A Teacher of Special Needs Students Shares Her Educational Philosophy

It is important for every educator to develop his or her own educational philosophy. A thoughtful philosophy of education provides an educator with the foundation upon which to build a teaching career.

As is true with many teachers, I have found teaching and learning to be fundamental components of my life, and my educational philosophy reflects this. My views on education grouped as follows: (1) teaching and learning, (2) students, (3) knowledge, (4) what is worth knowing, and (5) my personal philosophy.

Outline of Core Beliefs
Teaching and learning
�Learning is natural for the human mind
�Learning provides opportunities for building self esteem
Students
�Everyone is a student at some point in life
�A student must feel safe to learn
Knowledge
�Knowledge is the foundation of learning
�Knowledge truly is power
What is worth knowing
�Standards shape our views on what is worth knowing
�What is worth knowing is ultimately determined by the student
My personal philosophy
âÂ?¢Helping others learn is part of a teacher’s personality
�Teachers are learners too

Teaching and Learning
My philosophy on teaching and learning is centered on two basic ideas: (1) learning is natural for the human mind, and (2) learning provides opportunities for building self-esteem. If you look at children and infants, it is obvious that the human mind is eager to learn. Babies are not instructed on how to make sense of the world around them. Learning about our environment is as natural, in most cases, as is breathing.

As is evident to anyone who works with children, a child’s self esteem can be a very fragile thing. One of the most effective ways to develop self-esteem is through successful learning and practicing of new skills. This is why, as teachers, we hold a very special position in a child’s life. We have both the opportunities and the tools to help students build their self-esteem through learning every day.

Students
I have two core beliefs about students: (1) everyone is a student at some point in his or her life, and (2) a student must feel safe to learn. We have all been students at some time in our lives. We need to remember this, keeping in mind what it is like to be in such a position. As I work my way through graduate school, I am continually reminded of what it is like to be a student, each day. I am reminded of the powerlessness and vulnerability students often experience. Teachers need to keep this knowledge in mind when working with their own students.

A student cannot learn if he or she does not feel safe. The human mind is not wired for learning when in fight or flight mode. If a student does not have these safety needs met, whether they are psychological or physical, learning will take a backseat to emotion. Teachers need to consider this, in the classroom. More often than not, this will play a role in student behavior.
Knowledge

My thoughts on knowledge are simple: (1) it is the foundation upon which learning is built, and (2) knowledge truly is power. Without knowledge, there would be little to teach. Students begin building their foundation of knowledge as infants, each step leading to the next. Without a good teacher, many students may never come to realize the power that knowledge can give. As a student gains knowledge, self-esteem is also built, as well as perspective and understanding. The continued acquisition of knowledge is fundamental to living a full and competent life.

What is Worth Knowing?
This is an important question for teachers. Opinions will surely differ, but decisions and policy must be made. Such decisions are based on personal, institutional, and societal considerations, and can change over time. Despite this state of flux surrounding the subject, I have found two things to be true: (1) imposed learning standards shape our views on what is worth knowing, and (2) what is worth knowing is ultimately up to the student. A teacher might look at a given set of learning standards, and prioritize concepts in order of what is felt to be “important”. It should be noted however, cultural and societal issues affect the parameters within which we as teachers operate, and therefore a mandated curriculum should not be seen as truth in and of itself.

My Personal Philosophy
My personal philosophy is based on three statements I consider true: (1) helping others learn is part of a teacher’s personality, and (2) teachers are learners too. I feel that helping others learn has always been a part of my personality. Most teachers share this quality. Teachers have a special way of dealing with children inside and outside the classroom. One can often tell if a person is a teacher, by observing his or her interactions with a child, in a grocery store for example. Teachers are a special type of person, often marked by a sense of patience, respect for children, and genuine caring that isn’t often found in others.

In terms of lifelong learning, teachers don’t usually make this choice consciously. It is usually another natural component of their personality. Possibly the only thing I enjoy more than teaching, is learning. In most endeavors outside the classroom, I find myself learning about one of three things: subject matter, students, or teaching. It may sound clichÃ?©, but teaching is a lifestyle!

Determining one’s own philosophy of education is an integral step in becoming an effective teacher. An educator who has determined his or her philosophy of education has rendered the theoretical foundation on which to build a teaching career. Teaching and learning are fundamental aspects of my life, as is often true with many educators. Through this perspective, as both teacher and learner, I have come to develop my own personal philosophy of education.

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