Philosophies of Education tend to be like shoes...your experience changes with them over time and there is always something new to try on.  Philosophies are well intended and give a basis of why we teach or lead in a particular fashion, but as we are all different, so too are the philosophies we carry.
My perspective on what education has become and where it can go has certainly changed over time depending on my role and time in a district.  New initiatives that brought the promise of solving the issues with struggling learners, advanced learners, classroom culture, and behavior management seem to come and go like miracle diets.  All of this is well intended, but the multitude of changes in education have allowed our staff members to wait out initiatives they don’t like because they don’t have time to invest or dismiss them altogether because they know another one will be coming soon.  So, at its core I believe educational philosophy should revolve around the two things that have not changed in all my years of school...Building Relationships and Growth.

Relationships-Kids are smart, they may not know how to find the circumference of a circle, diagram a sentence, or problem solve on the playground, but they know if you like them.  The connection with kids is something you simply can’t fake.  They may not like everything you do or what you assign or how you assign it, but if they know you care about them they will try anything.  They are not just here to gather knowledge, spit it out, grab a diploma, and move on.  They want the experience of school and they want to be in a place where they are is our job to make them feel that way. That environment will allow them to take risks and allow them to grow beyond the score on a test or the grade in a book.

Growth is not just about kids, it’s about all of us. This means that sometimes we have to engage in learning that helps us, not just adds to areas where we find success.  I will never be a great golfer. I hit the ball well and score relatively well most times that I play, but I don’t get any better for one reason.  I can’t putt.  Horrible...and I refuse to practice putting because it’s beyond boring.  I would much rather go on the range and hit the ball as far as I can.  So, clearly I’m never going to get better.  If we as educators only work on things that we do well already, we don’t grow.  Stepping outside our comfort zone is tough, but necessary for growth. If we want kids to think beyond what is safe we must do the same in our practice. Everyone’s checkpoints are different, but when you hit one it becomes the new normal and the beginning of new growth.
My philosophy is not long, but doesn't come with a ton of exterior variables...create relationships with the people around you (students, colleagues, community...) and grow. Wherever you are now...just grow. The impact that it can have on you and your students will be fantastic!

AuthorJoe Sanfelippo