My educational philosophy includes three main facets: educational justice, the whole-child experience, and transformative education. Regarding outcomes, I favor an essentialist approach augmented, in part, by both progressivism and perennialism beliefs. The following summary will describe and then weave the concepts of the former together.
The first stop on this journey, educational justice, requires the mindset that all students, given the necessary time and attention, can and will be successful. Many students in our schools have the innate capacity and disposition, life experiences and support systems, and learning readiness to cruise through a traditional education program with success. However, some do not. It is our responsibility to provide the tools and supports for students that are missing one or all of these facets so that all students have an opportunity to maximize their unique potential. Teachers, staff, parents, and students must be included in the education plan from the triangle of attachment in the early childhood grades to a deep understanding of desired outcomes throughout. All students need to be seen, heard, understood, and loved. Twenty-five years ago, my first professional mentor and family friend, the late Larry Jensen, once gave me the most valuable yet simple advice: be fair, not equal.
Next, the whole-child experience includes social, emotional, cognitive, metacognitive, physical, character, and aesthetic growth and development. In my experience, schools are well equipped to educate the cognitive, physical, aesthetic, character, and to a lesser extent, the social components. The components of thinking about thinking; recognizing, understanding, and managing emotions; and practices of mindfulness leading to increased brain integration are only in the early stages of implementation. It is my belief that socio-emotional education for students begins with understanding whom they are, valuing their individuality, and developing learning strategies that promote their strengths and overcome inherent obstacles to maximize achievement.
The third influential concept that has informed my practice is transformative education, which requires inclusion, equity, democracy, and social justice. The practices that support these ideals include positive education, differentiated and individualized instruction, extensive programming opportunities, and deliberate attention to the unique needs of each child. Consider the words of the father of modern education, John Dewey, "Without insight into the psychological structure and activities of the individual, the educative process will, therefore, be haphazard and arbitrary.” While written 120 years ago, these words still ring true today. Our goal as educators must be to provide a transformative experience for all students.
Ultimately, my educational philosophy begins and ends with knowing and understanding each student. Areas of focus must include academic readiness, emotional and social competency, personality, interests, and motives. Actively considering the whole child allows for a truly transformative experience that values the individual in a just, inclusive, and equitable manner.