My first experience with school was scary and confusing. As a young child entering Kindergarten, I did not speak English. My family had just moved to the states from Puerto Rico, and I quickly felt the pressures that come from not understanding the language. The only comfort I felt in school came from my teachers. The patience and understanding my teachers expressed to me, gave me the strength and support I needed to learn English. The gentle and guiding hands that lead me, not only increased my knowledge of English but ignited a love for learning that I carry with me today. The tools needed to understand why, what, and how things work, are taught through education. Teachers are the facilitators of those tools.
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Contents [show]1 Philosophy of Schools & Learning2 Instructional Practice3 Teacher-Learner Relationships4 Diversity5 Biblical Integration6 Conclusion
Philosophy of Schools & Learning
For educators to correctly use those tools, one must first have knowledge of those tools. With every passing day, my philosophy of education adapts to the constant growth in my beliefs and knowledge of the world around me. My growth in understanding the world has led me to reflect upon my prior views surrounding my philosophy of schools and learning. Through this reflection, I am able to incorporate my Christian beliefs into my teaching style. My role as an educator is strengthened by the Christian morals and values I use to guide my decisions throughout my life. Through my beliefs, I am comfortable with mistakes. In my classroom, the comfort I express when mistakes are made during my lessons, models to my students that mistakes are normal and necessary. Mistakes are a normal process for learning and building knowledge. No one is, or should be, perfect. Learning is a collective effort by both educators and their students, that includes an understanding that we are all fallible. As students make mistakes, one of the more important roles of educators is to gently guide them back on the right path.
Exposure to many types of teaching styles, during collaborations with fellow teachers and my education classes, I have become aware of many different ideas and methods available for reaching my students. Through this exposure, my philosophical view of education has evolved. My philosophy once centered around the beliefs of Social Cognitive Theory, now embraces aspects of Perennialism. Opponents of Perennialism suggest that perennial slows the growth of change in education is obsolete, and cannot keep up with the 21st century (Knight, 2006). As our societal views adapt to the changing times, it is important for my students to understand where they come from, in order for them to understand the path they should go.
Schools were created because of the beliefs held by the public. Education that included the teachings of Christian values and morals was important for developing a successful and fair nation, bypassing on wisdom and knowledge viewed as everlasting (Barton, & Pevoto, 2004). Just as these beliefs are viewed as important for a society to work and grow together, they are also necessary beliefs for the development of the whole child. Understanding knowledge that comes from studying our past is a difficult task for young minds. This is an area where Perennialism may not work well alone, but where Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory may help. Social interactions among peers and educators work best with young minds. Social-emotional skills are the main goals for many Pre-K teachers. Using reinforcement methods, social interactions, and observational learning techniques encourages my students to begin to “regulate their behavior by outcome expectations” (Bandura, 2001). These lead to the growth of self-regulation and self-efficacy. “Modeling is an effective means of building self-regulatory and academic skills and of raising self-efficacy” (Schunk & Zimmerman, 2007), which assists students in obtaining knowledge about the world around them.
The world can be a confusing and scary place for many students. Mistakes may be seen as a weakness one should avoid. I believe mistakes are part of the process for building connections that lead to understanding. Creating a safe place, where mistakes are not shunned, but instead used for reflection, allows students opportunities to correct mistakes that lead to better understanding. These experiences not only educate the whole child but assist in character building. Character building is supported by the reflections of our mistakes. My classroom is an area where these mistakes are welcomed and corrected together through understanding, practice, and patience. Modeling appropriate morals and values, gained through my faith, helps guide my choices when correcting mistakes. Character building may be a difficult area for some who struggle with behavioral issues. An article titled, Doing being Boys with ADHD: category memberships and differences in SEN classroom practices (Evaldsson, 2014), discusses the problems with negative approaches to behavior issues.
