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.
1. We need to help our 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 everything lies my belief in the need for anti-oppressive education. Our educational systems, and society in general, are deeply rooted in inequity and are 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 in order to see what these understandings make possible and impossible. It is only by interrogating our own privileges and biases that we can begin to work towards social justice.
2. The world is changing rapidly, and the best skill we can give students is to teach them to be adaptable, social learners who have a personal learning network (PLN) that they can learn from throughout their careers.
“We as educators need to reconsider our roles in students’ lives, to think of ourselves as connectors first and content experts second.”
— Will Richardson
Given the rapid pace of technological 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 PLN of other educators who can support and further their learning.
3. All the ability in the world doesn’t matter if you aren’t doing something meaningful with it.
“What matters today. . . is not how much our students know, but what they can do with what they know.”
— Tony Wagner
Assignments that are created for the teacher’s eyes alone are often largely meaningless once the class is over. Instead, I ask my students to build digital portfolios where they can share their work with real audiences around the world. I strive to ensure that all of my assignments have real-world applications and can contribute to the learning of others outside of the classroom walls.
4. Adult learners in particular learn best when they understand why they are learning and can see the relevance to their own needs.
“If we know why we are learning and if the reason fits our needs as we perceive them, we will learn quickly and deeply.”
— Malcolm Knowles
My students will soon enter their own classrooms; they are adult learners who are most engaged when they can see a direct application to their future careers. However, while the “practical” side of teaching is important, students must also learn to approach the practical skills of teaching (lesson planning, management) with a critical lens that interrogates the power structures that underpin our educational systems.