Philosophy of Education

December 29, 2011

The principle art of the teacher is to awaken the joy in creation and knowledge. -Albert Einstein

“Think of why you decided to teach English; wasn’t it because of your love of literature?”  I have heard this question posed by professors, advisors and even the authors of textbooks. I assume they were implying that the genre and its craft is what is most exciting about teaching English. Yet I have to confess, the subject is only a small part of my career choice. I began my journey into the world of literature and writing through comic books, Stephen King and song lyrics. Poetry wasn’t allowed to be cool until I found Jim Morrison. I was a confused, misunderstood teenager trying to make sense of life and searching for some kind of truth. An English teacher showed me I could find some direction in reading; she also showed me an outlet through writing. These days I am as interested in history, philosophy and religion as I am in literature, yet literature was the gateway that helped me define my current beliefs in life.

Literature has inspired me to be a better person and has challenged my perceptions of life. It has provided an escape from the real world and taught me new ways to express myself. It has been a tool to shape and develop my character. I chose to teach because I want to offer this tool to young people. In addition to helping my students become independent, critical readers, writers and thinkers, I also want to reach out and help them find their own way in life. I am not naïve enough to think that all my students will embrace a love for reading and writing as I have done, but I hope to show them its value even if it is not their greatest interest. I tend to be a hands-on, experiential learner, so I plan for a substantial amount of my teaching to involve activity among my students. I believe that students will better understand and retain what they are learning if I am able to turn it into an experience for them. I also realize that genuine learning takes hard work and discipline and cannot (and should not) always be delivered in 90 second sound bites of entertainment. Therefore, I will not neglect my responsibility to offer a well rounded education; however, whenever it is possible, I will try to make my class interesting for students and bring their world into the lesson.

I tend to be discussion oriented, and I plan for group work as often as the subject matter allows. I believe that when students are able to learn from each other and collaborate to find an answer the lesson is more valuable for them. When space allows, I like to set up the desks in a u-shape; when it is time for groups, students can just swing their desks around to face each other. I try to have areas set up in the room with various resources my students may need to do in-class projects. When I do lecture, I use erasable markers and a white board to show students how to work through the process of taking notes. I want my room to be interesting; so in addition to educational and literature based posters, I also have historic, music and art based posters that are thought provoking and inspirational. I hope to create an atmosphere where students feel free to be themselves and feel safe to experiment and push their boundaries in learning.

As a teacher, I want to challenge my students to grow in personhood as much as learn new information. I see myself as a guide in the process of learning rather than a boss handing out assignments to be completed. When problems arise, I want to be able to defuse all situations quickly and calmly before they can escalate; however, I am not afraid to respectfully express my authority when it is needed. I hope to be a man whose authority rests in my students’ respect, not in their fear of punishment. Being a teacher is not about satisfying my ego; rather, it is about what I can give to my students to help make their world better.  

Peter L Richardson