Philosophy Change

As an education major in college, I was required to write a “Philosophy of Education” paper. All I remember about the assignment is that we had to write it. I have no idea what I wrote about. I feel like it was early in my program courses, but it seems to make sense to have it near the end after we’d finished student teaching and all that jazz, so maybe that’s when I wrote it.

I remember more about writing my philosophy of classroom management and coming up with a plan for my first year of teaching. I quickly adopted the Responsive Classroom approach partly because it’s what we read about for class, but also because I valued community in the classroom.  A place where students knew one another deeply and connected daily was high on my list of priorities.  I’d filled pages of a notebook in high school with “what I’ll do as a teacher” and almost every activity or approach to learning came back to community (most of them from Senora Bolyard my Spanish teacher for 3 years).

I graduated with my degree in elementary education and took to teaching in the university classroom shortly after. Every year community was high on my list. My beliefs in what education and the classroom should look like remained the same until I started looking into schools for Mariah. And now that she’s been in school and I’ve seen more of the ins and outs of how the district works, my ideals are shifting and I’m trying to sort through all the opinions and ideas and research to find where I land.

Part of my search for Pre-K and Kindergarten lead me to explore more about the Montessori style (or philosophy). Learning through play, self exploration, work and every day tasks or chores. “Lessons” are in small groups and are more like demonstrations and then the child is left to explore on his or her own. Teachers observe and take notes more than give instruction or plan whole class lessons. The research seemed sound as I read about it – it leads kids to discover on their own, to go as deep as they need to go and develop a love of learning. I really liked that.

But I didn’t see how it would work with Mariah. She loves the classroom. She “has teacher in her blood” as we say around here. She loves direct instruction and the whole system and methods of school. Wouldn’t she quickly bore with Montessori learning? When we toured the two schools, I could see she was clearly ready for a grade or two higher than what these kids were doing. How would this work for her? I found myself believing Montessori was for kids who couldn’t focus in the traditional classroom setting. That was not Mariah and so I dismissed those schools.

We chose French Immersion.  Based mainly on the fact that we knew she’d be bored without something new to challenge her. She ended up still being bored and ready to move on. We also noticed something else. She loves order and structure and calm (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree) and the traditional classroom of 20+ kids rocked her world in that regard. The stress from behavior problems in the classroom really affected her. The pressure to have the whole class stay on green and leave for lunch and specialists on time took its toll on her.  A meeting with the teacher and several talks with Mariah seem to have helped in this area. Also learning that sometimes boys act mean because they like you helped too.

This opened my eyes a bit to how much classroom time is actually spent on learning – on exploring a topic thoroughly and deeply. Not much.  Granted, I realize we’re only in kindergarten here, but let’s think about it….kids have to move on to the next subject or activity when it’s time.  Not when they’re ready. Maybe that exploring on your own thing is a good idea after all.

If you’re a Facebook friend, you know I post articles about education frequently. I read at least 2-3 articles or blogs about education a day – I try not to share everything I read.  But so much of what I’ve been reading about is research proving that learning through play and self-exploration really is the best way to learn! Our current school systems and methods used to work, but our world has changed drastically and the schools have remained the same.

And then there’s  the whole Common Core debacle (I think they’re a fantastic idea – just too vague and open for too much interpretation and the testing is a little extreme), district budgets (really, iPads for every kid?! I’d like to see that money go elsewhere), the fact that schools within the same districts are competing against each other so some kids get a great education and funding and others don’t…. the list of ideas and opinions swirling in my head is just too much.

I’ve shocked myself with exploring “the H word”. Homeschool. Yikes! I know! But it kind of seems to make sense. A tailored education where my child can dive deeply into the subject matter she’s passionate about? Sounds good to me.

We’ll see where I land.  These ideas have been floating around in my mind for quite a few months.  I’m just now able to put them into words.


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