Philosophy of Life - Education

When a teacher focuses on the expression of learning (homework, written assignments, oral responses) without an appreciation for how that learning defines the learner and without a regard for compassion for who the learner is, then the learner will experience a deterioration of his/her self-identity. 

In an elementary class, a teacher held up a self-portrait of one of her students. This student was shy, seldom spoke or participated in discussions, was not well-treated by other students and at other times, basically ignored. The teacher wanted to show the effect negative comments and exchanges could have on a child. 

The teacher tore off a piece of the girl's self-portrait. The teacher tore off another piece of the girl's self-portrait. The teacher tore off another piece of the girl's self-portrait. During the reading class, the teacher asked the shy girl a question, but she was slow to respond, so the teacher ignored her and let another student respond. The teacher then tore off another piece of the girl's self-portrait. Something inside the little girl died just a little bit each time part of her self-portrait was torn away. 

The class became very silent. The influence of this class, our discussions and the increased skill we are gaining in expressing ideas, truths and identities, has led me to another realization. This principle is experienced in our schools everyday with profound negative effects on a student's identity and their social role. This principle is important in how teachers and persons in positions of authority magnify or marginalize other people, especially students. 

I also hope to demonstrate by a few experiences how education's lack of whole vision or misunderstanding of the importance of individual identity and social role is frustrating the learner and corrupting the learning environment. 

I became a better person/teacher because I recognized this was a moment where place to learn and space to have one's identity acknowledged occurred. I learned to be a teacher by being a positive influence in his life and providing him a role and place in our class. 

Reading October Sky and then developing it into instructional material has taken me on a path that reflects principles of identity and truth in learning. 

I thought of the novel first as an English teacher, then next as a reading teacher. In conversation with a few students in another class, I though about the role of rebels who bring about social change. Next, I wanted to use October Sky as part of the materials students might access to study social change. How would the students interact, individually, in dyads, small groups, or as a whole class? Next I considered how students might represent their knowledge. This transformation of how learning occurs represents many of the philosophies we have studied. Postmodernism rejected the possibility of the student making meaning by linking personal experiences to classroom knowledge and thereby asserting to have found or realized some type of truth. Classroom knowledge represented current opinions, but not necessarily truth. I believe Universal Design Learning has the potential to integrate and build community among a heterogeneous and diverse group of learners, if the teacher can gain the spirit and vision of UDL that recognizes learner choices. I don't believe that most current teachers have the psychological aptitude nor the skills and strategies to implement differentiated learning. Most lack the influence to help them transform there focus and regard for the knowledge to that of the whole individual that deserves an education of truth and obedience to truth. 

IV        Diminishing Identity. 

This situation occurred in a reading and study skills (RSS) class at BSU. There are three main participants to this story, the student, who I shall call Jane, the teacher and the teacher's supervisor. One of the class requirements was for each student to buy 100 index cards and begin collecting unfamiliar vocabulary from their content classes, which could include the RSS class. 

The first 25 cards were to be reviewed by the teacher. Upon looking at Jane's cards, the teacher noticed the words "mathematics, history, and language." He asked the student about the words and basically challenged the fact that they constituted vocabulary words. The large group instructor, who was also the supervisor, then spoke to the teacher at great length on the matter. The teacher said he would speak to the student and attempt to rebuild the teacher-student relationship. 

As a result of this conversation, the student returned to her class, finished her assignments and passed the class. In this case, respect, rapport and a closer, more helpful relationship was restored between that teacher and his student, Jane. 

What precipitated the difference of opinion between Jane and her teacher over what constituted a vocabulary word?  

The teacher had learned a lot about his identity from Parker Palmer and Wendell Berry. First, the vocabulary assignment had been made by the supervisor, rather than the teacher.


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