Help ALL students reach their full potential
My philosophy of education describes school as a place where children are a part of a community of learners and their individual academic and emotional needs are met so they may become independent learners. This is similar to what Leonard C. Burrello states on page 16 of Educating All Students Together: How School Leaders Create Unified Systems. Burrello says, “…we (need to) educate all students to levels of excellence that sustain both their personal growth and our social fabric.”
It is not what you teach, but how it is taught
Based upon my belief of this purpose of school, the curricula should be integrated, authentic, and teach children HOW to learn while encouraging creativity, innovation, collaboration, and problem solving. What is taught is not as important as the classroom environment and pedagogy. Therefore, a quality curriculum is only as strong as its implementation. At this point in education, schools must still answer to the accountability of state testing, but that does not mean that content cannot be taught in an integrated way. Students need hands-on experiences and the skills to communicate effectively. This includes the ability to communicate in writing, both digitally and on paper, and skills to navigate the complexity of communicating to a worldwide audience (aka digital citizenship).
What is best for students today may look different tomorrow
The curriculum should reflect the learners, values, and needs of the population it will serve. As stated in Peter F. Oliva’s Ten General Axioms of Curriculum Development, “Curriculum development is an ongoing process.” Oliva goes on to describe curriculum development as “a cooperative group activity”, “systematic”, and “(most) effective if it is a comprehensive process, rather than piecemeal”. This illustrates the point that “doing what we have always done” is not acceptable in schools today and educators must become active participants in making changes to their curriculum at the district and classroom level.
Meeting the needs of today’s learners
Throughout my work of training our district K-8 teachers how to integrate technology into the teaching and learning process, I model what I feel is best practice for teaching. I learn about the needs of my learners and work to differentiate the learning to meet their needs. I provide as much hands-on learning as possible and allow time for teachers to experiment, collaborate, and work on projects. I model “teacher as learner” by allowing my students, our district teachers, to demonstrate their learning and “show me something new”. I also readily admit when I do not know something and see if someone else does know the answer. My session participants are encouraged to share what they have done or plan on doing. I work to create a community of learners that will last beyond our time together by providing online forums, email follow up, or a common “share folder”. I help teachers find connections between software applications, online projects, district curriculum, and the needs of their students.
A work in progress
While there is much success to be celebrated within my district, we still have room to grow. Our learners change and we, as educators, learn more about the needs of our 21st century learners. We realize that lifelong learning is not just something we want to foster in our students, but a skill to help us be the best educators we can be.