Personal Philosophy Paper
Teaching is more than just a job, it is a calling to transform the lives of their students. Teachers have the enormous responsibility to make sure that every student receives an education that is built upon truth. Each teacher possesses a philosophy of education, which helps guide how they will teach, what they will teach, and how they view their student’s ability to learn. The way I view my schools and learning, instructional practice, relationship with students, the diversity of my classroom, and my calling is all built on the foundations of Biblical truths. What we hold to be truth shapes our philosophies and, the way we answer life’s big questions. With God’s word being the foundation along with a combination of Neo-Scholasticism and Pragmatism methodology, I believe that all students have the potential to learn and should play an active role in their learning.
In an ever-changing society, it is crucial that teachers hold fast to their philosophy, not to be susceptible to societal influence, but to always be self-reflecting to hold oneself accountable to the foundations they stand upon. A personal philosophy helps shape and guide an educator in how they will teach and view their students. Every educator holds a set of values and ideas from a set or sets of theorists. I believe that as educators, we are not limited to only one philosophy. My worldview and education philosophy is built upon a biblical foundation with aspects of the Neo-Scholasticism philosophy and the Pragmatic methodology. Each of these aspects affects how I view the schools and learning, methods of instruction, relationships with students, and the diversity of learners.
Worldview and Philosophy of Life
“What is real and what is truth?” is one of life’s biggest questions. Many people would claim that everyone defines their own truth but if that was true how could any educator expect to teach students that something they hold as truth to be true for all of them? Scripture would give us a more authoritative and foundational solid answer in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” God’s word is the truth and can give answers to some of life’s most difficult questions. Where different philosophies search to find meaning and directions, God’s word can give real truth and direction that can be found throughout Scripture. Everything from our reality to our senses, He created so what we are experiencing is real not just real because they are our truths (Braley, Layman, ; White, 2003). However, even though our senses and our realities are real, they can be deceiving so we need to always check what we are experiencing to what the Bible says. The Bible is inerrant so we can hold fast to the truth the Word of God is the absolute truth and a perfect guide for our worldview and philosophy.
“What is good, or of value?” is another question that many ask. If we believe that the Word of God is an absolute truth, then whatever is good or valued in His Word is what we should deem as good and valuable in our lives. In Genesis 1 and 2, we read the account of creation. “God saw all that he had made, and it was good” (Genesis, 1:31). All of creation He deemed good and valuable but after the fall of man sin marked this world. Now, what we see is good may be tainted by our sinful nature. To know what is good and valuable is found now in His eyes (Phil 4:8). The perfection of God is the standard of goodness that as a believer I strive for as the Holy Spirit sanctifies me every day.
Lastly, another area that philosophers discuss is in regard to the nature of human beings. The nature of humanity is defined by the makeup of the mind, body, and spirit (McCullough, 2012). Created in His image, God created us with minds to be able to think for ourselves, bodies to be able to experience the world He created, and a spirit to long to know Him more. In our fallen world, our sinful nature is embedded in our mind, body, and spirit and causes us to turn away from the Lord and to give in to our sinful desires. Even after the fall of mankind in Genesis 3, God’s standard of perfection did not change which left a problem. Being sinful people, the standard of perfection is impossible, which is why we needed a Savior (Romans 5:19). Even in our disobedience, the Lord is and was faithful to provide us with a Savior that would take our place so that way we could have a chance at eternal life. Understanding our fallen nature and the grace that was so freely given, is a crucial part of my philosophy of education. I need to understand that I, as well as my students, are a fallen people and yet Christ came for all of us even though not one of us will ever be worthy of His sacrifice on the cross.
Philosophy of Schools and Learning
Understanding the role of God, parents, teachers, and students are critical to understanding one’s view of education. First off, as Christian teachers, there needs to be a realization that God’s plan and part in learning truth come first. Though in the public schools, there are limitations to sharing God’s word, there are ways for teaching about God still. Even just the way a teacher interacts with their students, parents, and colleagues can allow people to see Jesus. Elements of Neo-Scholasticism gives some guidance on how to teach students about God’s truth by recognizing that each student should be taught to think rationally and to be able to develop spiritually (Braley et., 2003). All students have the potential to learn and it is important that teachers do not solely focus on the curriculum and grades. Rather, they should focus both the curriculum and developing each student’s character and guiding them to reach their full potential (Braley et al., 2003).
