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Educational Philosophy

The Importance of Education: El Saber es el Poder

My educational philosophy is driven by the belief that "el saber es el poder." In English, the phrase literally means "knowledge is the ability to...." I like to say it means knowledge is power, strength, and possibility. It empowers one with the ability to accomplish things.

Education has always been very important to me, and it has always been an integral part of my life. I see myself as a lifelong learner who will always be learning through research, experience, and interaction with others. One reason that I desire to be a professor is that I want to share what I have learned about learning, teaching, and working with children, but also look forward to learning even more from my students.

One of my undergraduate professors once told me that all he desired, all that he hoped for, was to help his students learn. He explained his desire by asking me to imagine myself standing on his shoulders and seeing a little further into the horizon, and thus seeing beyond his scope of vision. I hope to achieve the same goal: to help my students see at a greater distance into the horizon than I can see.

Perspectives on Teaching

Teaching is extremely challenging. Before I had the full responsibility of teaching a class of students, I had a very naive view of how much energy, time, and planning would be involved. It was surprising to me how complex, demanding, and rewarding teaching could be. Words cannot express the gratification in successfully teaching a child to read, helping a parent understand his/her child's academic difficulties, and motivating a teacher to use technology in his/her instruction.

Since my first few days in the classroom, I have spent much time reflecting on what my perspective of good teaching is, recollecting my impressions of teachers/professors (throughout my many years of studies), mentors, colleagues, and most importantly, my first teachers, my parents. I have also critically analyzed my own teaching strengths, weaknesses, and style, which has inspired me to experiment with new strategies and to consult with more experienced teachers for their advice.

For me, a teacher is one who is respectful, understanding, approachable, and supportive. The way I interact with students demonstrates my respect for them. For example, I never say anything derogatory to them or use them (or any of their work) as a poor example. I illustrate understanding by listening to their needs, even if I am unable to comply. Because I treat students with respect and understanding, I am approachable; students often ask for additional help and thank me for making them feel comfortable and not intimidated for asking questions. When I work with students, I am supportive of their ideas and desires. For instance, once a new teacher wanted to write a unit lesson plan on a topic that I thought would be difficult for him. Rather than disapprove the topic, I helped him find the resources necessary for him to organize the unit. If anything, I would hope that my past, present, and future students perceive me to have these qualities too.

Perspectives on Learning

Learning is a lifelong process. I find it difficult to divide any experience from learning, and I do not think that any day passes that I do not learn something. Life is experience, and experience is learning.

We learn by example. When I taught second grade, my students had difficulty understanding how to write a simple paragraph. I quickly learned the power of providing examples for them by writing an example on chart paper and explaining what I was thinking as I wrote. Too often, instructors assume that students have learned the basics (or even more complex topics).

We learn by doing. Children learn to read by reading, people learn to use computers by using them. In essence, we internalize new experiences by performing those exact tasks. This reminds me of an ancient Chinese proverb:

Tell me, I forget.
Show me, I remember.
Involve me, I understand.

We learn by creating our own meaning. There are so many factors, including our own past experiences, that influence our learning. No matter how we attempt to assess student learning, or how much we impose our ideas upon students they will create their own meaning and understanding of the material. Learning is situated in the past and present interactions that the students have experienced, over which instructors have no control.

We learn through discovery. Especially in regards to using new technologies, I find that we learn best through exploration and by trying new things. It would be easy (and boring) for me to explain to students step-by-step how to create a database, but it is more fun and interesting for them to discover on their own how to create one (with some guidance).

We learn from our mistakes. Some of my best learning experiences were gleaned from my mistakes. In several cases, I learned that a particular strategy was not effective, and should not be used again; in others, I learned that it should be repeated. For example, when teaching a science methods class to teachers, I learned that few of the teachers knew how to write effective objectives. Unfortunately, this happened towards the end of the class, but I have learned not to assume that even experienced teachers have been taught all of the basics.

Perspectives on Teaching and Instructional Technology

In today's Information Age, I believe it is imperative for instructors at all academic levels to employ technology in their instruction, in particular because it is so prevalent in our society. There is not one facet of life that is not tied to technology in some way. However, I also believe it is important to utilize technology in meaningful ways and with purpose. Simply using technology for technology's sake defeats the purpose. Further, technology should be used to make things easier and more efficient, not to make things more complicated.

Technological literacy is also vital, and will become increasingly important as we become more and more dependent on technology. Not only will students need to understand how to use technology as tools, they also will need to know how to solve problems using these tools.

*Technology refers to any type of tool that may be used for instructional purposes, which includes, but is not limited to, books, cameras, calculators, compasses, computer hardware and software, digital media, microscopes, video, and the WWW. I do not promote the use of technology for such activities as "drill and practice" or only word processing. My idea of the effective use of technology entails enriching ways where students examine and use technology to demonstrate their knowledge of subject areas. Oftentimes, technology is taught in isolation of subject areas, rather than integrated across the curriculum.