“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
~Nelson Mandela

Education has always been an important part of my life. I grew up with grandparents that always encouraged me to do my best in school and to excel in my academics. For elementary school, they placed me in a private school with warm, caring, and influential teachers that always focused on the needs and well being of their students. I began to think of teaching as a profession in college. Entering college, I was undecided on where I wanted my life to go until I found the Master’s of Elementary Education program. Once I began teaching dance, I knew that I wanted to teach students on a daily basis as a career. Being around children and enhancing their academic achievement seemed like a natural choice for me for a career and I hope that as a teacher that I can pass down a love of learning to all of my students.

This program taught me to understand myself when it comes to a philosophy of education. Through this program, I have learned that I tend to be a mix of essentialism and progressivism. Essentialism1 is the idea that students should learn a specific set of common knowledge in a classroom setting. Progressivism2 is the idea that schools should provide students with opportunities to learn about concepts throughout real world experiences. I believe that all students need to learn about specific concepts like plants, decimals, the Civil War, and measurement. However, I also believe that students should be given the opportunity to research topics that are interesting to them and should have hand-on experiences to learn about and understand the topics that they are studying.

The Role of the Teacher
I believe that the teacher’s role goes beyond simply instructing students on specific information and content knowledge. A teacher should be a nurturer and should guide students through their everyday lives. Students spend most of their day with their teacher. Therefore, a teacher should be a nurturing guide for each student. I believe that teachers can truly change a student’s life based on how they act in the classroom. The teachers who are positive role models in the classroom are the ones that make the most impact on students’ lives. Having a positive attitude and showing students how they should act and treat one another creates a sense of community in the classroom. This type of attitude and this role of an educator, I believe, makes teaching the content easier because students are in a place where they trust the teacher and truly care about learning about each topic.

As a future teacher, I hope to create a nurturing, structured environment for students. I want each of my students to feel safe and welcome in my classroom. Teachers should have basic rules in mind when creating a classroom and should follow these basic rules throughout the school year. However, I also believe that students will find rules more influential and important if they create a list of rules along with their teachers. If they can help create the classroom environment and can agree on the type of environment that they will be a part of for that school year, the rules will be followed more.

Instructional Strategies
As professional educators, teachers must choose instructional strategies that are appropriate for each student. Teachers should find a balance between direct instruction and student centered instructional strategies. I believe that students should be able to learn certain content knowledge on their own in the safety of their own classroom. For instance, hands on, cooperative learning should be used in classrooms to not only allow students to learn and see concepts in action but to also learn how to work together by using different roles. In cooperative learning groups, each student has a specific role to follow, which helps with transitions, gathering materials, and explaining instructions. Giving students specific responsibilities can help students feel like they are important members of their group and important members of their learning community. In order to make this system fair, students can switch roles throughout the year and find the role that they like the best.

However, I also believe that at times, the teacher should lead instruction as well. She or he needs to determine, based on the content, how to approach a certain topic. Teacher directed instruction is appropriate for certain whole group instruction and when topics need to be reinforced. In addition, this teacher directed instruction also gives every student a more equal opportunity to learn the content. By focusing on the curriculum and an specific content determined by either the school district or state curriculum, every student has a more equal chance to learn about different topics, which creates some type of common knowledge.

The Role of the Students
Students are the most important aspect of teaching. Without students to learn, teaching cannot occur. While the teacher has specific roles to follow in the classroom, students also have certain roles. The first role is to follow the rules and procedures that are created not only by the teacher but by the classroom community. Students should feel ownership in the rules they help to create. Therefore, they should follow and uphold these guidelines throughout the day. This creates a stronger sense of community and also creates a warm, caring, respectful environment between the teacher and students.

The students’ second role is to be learners. Students should come to school prepared to learn. They need to bring the needed supplies and be ready to work hard throughout the day. Included in this role is the idea that students should be ready and prepared to show what they know through choral responding and assessment. Students should feel safe enough in their environment to make mistakes in these types of responding.
A student’s final role is to always learn more. When students do not know an answer or are struggling, they should seek out information by going to their notes or to their teacher. They should know and understand how to use their resources within the classroom and should be able to seek out new information. A student’s role is to be a learner, even if that means that they are seeking out the information on their own.

I believe that every child should have the opportunity to receive a great education and should have a love of learning. My grandparents gave me the opportunity to love learning and the opportunity of a good education beginning in elementary school. My hope is that I can instill the same love of education into my future students as well.

Footnote: 1 and 2 both come from: Sadker, D., & Zitterman, K. (2012). Teachers, schools, and society. McGraw-Hill Higher Education.