Over the years I have examined many different theories on education and child development that have been the stepping stones to developing my own philosophy of education. I have concluded that education today should be inspiring, empowering, and fun.
Looking back on my own education, the people who have been most influential in my life, have been those people who have believed in my potential. Every person makes some mistakes in life, it is human nature. If it were not for those people who extend their hand when we fall, we may eventually stay down. Many theorists over the years would support this idea. Pestalozzi, (1746 - 1827) went to great lengths to show love and care to his students. He believed in carefully observing his students to find the potential in each of them. Margaret McMillan, (1860 - 1931) who worked with children from low income families believed in facilitating emotional development. She went as far as providing health services for these children. Finally Maria Montessori, (1870 - 1952) developed a program for children that her community labeled "defective" children. She believed that even these children deserved the opportunity to learn. Montessori programs are still in effect today. My own early education was Montessori based.
Education should also empower students throughout their lives. This idea may be applied to many different concepts. Particularly, education should be comprehensive. One way to do this is to introduce ideas as early as possible to maximize learning through out life. For example, teaching third grade students to solve for n by giving them a problem like 3x6=n. This way when they reach middle school, this simple algebraic idea will not intimidate them. Teachers should construct many different learning environments so that students may learn to adapt. Vygotsky, (1896 - 1934) believed that placing students in small groups helped them learn in their zone of proximal development. Others suggested many other types of environments such as nature, free play, circle time and using sensory experiences or manipulatives as tools for learning. In order to develop lessons like these, we as teachers must constantly be reflecting and conceiving ways to extend and improve our approach to curriculum.
Perhaps, most importantly as teachers and lovers of learning we should strive to illustrate to students how fun learning can be. Too often teachers become too focused on drilling information into students that we all forget about how entertaining lessons can be. Although I am not sure that I could fully support Rousseau, I can agree that childhood is a stage of development and we need to allow students the time to experience childhood. We have to try to remember to take moments out of our day for singing, dancing, playing, laughing, discovering, creating, awarding, investigating, picking pumpkins, dancing in the rain, feeling the sun on your shoulders, and all of the naturally wonderful things our world has to offer. After all this is truly what it is all about.
As teachers we should assume the temporary role of parent for the day by lovingly assisting each student to reach the full extent of their potential. Showing students encouragement, insight, and enjoyment is the best thing that we can do for our children.