As a teacher, my personal philosophy of education comes from a desire to create a classroom focused on change. Whether it is changing how students interact with others, how they see the world, or simply how much they know, I want my classroom to be a place where teaching creates positive change. While as the teacher I believe it is my role to lead this change, I hope that my interactions with students and their families produce a common understanding of the need to improve education and provide equal educational opportunities for everyone.
The specific background that I bring to teaching is a focus on and passion for ESL education. Both in high school and now college, I have developed a love for the Spanish language and the Spanish-speaking students in the public schools. In working with this specific group of students, I have been saddened to see how our public schools fail to meet their needs both in and out of school. As Endo writes in his article on “Understanding and Meeting The Needs of ESL Students” (2004), “language shock is a common occurrence in schools, where, despite their desire to speak English fluently, students must struggle for several years before they understand everything that is said in their classrooms, in the hallways, and in the cafeteria; the feeling of anxiety is [further] exacerbated by the ignorance of others” (p. 787). He very simply states the core injustice ESL students face in American public schools, and my passion to address this injustice has led me to develop an educational philosophy most closely related to social reconstructionism.
While the nature of teaching language content is simple and probably aligns with an essentialist teaching style, my main mission as a teacher is to provide for a high-needs group of students whom schools often underprovide for or overlook. With that mission in mind, I am using my ability to work with ESL students and their families to address the social inequities in our society for immigrant populations. I want to eliminate the pressure on ESL students to drop their native language and culture in order to succeed in American schools so that they can see the value in adding English to their knowledge, not replacing aspects of their native culture with it. The driving force behind social reconstructionist philosophies is “that society tends to develop systems that marginalize and oppress others and thus need to change” and thus schools become an institution fighting for change (Zacko-Smith, 2004, p. 4). I strongly believe that this change starts within the classroom and spreads beyond.
Within the classroom, I believe this change is created by (1) a desire to build relationships with students, their families and the local community, (2) an ability to assess student needs and provide individualized instruction, and (3) collaboration with other teachers and staff. I believe the core of teaching is relationship building because education involves much more than the student showing up for class every day. I fully believe that “the degree to which you know and understand each of your students directly affects the quality of learning that will transpire in your classroom” (Marshall, 2013, p. 17). Education involves engaging the families in what the student is learning, how the student is growing, and how involvement at home can enrich both of those aspects. Individualization of curriculum is essential in ESL education because it allows me to ensure that each student is receiving language instruction that increases their comprehension of English and consequently their comprehension of content in their other classes. Collaboration with other teachers is also extremely important because it allows me to ensure that my ESL instruction is enriching the student’s learning across all subjects. I see my role as an ESL teacher as someone who supports students and their families in the transition into an English-speaking, American culture.
Outside of the ESL context, my passion for teaching is driven by a passion for learning, and more specifically helping students learn. I value learning because it is a process that stretches their minds to gain knowledge of the curriculum and knowledge about the world. As students progress through school, it is essential that their learning in the classroom directly impacts their ability to understand and learn more about the world around them. Additionally, schools serve as an institution in which teachers can shape students’ characters to be centered on good values and ethics. In this way, I value elements of axiology and how teachers can model these values through teaching. Overall, I feel that having a personal philosophy of education is valuable in guiding my purpose for teaching, and the methods I will use to empower students to succeed. I have adopted what is most closely a social reconstructionist philosophy because I desire to improve education for ESL students by leading my classroom in a way that supports their language learning and values their cultural diversity – both in and out of the classroom.
Endo, H., & Miller, P. (2004). Understanding and Meeting The Needs of ESL Students. Phi Delta Kappan, 85, 786-791.
Kauchak, D., Eggen, (2011). Introduction to Teaching: Becoming a Professional. (4rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
Marshall, J. C. (2013). What Are Your Values, Practices, and Actions as a Teacher?. Succeeding with inquiry in science and math classrooms (). Alexandria: ASCD.
Zacko-Smith, J. (2012). Social reconstruction and education. In J. Banks (Ed.), Encyclopedia of diversity in education. (pp. 2009-2011). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781452218533.n635