5P40: Philosophy of Education  
An Educational Philosophy 
(not The Educational Philosophy…)
Brock University, M.Ed. Programme


I have been an elementary teacher for over 7 years. When I first entered the profession, I held certain beliefs and principles that guided me in my teaching. By the time I entered the Master of Education programme at Brock University in the summer of 1996 (a seasoned veteran of the classroom!), educational times had changed and I found myself being more and more pessimistic toward my profession. I had allowed external factors to cloud my underlying enthusiasm and energy that had shaped my teaching at the beginning of my career. I can honestly say that the courses I have taken in the Master's programme over the past three years have rejuvenated my attitude toward teaching. I entered the programme with a quiet question lingering in the back of my mind about the possibility of seeking administration as a career goal but I really was not sure why. As I graduate this fall after completing eight courses and a project, I will be thankful that the experiences at Brock strongly influenced my decision to seek principalship in the near future. Not only were the courses and professors invigorating, they were enlightening. I leave Brock now with a stronger sense of why I became a teacher, and with clear principles that will affect my future career and the lives of the students and teachers with whom I interact.

My Personal Educational Principles

PRINCIPLE 1: Education does not only occur at the school.
Education is a lifelong process, not a product that can be acquired. It is something that occurs not only in the confines of school walls, but also in the vastness of telecommunicative networks, media, families, and friends. As members of the institution of education, teachers and administrators must realize that the direction, guidance, and instruction that they provide will not only affect students but will affect others that the students interact with. Likewise, education that is received from external sources will influence students' behaviours, choices, and attitudes toward learning in the school. Education is a codependent process. It is made richer by the interactions between the school and the larger community.

Educators have a tendency to believe that education is something that is done in at school, isolated from the larger community. In fact, community opinion (as distributed by the media) is frequently at odds with current pedagogical methodologies and ideals. Educators need to be aware of their critics' positions and be prepared to defend their principles. Ignorance is usually a common factor in both sides of this situation; the public – educated in a certain manner themselves and feeling that they are intelligent products of it – do not always understand why new methods and skills are taught in school, and educators may be unintentionally insensitive to the public's concerns. There must be an awareness of this problem, and there must be an attempt by all parties involved at understanding each other's positions and trying to work jointly toward a solution to any problems that are encountered.

PRINCIPLE 2: Learning is both an individual and social activity.
It is no longer realistic to provide an education system that focuses solely on general knowledge and community ideals. Education is now a global experience and everyone is affected to some degree by factors external to their local situation. This is not to say that local community customs, expectations, and principles are to be minimized or trivialized, but rather that the globalization of education must work in conjunction with local tradition.

Education is both an individual right and responsibility, and a social right and responsibility. Each person in society – child, adolescent, and adult – has an obligation to contribute to the well being of themselves, and to the well being of the smaller and larger communities in which they live. Education has a responsibility to provide learning experiences that will help students grow morally, ethically, and intellectually through non-dictatorial means, and to encourage self-reflection and personal awareness in relation to these goals. Education also has a responsibility to provide learning experiences that will help students understand the importance of their role in the larger, global community. Students need to learn that their actions and beliefs can and will influence their immediate friendships, family, and community as well as those around the world, now and in the future.

PRINCIPLE 3: Change in education is constant that must be accepted by administrators, teachers, parents, students, and the public.
Education is not a homeostatic entity, and there must not be a lull into which we fall believing it is so. Change has been, is, and always will be affecting the education system. One must guard against rigidity in the stances they take and remain flexible in their options and opinions. No one has ever created the perfect educational system and it is highly unlikely that one will ever be presented. We must learn to take key methods and processes that work for certain situation and allow them to be modified if it will make them better. We must not hang on desperately to traditional methods and deny our students progress. Likewise, we must not blindly adopt new policies and direction without critical analysis. Change is an effective ally in the quest for the betterment of education.

PRINCIPLE 4: Teachers must be competent.
Teachers must be caring, knowledgeable, effective, and current. The teacher is the individual that a student will go to and be guided by during their school years. Especially in the elementary years, it is necessary for teachers to be true leaders within the educational system.

Teachers must believe in the previous three principles in order to do their jobs effectively. To limit learning experiences to individual, compartmentalized activities unrelated to the natural world is dangerous. Learning experiences must be integrated and relevant. To remain fixed in methods and approach is irresponsible and detrimental to the overall educational system if it is endemic since change can have a powerful effect on learning.

Competent teachers are current in teaching theory and practice and are open to new ideas. They provide comprehensive learning experiences in a nurturing and caring environment, valid assessments of students' progress, and informative communications to parents and the students.

These four principles are encompassing in their scope. Principle #1 put forth a belief that education is more than the skills we learn and the experiences we have at school – we are part of a larger picture. Principle #2 explained how the balance between the individual and the social must be maintained. Principle #3 stated the belief that in time and through change it is possible to develop even better educational experiences for our students. Finally, Principle #4 addressed the need for competent "front line troops" – our classroom teachers.

I would be violating principle #3 if I were to say that the educational philosophy that I have presented is fixed. Although I firmly believe in these principles now, I have many unlived experiences waiting as I continue to grow as an educator, a father, and as a human being. For now, these are good educational principles to follow. Who knows where the future will take them?

Final Synthesis for 5P40
Dr. J. Novak
Brock University
July 25, 1999