Negative approaches do not minimize behavioral issues but instead may worsen those behaviors (Evaldsson, 2014). My classroom is one of acceptance and guidance. Instead of forcing compliance in students who misbehave, I find different ways of teaching of dealing with power struggles observed in my students. Likewise, being aware of the different cognitive, social, emotional, and physical levels of each student in my classroom is imperative for selecting the best method of educating my students (Tomlinson, 2017). Offering differentiated lessons and activities is a strategy I use for reaching as many students as I can throughout the years. Before finalizing any lesson plans, it is best to understand how much knowledge the class already possesses about the topic. During lessons, I ought to be aware that adjustments may be necessary and no plans are concrete. As a lesson ends, I take time to reflect on activities and approaches that worked best, and which ones need adjusting. Taking the time to reflect upon my lessons, gives me the opportunities to grow as a teacher.
The role of the teacher, and my role in a classroom, is more than just standing in front of the students spouting out information, but one where students and teachers work together. Teachers ought not to simply regurgitate information to the students. The purpose of planning instructions carefully, and methodically, should be to capture the interest of the students and successfully pass down knowledge. Additionally, teachers must be mobile in their lessons. Walking around the classroom, asking questions to assess comprehension, and changing up methods for delivering instructions are some ways teachers can keep the students focused on lessons. When mistakes are made, students ought not to be embarrassed. I must use those opportunities to help them grow. My students ought to know this, and should feel comfortable when mistakes are made. Guiding, modeling, and teaching my students, that no matter their backgrounds, struggles, or prior experiences with learning, they can be the best that they can be. My most important role in the classroom is to provide an environment where such lessons are possible. An environment where both the students and I can share respect and honesty, and where students are encouraged to take an active role in their education.
Traditional teacher roles limit a student’s ability for learning and gain knowledge. Teachers in classrooms today see many different types of diversities. From diverse socioeconomic backgrounds to diverse learning abilities, teachers must use an array of different methods for differentiating their instructions. In order to teach the whole child, teachers must take the time to understand each student. Teaching Pre-K for 18 years, I consider additional diversities for the varying stages of development of my students. Young students are seldom on the same stage of development. Learning groups are arranged, and may be adjusted frequently depending on the stages of the students. “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.
There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6, NIV). As some students will display more profound struggles than others, groups and activities are seldom similar. Technology is a tool used to assist visual and auditory learners, but can also be an easy way teachers can vary activities among learners who are on differing levels. Technology should also be used to assist students who struggle with language. Second language learners is another area where diversity among students has increased. Students who are limited in English must have opportunities to access additional language-building activities, as well as understanding and caring educators that can assist them in improving their language skills. Understanding the struggles that are created from not being able to speak English, I always use encouragement and positive feedback to motivate my second language learners to keep on practicing. Effectively using the strategies that foster understanding and tolerance, my students are learning respect for diverse students and respect for themselves. Using the resources available to me, considering the differing levels of abilities, backgrounds, and intelligence, I create meaningful lessons that address the whole child, and not just one part of the child.
My Christian faith impacts my instruction the same way my Christian faith impacts the rest of the areas in my life. Christians understand that each of us is blessed with unique gifts. These gifts will be easier to spot and develop in some students than others, but a dedicated Christian teacher will welcome all types of learners, with all types of gifts, and guide them in the right direction. As pointed by Ackerman in the GUIDE to differentiated instruction (2012), Luke 14:12-12 reminds us of Jesus’ words of not only including those that may give us instant rewards but to welcoming those that may not be able to reward us at that moment. Many students will enter our classrooms already well into developing their strengths, while others will struggle. Those students struggling are the ones we should assist the most. They may not give us the satisfaction of good test scores, but with differentiated instruction and techniques, they will grow closer to discovering their gifts. The ability to reach all types of learners is a belief that should be held by teachers, and using biblical beliefs grants us the tools needed in order to help those who are personally struggling (Ackerman, 2012, pg. 98). Everyone and every student can be reached with dedication, understanding, and love.
The gentle and guiding hands that lead me when I was a small child, ignited a love for learning that lit my path ever since. My strength and drive have given me the opportunities to grow as an individual and share my experiences with others. Still today, I continue my journey of learning and taking on new experiences. Education is a powerful tool that can open doors, answers questions, and leads to our truths and core beliefs. Teachers are the gatekeepers of knowledge, and knowledge is the key that addresses the whole child and opens the doors to their future.
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