Alex Guenther
Philosophy of Education

a work in progress

Teaching and Learning
I believe that teaching is not the exclusive domain of the professional educator. If properly facilitated, teaching and learning form a complex fabric of interaction and feedback wherein the teacher is not the only source of teaching but rather where students can teach themselves, each other and the teacher. The educator’s role involves creating an environment where shared teaching and learning is made possible. I believe that the best learning is accomplished when students are empowered to create their own meaning, own what they learn, and teach themselves and each other through discovery and making connections.

Learners are not empty vessels to be filled up with knowledge, but rather are active, critically thinking agents who strive for their own improvement through processes such as guided inquiry and self-assessment. I believe that all learners have unique strengths, positive individual qualities and intrinsic worth. I believe that all learners have the capability and the drive to learn, and have the right to learn in a safe and encouraging environment.

I believe that one of a teacher’s most important roles involves guiding students to what has been called the “zone of proximal development” – the state where further development is possible with the aid of peer or teacher assistance. In this way, learners themselves can discover and create their own meaning, and thus a teacher’s position as scaffold builder and learning facilitator is crucial. I believe that teachers should not only excel in teaching about certain topics, but should be able to point out the essential connections linking all curricular areas, as well as connections between the curriculum and the world beyond the school walls. I believe that teachers must be dedicated to the profession and their own excellence within it. Teachers must themselves recognize their own status as lifelong learners and tireless discoverers of better practices.

Student-Teacher Relationship
I believe that teachers and students should have a relationship which is more complex than simply that of provider and receiver of information. Teachers should model exemplary social, moral and civic behavior and act as a positive shaping influence on students’ socialization into a larger world. Teachers should encourage student learning with compassion, empathy, forbearance, flexibility and humor – but all without confusing the role of teacher with that of friend or parent. I believe that teachers must guide and support students in their efforts to become independent, self-regulated learners and effective critical thinkers.

Teaching Methods and Evaluation
I believe that being an effective teacher means employing a variety of teaching methods, selected with input from research, personal experience, collaboration with other educators – and adapted to the needs of individual learners. Teachers need to set clear learning goals, expressed through a curriculum with lucid standards and benchmarks. I believe that teachers must develop assessment tasks that will guide and foster student achievement, using a variety of assessment tools, including performance tasks. I believe that all learners deserve education which speaks to their current level of development, and that this level is not merely dependent on age or the result of standardized tests, but should be discovered through a balanced mix of, for example, authentic assessment, consultation with parents, and consideration of socioeconomic and cultural background.

Professional Development
I believe that learning is a lifelong process, that commitment to the teaching profession is something which must be periodically renewed and refocused, and that new developments demand a teacher’s continual attention to the latest research and theory. Therefore, ongoing professional development is a crucial part of the teaching profession.