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



3 Responses to “Philosophy of Education”

  1. My English teacher had very much the same philosophy. Her class was centered on discussion. We would read literature, and then discuss them in “Socratic circles”. I cannot tell you how utterly important this class was in shaping not only how I view the world, but also my personal beliefs and convictions. It allowed me to reassess where I stand in the world, and come away emboldened with clarity and confidence in my morals. She led the class in such a way that we were led to our own conclusions and discoveries, rather than her telling us the meaning of a book etc. It’s great to see other teachers like her and hopefully the kids in my generation benefit from it!

  2. Steph Says:

    Thanks for sharing Pete!!

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