My Philosophy and My Context

Toward the end of a professional development (on data and the Common Core), the specialists asked us to fill out a form regarding our philosophy of education. I was supposed to share my philosophy of education and how it has changed over the years. So, here's what I wrote:

I believe that education exists to help students think well about life. As a teacher, I become a guide to help them become the connective, critical, creative problem-solvers that a democratic society needs in order to flourish. It is admittedly vague, encompassing the both the vocational and civic aspects of education. However, I believe that critical thinkers will thrive in a workplace, in a university and in a democratic society.

My philosophy has not changed. It will not change. If anything, those convictions grow stronger with experience. However, the culture of school and, in particular, the testing culture has influenced the contextual aspect of living out my philosophy. We shifted from learning to achievement and from observable evidence to measurable data. Critical thinking is often easy to observe and difficult to measure. While the nations that are beating us (Finland and Singapore, for example) utilize a critical thinking, constructivist, conceptual approach, we regressed into a hyper-industrial behaviorist pedagogy.

Put more simply, the context of school is often at war with my own philosophy of education. This might come as a shock, but I didn't become a teacher to help kids pass tests (not that I am opposed to kids passing tests). I became a teacher because I believe there is something empowering and transformative in critical thinking.