When I first graduated from University in 2000 and was trying to get a teaching position I created a portfolio to show school district representatives everything I had learned in my five years at University. A part of this portfolio was, of course, my Philosophy of Education. Having been a teacher now for about 15 years (minus some maternity leave) I wondered how much my ideals had changed so I dug into my filing cabinet and found the original document.
” A community of inquiry values research and problem-solving to discover the world around them. Members need to develop many skills such as planning, organizing, collecting and recording, communicating, analyzing, and evaluating. Teachers must provide students with opportunities to develop these skills to be functional in such a community.”
I was pleasantly surprised to read parts of the document, like the one above, and realized that even though I hadn’t looked at this statement since getting hired it was still a part of who I am as a teacher and is at the core of my beliefs about education.
However, there are many aspects of education that are missing from this document. Things that my years of University and the time spent in practicums could never have taught me. These beliefs could only be created from my experiences with children I have taught, cared for and loved. Children who have challenged my ideas about what the role of education must be. The purpose of school and my job as a teacher, is so much more than to provide students with opportunities to gain some important skills.
Some of my students come to school each day because they are cared for and loved at school. They are fed, clothed, washed and allowed to sleep if that’s what they need. They have access to counselors and community services. We have staff members who will make doctor or dentist appointments for students and make sure that someone is able to take them, or take them if no one else can. Some students get to just be kids at school, not a caretaker of other family members. They can socialize and make friends and be distracted from the worries in their lives. They get to participate in sports and excel at something that is non-academic.
Education has a very complex role and it will be different for each community and for each student. Teachers will need to have the skills to assess the needs of their community and students, which takes time and real, meaningful relationships. And then they will need time and access to resources to respond to those assessments and provide students with what they need most and when it is needed. That is our real purpose.