Too often people focus solely on the importance of the role of God, teachers, and students but the role of the parents is just as important. Parents have been given the responsibility of raising and educating their children by God. When a parent is invested in a student’s education, the student has a better chance of being successful because parents are able to provide the support each student needs at home. Teachers need to understand this crucial role that parents play and do everything in their power to keep parents involved and informed in order to provide the best chance for the student to be successful in and out of the classroom.
Teachers play a significant role in the entire learning process because they determine the lesson plans, differentiated instructions, activities, and they help shape the learning environment. Every student learns differently so teachers need to be able to incorporate differentiated lessons in order to teach in ways that make sense to all of the students not just the students that are gifted (Ackerman, 2012). Differentiating the lessons allows for students to know that their teacher ultimately desires what is best for them (Ackerman, 2007). Teachers need to fully understand that their attitudes towards their students, the environment they create within the classroom, and the different teaching styles used, affects the way students feel and view their potential for success.
Lastly, the role that the students play in their learning comes in two different positions. The first position is the belief that students should and have the ability to make their own academic choices (Burden, 2013). The second position is that students can be trained to learn exactly as each different teacher deems bests (Burden, 2013). As a Christian educator, there needs to be a combination of both positions because students need to be guided but also they need to be given some freedom to make choices that they can learn from. The Lord gave each of us with minds that can think rationally and as teachers, we should be encouraging our students to think rationally. In a student-centered focused classroom, students have an active role in their learning but also provided with the guidance they need to help them develop, learn, and think rationally about different concepts.
Teachers are to be the leaders in their classroom by creating an active learning environment where students are engaged and are invested in their own learning. Through the use of hands-on, inductive lessons students will be actively involved in their own learning. By allowing students to play an active role in their learning, teachers are allowing them to be actively applying new truths and experiences to other areas of their lives. Pragmatism holds fast to the importance of creating an intrinsic motivation within each student to learn by capturing a student’s interest (Burden, 2013). The only way a teacher can capture a student’s interest is by first knowing what interests them. In my classroom, I will integrate the different interests of my students into the lessons in order for them to create a personal connection and interest to the lesson.
Learning is different for each student, so teachers need to have differentiated assignments in order to cater to the different learning styles. The curriculum is student-centered and draws in the different interest of the students in an organized manner (Braley et al., 2003). A pedagogical method that is used to promote student-centered active learning is having students work together in different groups. Working in groups allows for students to interact with different classmates to learn from and with them while being engaged in different real-world situations. For example, in math class students could be given the assignment to find the best value for a different item with different discounts, prices, and taxes. Students are able to gain a further understanding of percents, unit prices, and taxes while developing the concept of being good stewards of their money. When students take ownership of their education, they begin to become more intrinsically motivated and active in their pursuits. The roles of the teachers, parents, and schools are to guide the students and help develop them become lifelong learners that are able to think critically for themselves. In my classroom, I want my students to gain more than just the skills to pass my class. I want to provide them a safe, student-centered, motivating, classroom environment where they become active learners that can think critically, and use their gifts and passions for others.
“It is important for a teacher to find the balance between being well liked and well respected” (Ackerman, 2007, p. 4). As a teacher with elements of the Neo-Scholastic philosophy and Pragmatic methodology, I believe that a teacher needs to be the authority figure in the room as well as a mentor for the students. The role of the teacher is to provide boundaries, develop each student’s character, and to create a safe space to learn. God has given teachers the responsibility to guide and shape the minds and hearts of the students. The teacher is the leader in the classroom and they need to meet the different needs of the students. Too many times teachers miss out on the most important life-shaping conversations because they were too focused on the schedules and lessons. Teachers need to take advantage of the opportunities that can lead a student to Christ. Scripture and the Neo-Scholastic philosophy strongly believe that every person and children are “naturally sinful and in need of spiritual redemption, accountability, and discipline” (Traditional, Philosophies, n.d.). Teachers have the responsibility to meet the needs of the students by helping shape them and guiding them to reach their full potential.
