovation. Given this rapid pace of change, I know that I can’t prepare my students for everything they will encounter in their lifetime of work. I can, however, set my students on the path to becoming lifelong learners by teaching them how to learn. One of the biggest advantages I can give my students as they enter the teaching profession is to connect them to a broad network of other educators who can support and further their learning.
- What my students know matters less than what they are doing with that knowledge.
“As we increasingly move toward an environment of instant and infinite information, it becomes less important for students to know, memorize, or recall information, and more important for them to be able to find, sort, analyze, share, discuss, critique, and create information. They need to move from being simply knowledgeable to being knowledge-able.”
~ Michael Wesch
Just as what students know is less important than how they are able to learn, it’s also less important than what they are able to do with what they know, particularly in a world where facts and knowledge are always at our fingertips. This means that one of my roles as an educator is to provide my students with the emerging literacies needed to manage and utilize the abundance of information accessible to them. It also means that course assignments should be designed to allow students to demonstrate their knowledge-ability (to use Wesch’s phrase); as such, I strive to ensure that all of my assignments require my students to engage critically with course content rather than simply regurgitating it. When appropriate, I also encourage my students to share their work with the world via online platforms, so that they can practice applying their knowledge to engage as active citizens beyond the boundaries of the course.
- Education is never neutral, nor should educators attempt to be so.
“Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”
~ Paulo Freire
As I noted above, anti-oppressive education lies at the heart of my teaching; it is the framework upon which my instruction is built. Unsurprisingly, then, the final pillar of my educational philosophy is an extension of my first statement. The belief that an education system can be free of values and biases is one of the most powerful and dangerous commonsense understandings that I must help my students to interrogate. But beyond that interrogation, what is even more important is that I guide students to recognize that a “good” teacher is not neutral, and that claiming neutrality is simply a means of upholding the status quo. As such, I aim to help my students become passionate and critical members of the education system, ones who actively participate in seeking equitable educational outcomes for all students.