“Most teachers waste their time by asking questions which are intended to discover what a pupil does not know whereas the true art of questioning has for its purpose to discover what the pupil knows or is capable of knowing.” ~ Albert Einstein
Recently, I was asked to prepare my educational philosophy for an application. The last time I wrote down my educational philosophy was during my undergraduate degree program. Since then, I’ve focused on the education of the gifted child and taught five years. Yep, things had changed; my knowledge and experience in the classroom required me to totally ditch what I had written around 1999. What I thought would be a small project became a several hour project. Now, here’s your challenge: When was the last time you thought about your educational philosophy?
MY EDUCATIONAL PHILOSOPHY
I am thrilled to be a lifelong learner and this enthusiasm spills over into my classroom. Teachers who work with gifted students have an exciting job! My job as an elementary educator is to learn all I can, make sense of, and organize the information for all types of learners who enter my classroom. This requires me to be an independent thinker which is exactly what I want my students to become.
At the same time, I work to challenge my students to stretch those areas where they are weak and to explore new areas. In my mind, the education of the gifted student would not be complete without respecting their differences and striving to answer their questions. My classroom is ridicule-free. Each individual student is respected for who they are and how they think. I was, and still am, a different kind of learner who would have benefitted from this understanding so extending this respect to my students is second nature to me.
I believe that standards and benchmarks are only the starting point to learning for the gifted child. I believe that a student who is getting all A’s is not being challenged enough. Failure and success are important to learning: some failure is essential to developing resilience, drive and motivation to be successful, some successes are essential in building confidence and self esteem. I understand that peer pressure has a strong influence on learning, too. Students have often heard me say that they should NEVER hide or ignore who they are and what they know to get someone like them.
I encourage the use of differentiation methods such as compacting, layering, menus, simulations and various assessments to move my students past the society-prescribed learning into critical thinking, questioning, community-service, and leadership opportunities where their gifts can benefit the world around them. I remind my students of the quote, “For of those to whom much is given, much is required.” Holy Bible (Luke 12:48) and spoken by JF Kennedy in 1967. I guide my students to know when to listen, when to accept and when to act.
I love to provide learning experiences that engage all the learner’s senses. I love to bring the outside world into my classroom with speakers, demonstrations and links to other cultures. I’ve hosted students from France and Germany and personally learned how important it is to share and value our differences and our similarities. Additionally, providing competitive outlets such as chess, academic, and problem-solving competitions are essential to learning.
As a lifelong learner, I encourage other adults to keep learning and questioning too. We need to continue learning in this ever-changing world. Recent discoveries, technology and the wide availability of information give us the tools we need to find our answers. In doing so, we are providing an excellent model for our children.
My desire is to value, encourage and advocate for those who have been given much academically. It is important for me to attend local seminars as well as webinars available online to expand my knowledge and skills in teaching the gifted child. I also utilize Twitter as a means to follow & share my experiences with other educators worldwide. Meetups such as the one I started in 2009 (which has met twice and I plan to extend over the summer and next school year) are ways that I’m working to bring parents & teachers together to build understanding for these unique learners. With our collective efforts, the gifted learner in every pocket of the world can be encouraged to reach their full potential. There is much work to do!
Sorry, I haven’t posted recently. Not much had inspired me lately, then we took a 12 day trip to Brazil/Rio sailing with friends. More about that later.
What I really wanted to write about was a discussion that my daughter and I had a couple days ago. She’s currently doing her internship in the education branch of UNESCO in Paris. She attended an interesting task force on teachers. I decided to explore this a bit deeper by going to their site online. I found this very interesting statistic in the action plan document: Without adequate numbers of professionally qualified teachers, access, quality and equity of education suffer. Globally the recruitment, deployment and retention of 18 million additional teachers is needed by 2015 to reach the goal of universal primary education with a pupil- teacher ratio of 40 – 1.
Forty students to one teacher worldwide by 2015. Sounds reasonable if you live in the US or other developed countries. If you live in the desert, deep in the outback, or in the slums of Brazil, this number becomes more daunting. How can one teacher be supported and encouraged in less than desirable conditions?
Eighteen million teachers are needed worldwide by 2015. That’s six years from now. So today, say, ten million teachers are needed. That’s quite a demand. Our world deserves teachers, our children deserve to learn. For those of you who are teaching right now – you’re doing a great thing! Let’s inspire more individuals to teach and support international programs that work to provide education to all!
Added: 3/18/09 This tidbit of information came across my screen and I thought it appropriate to add to this article from The American Board of Certification for Teacher Excellence “Need for New Teachers – America’s children will need 2 million new teachers by 2014.”
Number Four on the list of Top Ten Things is the topic of my next entry. It reads:
Asking regular education teachers to differentiate for the gifted sounds great, but if teachers do not know just how high those “high” kids can get, then the gifted never get needs met. In-service does not always show teachers just how much these children can really do.
Regular education teachers are very aware of the gifted child in their classroom and that’s about it. Every teacher struggles with meeting the wide range of social, emotional and academic needs of every child in their classroom. They can scale back the lesson for the lower learner and pile on more work to the high achiever but with the gifted learner, teachers can be clueless. For instance, what may look like a unproductive child on the outside may be a highly intelligent child on the inside. High achieving children may be just that – high achieving but are they gifted thinkers? I’ve learned that some behaviors in a gifted child is simply a coping mechanism or their way of handling boredom. Giving away the right to be in a gifted classroom to the best behaved child is just plain misguided. That little boy who can’t sit still but can make thoughtful connections and announces them impulsively is the same young man who drops out of school around his sophomore year.
How can a teacher better met the needs of their gifted learner without taking away from the others? When you assign a writing, allow the gifted learner to take it as far as they wish. I have approached more than one writing assignment this way. After buffeting several, “so how many pages does this need to be” type questions, students exploded. Some turned in one or two pages, others took the opportunity to write stories of great lengths! I encouraged students to come to me with a proposal for a project or topic for further study, then I made sure there was somewhere that they could present or publish their work.
Find out all you can about how different and unique gifted children are. Ask them what they would like to do. Play with their sophisticated sense of humor, appreciate their gifts then let them soar!