Philosophy Essay

Education 200

Philosophy Paper

Establishing an educational philosophy is an important part of becoming a teacher. One’s philosophy determines what they will teach and how they will teach it. My high school experiences and volunteer experiences have helped me to establish my philosophy of education. I have also found that I can relate to the teaching of Mr. Jaime Escalante in the movie Stand and Deliver. I believe that my philosophy is a combination of pragmatism (a part of progressivism), essentialism, and idealism.

Pragmatism is defined as a traditional philosophy that rejects the idea of absolute, unchanging truth, instead asserting that truth is “what works.” During my voluntary experience with Mrs. Hinerman I observed her pragmatic methods. I learned that education is about the subject matter, but also about bringing out the children’s desire to learn. To bring out this desire teachers must be able to keep students interested in the material. Mrs. Hinerman was always thinking outside the box and trying to help the students love mathematics as much as she did. She did what worked by turning her lessons into a sort of competition, where the students would want to answer questions because they knew they would be rewarded with candy. She changed up the classroom environment, by taking students outside to learn, which also helped to keep them interested. I know from personal experience that being in the same classroom everyday for nine months out of the year can get extremely repetitive. Teachers constantly have to think of fresh and creative ways of presenting material.

In the film Stand and Deliver Mr. Escalante is a pragmatic teacher because he does what works for his students. During the opening, the audience sees that the students are part of a minority and also unmotivated to learn. The classroom Jaime walks into on his first day is complete chaos and the students show no interest in what he has to say. Eventually, he is able to turn them around by showing genuine care for their learning and using techniques that keep them interested. He wanted to bring out their “gannas” or desire for the material. As I spoke about earlier with my example from Mrs. Hinerman’s class, bringing out the thirst for knowledge in a student is just as important as the knowledge itself. Mr. Escalante gave out apple slices to teach them about the parts of a whole and used female/male interactions as examples that the students would pay attention to. He gave the students the motivation to learn and showed them that they were more intelligent than they originally believed.

Progressivism is defined as an educational philosophy emphasizing curricula that focus on real world problem solving and individual development. When I volunteered at the Mountaineer Boys and Girls Club I got to see progressivism at work. The students had a set block of time in which to do their homework, but they also did extra curriculum activities. One of these was forming a club. They established a name, held elections for positions, and planned a calendar with fundraisers and events. The students went to a variety of shops in the Morgantown to get sponsors for their club. A fundraiser car wash was held at a local fast food restaurant and they did volunteer work. Yes, the essential school subjects are important, but the organizational, social, and general life-skills these children were learning through their club are also critical. These are real world problem solving skills and demonstrated to me how vital it is to not only be a teacher of curriculum, but a teacher who instills skills that extend well beyond the classroom.

Essentialism is defined as an educational philosophy suggesting that a critical core of knowledge and skills exists that all people should possess. This philosophy emphasizes the “essential” subjects and is a major part of the No Child Left Behind Act. I learned a lot about how much this act impacts students during my voluntary experience. The students and teachers at Magnolia were preparing for the West Virginia Educational Standardized Test. The teachers I observed were focusing on problems for the test and the administration at Magnolia also created Westest block, where the students were re-taught important concepts for the test or given practice questions. Mrs. Hinerman worked diligently planning a Westest rally. I couldn’t believe they were holding a pep rally to encourage students to perform well on a standardized test. I feel strongly that mathematics is an “essential” subject and students need to have a strong knowledge base in it, but at the same time I can’t help but wonder if meeting adequate yearly progress is actually hurting schools rather than helping them.

In my personal experience throughout high school, I came to find that I really liked math. My English teacher always seemed to grade my classmates and I’s essays based on her personal opinion. Sometimes we got what she wanted from a story and sometimes we didn’t, which made our grades vary greatly. In my art class, obviously, one’s grade depended on how well they could draw. It was basically just the teacher’s interpretation of how well we did. In History it was somewhat easier to get what the teacher wanted, but at the same time, this could still differ a little. In my math classes, the answer was always right or wrong. It was something I could depend on to be stable amidst all of my other classes. For this reason, I feel that I will be an essentialist teacher. I like that with all of the questions that one is unable to answer in life, math problems always have one concrete solution.

Idealism is defined as a traditional philosophy asserting that ideas are the only reliable form of reality. When I was in high school and during my voluntary experience, I observed the idealistic qualities in Mrs. Hinerman. She wanted what was ideal for all of her students. She did all that she could to make sure everyone understood a lesson, specifically calling on students’ by name if they looked confused when she taught. If we ever needed help with math problems, she was happy to assist us and never spoke down to anyone. Mrs. Hinerman even gave us her home and cell phone numbers and offered to let us call her if we needed help from home. I can recall several evenings when a majority of the calculus class gathered in my family room and called her up on speaker phone when we couldn’t work out a problem or had questions. She wanted each of us to be the ideal student and to not be discouraged by higher level math. I observed her coax students into taking calculus and college algebra because she knew it would be to their benefit in the future.

Mr. Escalante was also a teacher who believed in idealism. As one can see in the movie, he challenges the minority students to rise above the stereotypes that most people place on them. He wants to teach them calculus and show them they are capable of extravagantly more than what they originally believed. Jaime works constantly to help his students succeed, throughout the summer and on weekends. Even when he suffers a heart attack and is in the hospital, he is shown preparing a lesson plan. He believed in the young men and women in his class and helped them learn to believe in themselves. Once they passed the advanced placement test, not once, but twice, I know they had to feel somewhat cheated, yet at the same time accomplished.

After observing the impact from Mrs. Hinerman and Mr. Escalante, I know that I want to be an idealistic teacher. I plan to do everything I can to help students be confident in their abilities and to not let them be intimidated by mathematics. I plan to teach them a love for math, even if it is only a small portion of my own. I want to have students who thirst for knowledge and find that what they learn in my classroom is also useful for problem solving in their everyday lives. I hope that being pragmatic, essentialist, and idealistic will help me be an inspiring teacher who students have “gannas” to learn from.