Category: Rantings

Educational Philosophy Essay

My Philosophy:

There are many factors to consider when articulating a teaching philosophy. For starters, you rarely find you fit neatly into one category, but rather share traits from many different categories. I take the “Jeet Kune Do” approach to my ideologies, in that I don’t consider myself a subsection of a particular philosophy but a collection of all the ideas I consider to be the most sensible. With that in mind, I consider myself to share roughly equal portions of perennialism, progressivism, and social reconstructivism, with less emphasis on essentialism. I base my educational philosophy on constructivist principles, in that all students build their knowledge and world view from their previous experience, both in terms of academic knowledge and social and global environment (Powell & Kalina, 2009). I feel that no one worldview is inherently correct and that we should be emphasizing the role of multiple perspectives and evidence when evaluating our beliefs. What does this all mean?

Perennialism:

Perrenialism stems from essentialist principles, in that there are a certain set of skills and academic knowledge that all capable and productive members of a society need to know, with rigorous standards and national curricula. But while essentialism focuses more on facts and knowledge, perrenialism places more emphasis on principles. Also moreso than essentialism, perennialism places emphasis on “human” subjects such as history and art, regarding all knowledge as a human achievement. I feel that in the case of math, reading, writing, and to an extent Social Studies can be taught effectively using perennial principles because these skills are a necessity in this society.

There are weaknesses though. While I believe that the teacher should take a leading role in the classroom, I believe this role should be to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge, not necessarily to espouse it. Additionally, I feel like technology has made this approach obsolete for other subjects that deviate from this “essential” skills list. Still, much of the perrenialist approach smacks of “sage on the stage” style of teaching, where research states that Constructivist methods taught with the teacher as a facilitator are more effective.

Social Reconstructionism:

Social reconstructivists seek to change society through the awakening of critical thinking skills. Reconstructionism and critical pedagogy view teaching as a political act and teachers as agents of social justice and societal change (Boylan & Woosley, 2015). Involving critical pedagogy in the classroom means being critical of society, media, and the political process. I believe we should challenge our student’s traditional views of the world; religion is still used today as a tool of societal control, the media portrays an inaccurate version of the truth, and inherently sexist or racist ideologies hold us back as a species. Many systemic forms of oppression still exist in our society and if we want change for the better we have to make our students aware of injustice and give them the tools to speak out against it.

I feel that as teachers we do hold a position where we have the power to change society at the source. Teachers have the power to heal what damage inherently sexist or racist ideologies cause by examining our society within a critical context. Eliminating the divides between race, religion, and SES between our students is ultimately beneficial for society as a whole. While I see the value in teaching students to have an active role in society, I also see the potential for misuse and indoctrination when these concepts are taught to a student who may not be able to understand such concepts as sexuality, rape culture, and genocide. Indeed to Rob Moore (2000), many within the movement start with an analysis of society that may not be objective or universal to make their points.

Progressivism:

Progressivism states that we should focus on current research, present experience, and above all the child when designing our classrooms and curricula (Labaree, 2005). While rigid structures work well for memorization and gathering results, much of progressivism is rooted in constructivist thought, our societal conventions of morality, and present experience. Progressivism decouples education from higher education, in that learning takes place for its own sake rather than to prepare students for university. In the classroom this is seen in hands-on, practical learning methods like inquiry and project-based learning, personalized learning goals for different students, integrated curricula, and critical thinking. Importantly, progressivists also teach inclusivity and social responsibility.

I see progressivism as the most definitive example of my beliefs. It uses knowledge as a means to an end, bringing many of the essential skills such as critical thinking and personal growth found in perennialism. While I do wish to reconstruct society to an extent, I believe fervently in the right for each individual to walk their own path. Not every student will share my beliefs about society, and not every student will be a champion of social justice. But while progressivism doesn’t emphasize critical pedagogy, many of the elements are found in progressive methods. Personalized educational goals take into account the relative skills and personal background of individuals regardless of race or sex, and the critical thinking, integrated curricula, and social responsibility reflect many of the same values found in social reconstructivism. Crucially, I feel like the theories of progressivism reflect a greater emphasis on empirical evidence as the driving force whereas many aspects of critical pedagogy (specifically the social justice side) has the potential to produce a black and white viewpoint of class and society. In brief, progressivism combines the constructivist approach to society and learning while also emphasizing critical thinking and an education that is tailored to the student, making it the most dominant aspect of my personal teaching philosophy.

References:
Boylan M., Woosley I. (2015) Teacher education for social justice: Mapping identity spaces. Teaching and Teacher Education. Vol. 46 pp62-71.
Labaree D.F. (2005) Progressivism, Schools and schools of education: an American romance.
Paedagogica Historica. Vol 41 pp 275-288.
Moore R. (2000) For knowledge: tradition, progressivism and progress in education – reconstructing the curriculum debate.
Cambridge Journal of  Education. Vol 30, no 1. pp17-36
Powell K.C., Kalina C. J. Cognitive and Social Constructivism: developing tools for an effective classroom.
Florida Atlantic University. Vol 130, no 2. pp 241-250.

