Though I believe that my educational philosophy is made up of a patchwork of many philosophical beliefs, the progressive philosophy best encompasses my core beliefs surrounding learning and teaching. Popularized by John Dewey in the nineteenth century, progressivism focuses on pragmatic, democratic learning and social living skills. Dewey proposed that education is a living-learning process which should be fostered through active and interesting learning. The teacher acts as a guide for the learning of problem solving and scientific inquiry but is never seen as the active authority of students' learning. Learning is based on student interest, while integrating critical thinking and problem solving involving larger human problems and affairs.
Students are motivated to learn when subject matter directly relates to their lives. Progressivism does not believe in teaching facts but instead focuses on knowledge and skills which can be directly applied to the students' lives. Students to become involved in active, hands-on activities to promote growth and learning. This process of motivating students through focusing on their interests, paired with getting them to participate in their learning in an active way, is what I provide for my students.
Allowing students' interests to guide the course of study, creating innovative and participatory learning opportunities, and guiding students to problem-solve critically and independently is the environment I foster for students. Though I cannot say I am strictly progressive in my thoughts and teachings, I believe that one main purpose of a free and fair education is to help our students grow into active and productive members of a democratic society. This belief seeps into all I do with my students. Taking the form of community projects, authentic experiences in global connections, and letting students be a part of solutions they care about, my style of teaching involves letting kids’ voices be the loudest piece of our learning. This means they leave school and enter the world with the skills and knowledge to make changes in their lives and improve the lives of others.
I believe our nation is filled with good teachers. Teachers that deeply care about their students. Teachers that dedicate countless hours to student success and building better families. Teachers that serve their communities outside of the classroom. I think, however, being an outstanding teacher requires qualities much different from that of a good teacher. Outstanding teachers aren't afraid to risk everything for their students. Outstanding teachers share stories of success and heartbreak to help change the narrative of public education and the teaching profession. Outstanding teachers have confidence in their students and their own ability, and they stand next to their students in partnership, not in authority, to allow greatness to take place in their learning spaces and beyond. Outstanding teachers are brave and fearless and will never be afraid to speak out against injustice or inequality.
The best teachers, the ones that transcend outstanding, are the teachers that make change. They don't just move their mouths, they also move their feet. These teachers, the best of the best, make sure they leave their students, schools, and the greater community better than they found it. These are the teachers you hope will be around when your kids are in school. These are the teachers you desperately wish had been around to teach you. These are the teachers that we don't quite understand. They seem to never tire and their accomplishments are astounding. The best teachers do these things naturally because their passion drives and energizes them. The best teachers won’t accept the inertia of the system and will fight for what kids deserve. In the end, the best teachers create spaces where lives are changed and the world is different.