Philosophy of Education
Sarah Barton Thomas
The purpose of schooling is multi-fold, but it is not the only place where children are educated. Education, in a variety of forms and foci, is the key to life-long success for every person. Education does not only take place in a classroom, it takes place in our homes, communities, our religious houses, our sports teams, clubs, and in our popular and digital culture. Schooling is just one of the forms where our children learn about themselves and the world around them. It is the responsibility of the school, as modeled by its adults, to set an example of the thirst for knowledge, reflection, and resilient character for its students and greater community.
Children learn best when they are provided an environment in which they feel safe and valued. Therefore, it is the role of the teacher to create a learning environment, physically and emotionally, where students know that they are cared for and valued. This means recognizing both the resiliency of a child’s emotional development as well as its frailty. We must realize that we have an enormous power to shape a child’s life, academically and socially, by our words and actions. We must be cognizant of the way we model, value, and care for each student.
Children learn best when they are able to connect new information to prior knowledge. When a student can clearly identify a real-life application of material or understand its connection to what they already know, they have a greater probability of receiving, retaining, and applying information. Therefore, it is the role of the teacher to act as facilitator of these connections. As teachers we must look at our students individually to find their strengths and build upon those strengths to help them gain the ability to think critically, problem solve, and work creatively. These lessons do not take place in a contextual vacuum but rather in all of the daily ins and outs of schooling. Every moment of a student’s day is an opportunity for connections.
Children learn best when they are challenged to reach heights above and beyond their potential in both academic and moral development, regardless of their socio-economic status, race, educational label, or a multitude of factors. Therefore, it is the role of the teacher to set high expectations for not only their students, but for themselves and their peers. These expectations include modeling high achievement in professional growth, personal responsibility, and character.
Education does not end at 3:30, but it is the role of the school to serve as a model, a compass, for its students so they have the tools to learn beyond the walls or fences of campus. Teachers provide these tools by creating a positive and safe learning environment, differentiating instruction and assuring its applicability for the student, and setting high expectations for their students. The school must always realize its tremendous power, but also its gift, in the shaping of children to become successful citizens.