Media Misinformation and the Court of Public Opinion

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/burns-lake-teacher-rayanne-charlie-suspended-1.3983727

Read the above story. Go ahead. I’ll wait…

HOLY COW! I can’t believe such a horrible teacher was ever allowed to hold a teaching certificate! Students were lined up and hosed down like fresh convicts at the maximum security prison. Worse, they were not allowed to opt out! How would you feel, if you hosed down during a mandatory activity with no prior warning and forced to miss math class to go home and change. Worse still, 2 students were injured! What kind of teacher does that woman claim to be, and above all what school would sanction or endorse such an activity?!

Except you aren’t getting the whole story. Certainly, from the cbc article it would seem that this teacher deserved every hour of her suspension. Reading the comments on the article shows that many people feel similar to my statement above, which they should, if the story played out as the cbc article entails. Schools do have a dark history of unchecked abuse, tolerance of bullying behaviour, and a value system that emphasized control and conformity above all else. From the visceral emotions displayed in the comments it appears that many Canadians grew up in through that history and still harbor resentment from those days… but that’s not the case here.

Fortunately for me, one of my fellow teacher candidates lived in Burns Lake and had the privilege of being in her classes. She was utterly shocked and appalled at the one-sided depiction of an acitivty she remembers fondly, and directed me towards a statement made publicly on facebook by the teacher’s daughter (https://www.facebook.com/indigoindigo/posts/10154741599151348):

“EDIT: Rayanne is not allowed to make any sort of public statement about all of this, so I’ve made this post public in hopes that people will share it far and wide!

OK. I’m not even going to share the original article here, as I refuse to amplify such biased and irresponsible journalism. I am just going to say that my mother Rayanne Charlie is one of the most dedicated, hard working, inspiring and talented teachers that I have ever met, or had the opportunity to learn from. She works tirelessly in her school and wider community to create positive and lasting change among rural youth and young adults, through her pedagogy and curriculum as well as facilitation of larger projects such as Roots of Reconcilliation, a yearlong intensive educating teachers, administrators and support staff as well as students on the impact of residential school systems on past, present, and future generations.

The article that came out today (on CBC and other digital publications) in regards to her recent 1 DAY suspension was sensationalized clickbait, making a tiny molehill into a giant mountain. I am sincerely disappointed in the reporters, editors, and the participating media organizations that such a poorly researched article was allowed to be published at all.

Ethical journalism 101 involves contacting your subject to inform them of the story, reaching out to directly interview voices on both sides of your angle, and supporting your angle with clear and thoroughly researched context for all of the facts – especially crucial in the age of digital outrage and viral news.

None of these things took place here.

This is a game that my family plays during our yearly camping reunions – everyone from aunts and uncles to little kids – in which if you get caught, you get a silly punishment. It’s been a family tradition that I grew up looking forward to every year since I was a little kid; and is always played in good spirits and in fun.

If you know my mom and would like to write to the CBC to lodge a formal complaint and provide your story of how my mom touched your life for the better, contact me and I will give you the relevant email addresses, and some advice on how to format your letter to ensure that it is properly heard and acted upon. Letters can be written on or off the record, your choice.

My mother has consistently inspired me to connect activism to community through the arts. She is the reason why I do what I do, and continues to have a huge impact on how and why I do it.

I am standing behind her 100%, and hope that more light will be shed on the overwhelmingly positive and impactful work that she has done. I encourage others to do the same.”

What follows that post is a collection of comments from numerous past students condemning the horrible and shoddy journalism and standing in solidarity with her daughter’s statement. As it turns out, this activity takes place nearly every year and has taken place for the last decade. The activity is NOT mandatory. Students can withdraw at any time or flat out refuse to do it and are explicitly told this in the weeks leading up to and at the start of the activity. In fact, students confirmed they received a slip reminding them to bring an extra change of clothes if they want to participate. The spraying is a silly punishment, and since the teacher participates in the activity with the students, the teacher is not immune from beign sprayed herself. The 2 injuries described were accidents which occurred when students were running on wet grass and concrete, and while they occurred under the teacher’s supervision was it really worth a formal suspension?

The way these events unfolded caught me completely by surprise. I thought that since the source of the article was from the freaking CBC that it would not present such a one-sided take on the issue unless that was what their investigation uncovered. Stories like this reinforce just how low journalists will stoop to fabricate an interesting story, playing on the emotions of those who have been abused in the past. More than likely, I think it may have been an upset or overzealous parent whose child may not have told them the whole story as to why they were soaking wet in math class. Then again, I wasn’t there, and I think this story and others like it prove why students need to be able to think critically about the news and media they consume. There are always 2 sides to every story, and we should not pass such harsh judgement until we are sure we have enough information to be justified in doing so.

There is so much love in the words of her students and her community. The fact that even one person may have demonized her because of this article is disgusting.

Who Decided We All Have to Read Shakespeare, Anyways?

What probably won’t come as a surprise is that it was the British government. What may come as a surprise is where and why. I had to research the topic for a class and created a video to compile what I had learned. The first English Language Arts lessons took place in India, in the 19th century. This was because the British were frustrated that they couldn’t speak properly to the countrymen they had just recently conquered and colonized, and decided to create a class of Indian citizens who were literate. Literate in the sense that they are fluent with the great English class literature, not that bass-ackwards malarky in their own myths, poetry, and scriptures.

Thankfully, what started as a tool of colonialism through time became a celebration of the English language, its great pioneers and authors, and the myriad of ways one can express themselves through words. Hopefully you find the history of one of my favorite subjects as interesting as I do.