Education is about the students.This obvious statement is the center of my philosophy of education. How I spend my time as an educator should always be directed towards student learning. I believe each student can be a powerful thinker and learner and it is my responsibility to challenge and support them in their individual learning journey. I differentiate my lessons and pedagogy for all students, not only English language learners and those with special needs. I write curriculum, keeping the development needs of my students in mind. I create assessments and projects that truly allow my students to show what they know and understand. I talk to my students and ask them what learning motivates them. “My” classroom actually belongs to my students and is a space where they can move, share their learning and ask questions. I strive to know each of my students – by name, personality, interests and passions. And as such, my students need me to be an advocate for them. Therefore, when making decisions as a teacher-leader, I keep the students of my school in the forefront of my mind when considering how all decisions we make as a school affects all student who walk through the front door.
Education is about community. Learning does not happen in isolation. It is my role as an educator to ensure that I build community in my classroom and to do my part to build a caring community throughout the school. There is also a global community, connected by technology, that my students and I can grow and learn from. There is no magic formula for this process, as each community is unique with its own needs. It takes time, patience and laughter. Students and teachers should be learning from each other day, in as many contexts as possible – classrooms, playgrounds, online, interdisciplinary learning experiences, libraries, extracurriculars and more. Teachers can also form their own learning communities, as some of my best professional development has come from watching teachers in my own building. And in communities where teachers and students feel safe and valued, they will take risks, make mistakes, become resilient and develop a growth mindset when it comes to education.
Education is dynamic. It has been noted that facts have a half life and that knowledge is evolving at incredible rates. Everyday, according to Internet Live Stats, there are an average of 500 million tweets, 140,000 new websites being launched, and 3.5 billion Google searches a day. My job as an educator is no longer to impart knowledge, but to help students manage the firehose of information coming their way. By embracing concept-based and inquiry-based learning and teaching metacognitive skills I can prepare the students for the age of information that they live in. Moreover, schools should be asking the non-Googleable questions. Students need to learn how to curate information, evaluate sources, and know where they can go to find the facts they can use to construct understanding. Teachers can help them do that. And as things continue to change, schools and classrooms must allow students to be creators, not just consumers, of content and information.
Education is complex. Teaching is hard work. Learning is harder. And as an educator, it is my responsibility to continue learning. I have worked to understand Minecraft, because it is something my students are obsessed with. I have studied Making Thinking Visible from Harvard Project Zero and Design Thinking, because I think that these can help me be a better teacher for my students. There will never be a day that I know all the teacher tricks, the curriculum is finished being written, or that I have know everything about all of my students. Everyday I am surprised by what my students say and what I can learn from a colleague. Education is complex, because it is about people. And that is what makes education a challenge and a joy.