I left elementary education at a time when contradictions reigned. The perceived experts in the field demand differentiated instruction, and the school’s stated philosophy insists that each student will receive individual attention. This does not bear out in practice. School districts increasingly require their teachers to adhere to a specific set of lesson plans, which oftentimes are not that impressive. Many expect the entire grade level to be on the same lesson on the same day at the same time with no regard to the teacher’s personal teaching style or the students learning style. Even remedial work done with the struggling students is expected to rigidly follow a certain program. The one-size-fits-all mentality runs contrary to the best practices in the field. As Zinn (2004) suggested, what people state as their philosophy does not always match the practical actual one. Many students make little progress as a result.
In that kind of a system, a teacher’s personal philosophy becomes irrelevant. Nevertheless, there is value in understanding what my philosophy entails. As I understand myself better, I will be better able to make informed decisions about how to best serve my students.
When I first entered teaching, my purpose had little in common with altruistic motives or dreams of saving the world. I came out of the technical support arena, and I wanted nothing more complicated than a job in a company that would not go out of business in six months or fewer.
Teaching was not a completely blind choice, though. A significant part of technical support is teaching people how to do something. Irate customers were no fun, but I did enjoy showing people how to do things.
Now, as I switch from teaching in a public elementary to working as a corporate trainer, the career change is no longer about finding a stable career. In spite of all the other problems in education, a teacher under contract can usually rely on a job to last the entire school year. Unless the teacher does something terribly foolish during the school year, most can count on having their contracts renewed in the spring.
This time, the purpose and motivation for teaching center around some of those more altruistic concepts. Instead of taking the option to get out of teaching altogether, I have chosen to pursue a different age group of students. I have found that I enjoy helping other people become more successful in whatever it is they are trying to do. This reflects my own, personal drive to be successful in everything I undertake.
People who start something without the end goal in mind will often fail from lack of clear direction. I have a concrete goal for myself and for my students.
For myself, I want to perfect my existing skills and add to that set of skills so I can increase my proficiency and my knowledge. In the short term, that would mean getting a job outside of the public school system. This would allow me more time for my own studies and provide opportunities to work on the skills I have started learning in this master’s program.
For my students, my ultimate goal is to help them get to the point where they no longer need direction from me. I want my students to become so competent in the subject we’re working on that they progress on their own. Seeing others succeed beyond their own expectations brings me great joy.
Zinn, L. M. (2004). Exploring your philosophical orientation. In M. Galbraith (Ed.), Adult learning methods: A guide for effective instruction (3rd ed.) (pp. 39–74). Malabar, FL: Krieger.