A Statement of Educational Philosophy

Philosophy of Education

Recently, I took some time to revisit my educational philosophy. I’ve written my philosophy a few times over the course of my career, and I find it interesting to note what has varied with each iteration. My beliefs have changed drastically over the course of my career, but my love for students and my passion for learning have remained steady. This “statement” is by no means perfect and continues to be a work in progress. Nevertheless, here is my recent thinking. 

Everyone should be a lifelong learner. The essence of life is learning. As I examine what I believe about education, I realize how much my educational philosophy has changed over the past 15 years. The constant in my career has been my need to reflect on my thinking, evaluate my own learning, and adjust my beliefs and my actions accordingly.

I used to think a teacher’s primary job was to know his content thoroughly and to present the material well, but now I think a teacher’s main role is to get to know his students, to uncover their understanding, and to help them demonstrate their learning well. Early in my career, I spent untold hours studying the content I needed to cover and preparing the presentations I would use in my teaching. These days, I devote the majority of my time to conferencing with my students individually and in small groups and to having them share their thinking visibly. While I appreciate teaching as an important part of the process, I believe learning should be the primary focus in classrooms and schools.

Learning is more than the process of gaining knowledge and skills. It requires constructing meaning and transferring understandings to new contexts; it includes meta-cognition and reflection. I believe learning should be active and passive, social and secluded. Activity, collaboration, and interaction should enhance and deepen understanding, but there must be time to process, read, write, and think quietly, too. I believe the most engaging and memorable learning arises from student-driven inquiry, where students ask questions, research ideas, evaluate answers, connect information, and share their learning. Project-based and problem-based learning develops the critical skills today’s students need to become deep thinkers and take ownership of their own learning.

My leadership stems from a passion to serve those around me and to help them become the best they can be. To serve them I listen carefully to hear their needs and concerns, I work with opposing people and polarizing ideas to find creative solutions and build consensus, and I strive to lead honestly and transparently building a common vision and a culture of care.

I know schools and classrooms must be places where all learners feel secure, valued, and able to take risks. Effective leadership focuses on the strengths of each individual to build relationships and develop leadership at every position within the learning community. As leaders empower teachers to take risks, teachers inspire students to grow into the creative entrepreneurs our society needs through the challenging, meaningful, purposeful, and engaging learning they experience.

My current philosophy of education consists of these ideas. Yet, as a landscape is changed by a river rolling through it, my philosophy will continue to be shaped and molded by future experiences, new discoveries, and further interactions with my community of learners. As a mentor once said, “We do not know where our train is going, but Someone knows.” I do not know what insight and changes the future holds for me, but the Teacher does—and that is enough for me.

Running Thoughts: How Do You Teach? Why? #MCHunter

[gigya src=”http://boos.audioboo.fm/swf/fullsize_player.swf” flashvars=”mp3=http%3A%2F%2Faudioboo.fm%2Fboos%2F895860-captured-running-thoughts-on-teaching-how-why-and-who.mp3%3Fsource%3Dwordpress&mp3Author=Philip_Cummings&mp3LinkURL=http%3A%2F%2Faudioboo.fm%2Fboos%2F895860-captured-running-thoughts-on-teaching-how-why-and-who&mp3Time=06.50am+24+Jul+2012&mp3Title=Captured+Running+Thoughts+on+Teaching%3A+How%2C+Why%2C+and+Who%3F” width=”400″ height=”160″ allowFullScreen=”true” wmode=”transparent”]

I completed 5 miles this morning on my run even with a few app issues. This morning “Running Thoughts” agenda included my homework assignment from yesterday’s Master Class with John Hunter. At the end of the day, we were asked to reflect on the following questions for today:

  • How do you teach?
  • Why do you teach that way?
  • How are you intentional about building relationships?

Additionally, as a tool to help us think through the process we were given a copy of “Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs.”

How Do You Teach?

My teaching has transformed over the past few years. When I started teaching, I used mostly direct instruction and my classes were primarily teacher-centric. I set the rules; I established the procedures; I made the decisions. As I’m reinventing myself, I am moving to a more student-centered approach. I have implemented a lot of visible thinking into my instruction and I see my role as more of a questioner than answerer. I also have moved toward more inquiry (though I admittedly have a long way to go). Now, I am much more interested in giving my students a voice in how the class operates and functions and I try to do more listening than talking. I want to draw out their ideas and then ask them good questions to help them process or refine their learning. I am also making a larger commitment to having my students write because I think writing helps us formulate and process our ideas.

Why do you teach this way?

I teach this way because the world has changed and it is important for kids to learn how to think on their own. My goal is to teach students to think critically and creatively and to make deep connections in order that they might live an excellent life. I don’t want them to simply accept what they are told. I want them to ask good questions, consider alternatives, and weigh consequences. I also want them to do work that matters and, ultimately, to make the world better place.

How are you intentional about building relationships?

Actually, I think this is one of my strengths. I realized early on that good relationships require an investment of TIME. So, I invest time getting to know my students and my colleagues. I set aside time at the beginning of the school year to let my students do some inquiry into my classroom and my life. I also have the students create a bridge or metaphor about themselves then bring it to class and explain it to us. I work hard to learn students’ names, and I ask them questions about their families, their interests, and their hobbies, and I try to find ways that I can connect with them as individuals as I listen to their answers. I also set aside time to go to their ball games, to talk with their parents, and to be available for them as they need me. I firmly believe that good teaching and learning does not happen without good relationships so I am working continually to make lasting connections.

What about you? How do you teach? Why do you teach that way? And how are you intentional about building relationships?