On Philosophy and Teachers
No two teachers are alike. Even if they are from the same race and culture and graduated from the same university, don’t expect them to embrace the same educational philosophies and to develop the same set of beliefs and values. You won’t see them apply the same methods and strategies in the classroom, approach teaching and learning with the same degree of passion, and treat the learners in the same manner.
Teachers are different in many ways.
Teachers decide which perspectives they would use when looking at their role as mentors and when looking at their students. Such perspective depends on either the philosophical foundations upon which they are grounded or their personal set of beliefs… or may be both.
Teachers may have read too much of Hegel, Kant and Plato that they may have developed idealistic tendencies indoctrinating their students into believing that they do not exist for themselves but for others and for a higher purpose. Or like Aristotle, Locke or Rousseau (who all tried to debunk the ideas established by Plato and company) the teachers maybe slowly training their students to subscribe to rational thinking, that the latter need to think critically and scientifically. They could be pragmatists like Dewey and Kilpatrick, guiding students to keep themselves in touch with reality for they believe that there is no other world aside from what can be perceived by the senses.
Whatever values and beliefs teachers have doesn’t really matter for as long as nothing they say and do in the class is inimical to the interests of the students. What is important is that everything that they say and do in the classroom is intended to lead the students to the attainment of their full potentials, help them acquire and develop the necessary knowlege, skills, atttitudes, and values, and prepare them to live a meaningful and productive life. Teachers should not forget Descartes’ view of formal education – “It is the process of acquiring and developing quality or skill.”
So, for as long as the end is to make the students the best they can be, the philosophy upon which the teachers grounded their teaching doesn’t matter.
So be it if the teachers are like Satre, leaning towards Existentialism in guiding the students to take responsibility in deciding who they are in order to make themselves authentic individuals.
Nobody can claim that this or that philosophical perspective in education is superior over the other. It’s fine if the teachers wish to embrace all the philosophies and combine their best features to serve and guide them in shaping their set of values and in choosing their methods and strategies.
Combining the philosophies is not, by the way, a novel idea. In Scholasticism, St. Thomas Aquinas, harmonized Idealism and Realism. What about coming out with a philosophical perspective combining the four major philosophies in Education?
The philosophies aforementioned have shaped the teachers into the kind of educators that they are today. Whatever they knowingly and unknowingly say and do in the classrooms are offshoots of their set of values and beliefs. And this set of values and beliefs constitute their philosophy of education.
Teachers may have also accumulated through the years a personal system of values that govern every decision they make in the classrooms. Thus we see them approach their teaching (and deal with their students) in different ways. We see them display different degrees of enthusiasm in teaching. Some display no enthusiasm at all.
There are teachers who are “sages on the stage” who believe, the way the realists and idealists do, that knowledge emanates from them being the authorities. So, the students should be spoonfed. Conversely, there are teachers, who, like the existentialists and pragmatists, act like “guides on the side” painstakingly guiding the students to self-discovery.
There are teachers who would choose specific methods and strategies without considering the specific needs of their students. But there are also those who would be conscientious enough to take into consideration the heterogeneity in the class before deciding what learning system they would put into effect.
There are teachers whose mere mention of their names would either disgust the students or send shivers down their spine. Conversely, there are teachers who try to make learning fun making the students enjoy, and not fear, the classroom.
There are teachers who consider the classroom a workplace, while others consider it a playground. They work playfully or playfully work happy doing what they are doing in the classroom thereby rubbing off to the students their joyful spirit and make learning fun.
There are teachers who have seemingly forgotten that the students are not just empty sheets waiting to be filled-out as in Locke’s Tabula Rasa. The kids in the classrooms are not wax figures with empty minds which the teachers need to stuff with all the knowledge that the curriculum requires. These students are not just intellectual beings, they have emotions. They need not just to be taught. They also need love and understanding. They should be treated the way parents treat their children.
Whatever the teachers decide to be… whatever system they implement… whatever method and strategies they apply… however they view learning… however they treat their students… would depend on their perspectives as dictated by their educational philosophy and their set of values and beliefs.
The way teachers conducts themselves as professionals and the way they treat their students depend on whether they treat teaching as means of livelihood or a way of life.