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Adult Education: A Personal Philosophy

June 12, 2010
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I have a job interview on Tuesday (for a position I already hold; long story). Eek. In preparation, I’ve been asked to write a one-page description of my philosophy of education. I’ve taken a small risk here in going a bit more literary and less academic than would be expected, but I know and work with most of the people on the interview panel, and I think (hope) it will go over well. Here’s what I’ve written.

____________________

There’s a new face in the classroom. She’s nervous, wondering if she’ll be able to live up to all the high expectations – her own, and those that have been set out for her. She hopes that she will be heard and understood. She hopes that she will have the tools and the support that she needs to see this course through to its end. Her circumstances leave her singled out in this crowd, and she hopes that the pairs of curious eyes all turned her way will see her for who she is before they judge why she is here. Most of all, she hopes they will be patient with her when she stumbles and makes mistakes.

The person described above is not a student, although she is a learner; she is me, the teacher, as I’ve felt on the first day of every class I’ve ever taught. I relate this scenario because it illustrates the foundation of my personal philosophy of education: the classroom is a shared experience between teachers and students, and the needs of both are similar. I believe that optimal learning takes place in an atmosphere of trust, empathy, and mutual respect, where participants are easily able to step into each other’s shoes, and clear communication is unhindered by fear of judgement.

When I am able to connect on this level to my students’ needs by seeing them as analogous with my own, it becomes easy to identify the values I wish my classroom to embody. I strive to create a learning environment which is learner-centred, success-oriented, positive, and inclusive. To me, a learner-centred environment is one where course objectives, materials and outcomes are negotiated between students and teachers, and curricula is tailored to the individual. In a success-oriented environment, students are adequately supported and prepared for assignments and evaluations, and accommodations are made as necessary. A positive environment is one in which mistakes are viewed as signs of progress and opportunities for learning; the focus is on building strengths rather than correcting weaknesses. Finally, an inclusive environment acknowledges all forms of diversity, respects differences, and allows for multi-modal instruction adapted to the needs of the individual classroom participants.

I have been greatly influenced in my educational philosophy by the principles of Nonviolent Communication, particularly those espoused in the book Life-Enriching Education by Marshall B. Rosenberg. It is my belief that the simple act of clear, honest, and empathetic communication can transform the most challenging educational situation into an opportunity for personal connection and growth. I am confident that the positive and supportive nature of the Okanagan College community that I have experienced in the last two years will allow me, as a wide-eyed and optimistic instructor on my first day of class, to put these ideals into practice and build an educational experience worthy of the College’s name.

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