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  • Educational Philosophy

    I have long thought of education as vocational rather than occupational. I personally enjoy my time in the classroom with students more than any other professional time, and I hope that my students feel the same about their time spent with me. Because I have taught such a broad range of students in a variety of educational settings from elementary school to graduate classes, I have had an opportunity to reflect on the similarities of these diverse educational experiences.

    To educate well demands certain standards of the educator:

    • to earn the respect of students with thorough preparation, careful attention to their progress, and fulfillment of objectives as stated in the syllabus, 
    • to respect students, never allowing condescension to creep into criticism, 
    • to remain open-minded to students’ possibilities for success, 
    • to seek assistance of others in the university and the community for validation and evaluation, and 
    • to maintain that teaching can always be improved, the work never complete.

    Much of education is initially about negotiation, not negotiation of the requirements or grading policies but rather the negotiation of the teacher-student relationship. How will I be teacher for the student best to learn? How will the student be student for me best to teach? I realize that such negotiations are subtle and rarely overt, existing in a subtext of the relationship and evolving as time progresses, but all the same, the interactions between the students and instructor are often the primary source of satisfaction for any educator.

    In addition to the relational aspects of education, much of what learners believe about education comes from what they have observed as students. When I was a student, I observed that the best teachers always seemed excited about teaching, the subject matter, and being with students. They had time to talk outside of class and space in their busy lives to talk of matters beyond the subject under study. Their excitement was contagious, their scholarship inspiring. I was a better student with these good teachers. They, these best teachers, come with me every time I enter a classroom, no matter how tired or dispirited I am that day. They enter the classroom as my guides and as my exemplars, and their presence energizes and invigorates me. Thus, good educators provide significant models and often provide inspiration for those who seek to educate others.

    While quality education does involve interactions and stimulation, teaching has a contemplative side as well as a social side and begs for time spent in solitude and reflection. Good educators are good scholars, basing their teaching pedagogy on thoughtful contemplation of the work of others and in their own writing. The reading, research, and preparation time leading to the classroom is quiet, isolated time. It is as if the solitude planted in research, reading, and writing germinates into the fruitfulness of the learning experience in the classroom that is celebratory, difficult, and, ultimately, social.
    To educate well is to view others as fellow learners, in other words, to embrace the learner in oneself, to find a connection in the fellowship of education, a fellowship that unites students and teachers in a common cause and mission. Educators make preparations to depart into unknown waters with each class, a bit unsure of the route but energized by the company they keep and the promise of treasure.