The Value of an Educational Philosophy

photo credit - Flickr user "gertys" - used uunder Creative Commons

photo credit – Flickr user “gertys” – used under Creative Commons


The final class of my program (Western Michigan University calls it a “Capstone Experience”) is forcing some effective reflection on the previous 10 courses that I’ve taken and the way that they will impact my leadership practice in the education industry. I am beginning to find that there is no substitute to having reflectively considered and articulated my educational philosophy.

Really, it is a chance to formally decide what is important to me as an educator. There are many, many important aspects to education. But, I don’t know if I can focus on more than a handful. Schools give educators a lot to think about. There must be a limited number of targets. For example, Dr. Willard Daggett lays out 12 guiding principles.

So, I have spent the last three years listening, reading, discussing, writing, and considering what my targets might be. How can I narrow down to the limited few targets? What do I think is important? It’s the same idea as a business creating a mission statement. As an educator, I’m going to do a lot of things, but among those things, THESE things will receive my laser focus.

Oh, that isn’t to say that items left off my target list aren’t important, but it seems like if I these essential few are handled properly, the rest will likely fall into place.

So, what are my targets? Well, it seems they are forming around three major areas.

1. Community engagement – The need for the different communities to be engaged in the educational mission of the school district. For all members of the school community to accept their role as educators. For all members of the outside community to have access to resources and roles within the school community to allow their strengths to support the success of the school. The school must understand its role as an entity that can bring together all groups of a community unlike any other. (Our gym is never as full as it is for graduation. The community, in its fullness, is present. It happens once a year.)

2. Quality instruction focused on student engagement – Schools are driven by the educational experiences they are providing the students. Ideally, the students would be provided high-quality educational experience every time a teacher is standing in front of them. High-quality means 100% engagement with appropriately-challenging content. High-quality means diverse experiences in the traditionally-academic disciplines (arts, sciences, history, literature) as well as traditionally-non-academic disciplines (fine and performing arts, creative writing, physical education, culinary and hospitality, trade and industrial). High-quality means the students getting opportunities to create and solve problems… regularly. (Sir Ken Robinson (@SirKenRobinson) has fantastic things to say about this.) This requires teachers being provided time to collaborate and experiment around resources demonstrating the best practices for each field. Also, this requires better mentoring of young teachers. (Dan Meyer (@ddmeyer) has some interesting thoughts on this.)

3. Shared Leadership – When leadership is shared, more expertise is able to provide for a solution to any problem. The solutions are more likely to be effective because they have input from those effected at all levels of the organization. The ownership of and fidelity to any changes required by the solutions tend to rise. This last piece makes accountability less of problem. The increased effectiveness improves trust. Improved trust improves sincere and authentic communication. (Linda Lambert (@lindalambert2) has some awesome things to say about this.)

These are targets that can be applied as a teacher or as an administrator. I hope to continue to develop these ideas. I hope to keep learning. As I learn, I may need to adjust, but one thing that I am sure of. There must be targets. There mustn’t be too many of them.

For now, these are mine.

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