Students play an active role in their own learning, but this does not mean that they know what is best for their education (Braley et al., 2003). As Christian educators, we should be leading and be guiding our students by first creating positive relationships. Students should be encouraged, inspired, and motivated to learn. Through student-centered instructional methods, a teacher is able to create an active learning environment that instills within the students a curiosity and an engagement in their learning. The Pragmatism methodology allows for a classroom to be a positive, safe learning environment that gives the support and guidance they need while allowing them more freedom to reason and think through different topics and concepts.
In a diverse world, our classrooms today are dealing with many different types of diversity from academic to cultural. If a teacher truly believes that all people are created in the image of God, then this understanding will affect the way one loves and cares for each one of their students. Regardless of ethnicity, gender preferences, social class, or academic ability, every student should be shown and given the same safe, loving learning environment. If every student is equal in the eyes of the Lord, why should we look at them any differently? Every child craves to feel like they belong and loved (Braley et al.,2003). More than being loved, they want to be understood. As a teacher, a way to show that you care about the students is by taking the time to understand the varying cultures and religious backgrounds for each student. In order to show the love of Christ, we must go beyond just loving them and start to try to understand our students (Braley et al., 2003).
In a classroom, teachers can integrate different cultures throughout their lesson plans. Just as there is diversity in cultural backgrounds, there is a wide diversity in the learning styles. In my classroom, I will structure my lessons to have differentiated instructions in order to accommodate each of the various learning styles from visual, auditory and kinesthetic. By providing differentiated instructions and assignments, teachers are able to make the classroom more enjoyable and the students are able to stay engaged (Ackerman, 2007). When students feel understood and are being taught in ways that make sense to them, they are able to have their educational needs me, which allows them to learn in the safe, active learning environment.
I have known that teaching was my calling ever since I was a little girl. I grew up in a homeschooling family and my mother instilled, within my siblings and I, a love of learning. Being the second oldest of six, I have always played the role of teacher with my little siblings. Later when I was a freshman in high school, I had the opportunity to be a teacher’s assistant at my private school and I fell in love even more with teaching. Now, at my current job, I have the opportunity to teach students math from Kindergarten to High School Seniors. I have the incredible opportunity to meet each student right where they are regardless of their grade level. I get to focus on strengthening their foundation to help them succeed rather than solely focusing on teaching to a standardized test. At a student-centered learning center, my job has allowed me to develop my educational philosophy by being able to be hands-on with students of all different ages, cultural backgrounds, genders, and academic ability. Every student that walks in my door has what I like to call their own inner Einstein. Each one of them has the potential to learn and to succeed, and I am able to provide a safe, loving, and friendly learning environment where students are able to learn at their own pace and in the ways that make the most sense to them. My calling ever since I was a little girl has only grown stronger. The Lord has called me to transform the lives of the students that I have the honor to teach. Being a teacher is about transforming students lives and instilling within them a confidence that they can be successful lifelong learners.
Every teacher has a personal worldview and education philosophy that shapes the way they will conduct their classroom and the way they view their students. With a foundation in Biblical truth and with elements of Neo-Scholasticism and Pragmatism methodology, I will use my philosophy to create a student-centered classroom environment where every student is treated equally and is valued. Through student-centered differentiated instructions and activities, students will be able to stay engaged and active in their learning experience. Every student that walks into my classroom has the potential to learn so I hope to provide an environment where each student feels loved and has the ability to learn and grow throughout their time in my classroom. My role as a Christian educator is to help guide each student, instill within each one of them an understanding that they are lifelong learners, and to leave a lasting impact on each of their lives.
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McCullough, J. D. (2008). Kingdom living in your classroom. Colorado Springs: Purposeful