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Thursday, June 23, 2016

What NOT to Include in your Philosophy of Education

I was recently afforded the opportunity to teach a few education classes at a local community college and had the distinguished pleasure of reading mounds of educational philosophy papers. Now, it has been several years since I wrote my original required paper, and I have no doubt it was a gigantic pile of garbage from my arrogant nineteen-year-old brain. Fortunately, I can’t locate the floppy disk on which it is stored…nor do I still have access to technology that would even open it.  Thus, it is easy for me to list the ridiculous mistakes my current students are commonly making against my rather vocal opposition. However, I am current I was an offender of some, if not all, of these rules. 

   1.  DO NOT ramble.

Look, we all can ramble when we are sharing our beliefs about a topic for which we are passionate. It is extremely important to organize these thoughts and make them as concise as possible. If you start over-explaining them or using unfamiliar philosophical jargon, you are just going to sound like a babbling idiot. Don’t write down everything you are thinking because you will certainly start to sound like a blabbering idiot. 

   2.  DO NOT rant.

Ranting is similar to rambling but with a negative undertone, making it more unpleasant to read. It is basically the equivalent of complaining which is such an exhausting turnoff when written on paper. A philosophy paper is not the place to push a political agenda, especially if it may possibly offend a future employer. Plus, if you are already complaining now, you are going to make one miserable teacher.

   3.  DO NOT tell cliché stories.

 Statistically speaking, 74% of the educational philosophy papers I read this semester included a story about how the author knew he or she wanted to be a teacher after playing school as a child. Please stop telling that ridiculous story! We all played school! No one is playing human resources representative or marketing accountant. Does pretending to be something as a child better qualify you for that role as an adult? If so, my son is going to be one heck of a Ninja Turtle!

   4.  DO NOT describe bad teachers.

What is the infatuation with detailing undesirable characteristics of people? Experienced teachers know that you put yourself on a pedestal daily for many little eyes to judge. If you have even the tiniest personality or physical flaw, you better believe a student is going to make you aware of it. (Never make a drastic change to your hair in the middle of the school year unless you have tire-thick skin!) Your philosophy should include your opinion of the role of a teacher. People want to know what you are going to do…not what you aren’t going to do!

   5.  DO NOT dumb things down for your reader.

Let’s be honest; very few people are actually going to read your philosophy of education. It will likely only be read by college professors and perhaps future employers, all people who are considered education professionals. Thus, there is no need to explain the basic content covered in your Introduction to Teaching class, because we already know it. In fact, we either taught it to you or are currently living it. We all know the difference between auditory and visual learners. Also, please don’t define philosophy!

   6.  DO NOT demean the profession.

Avoid trashing teaching as an underpaid profession. Teachers have great benefits, a summer, spring, and/or fall break, and earn a salary that is typically equal to the average household income of th surrounding community. Being a teacher is a respectable and influential job, and you should be honored to enter the profession regardless of the pay. Plus, when you belittle the earnings of a teacher, you may also be inadvertently insulting the teacher reading your paper.

As a paper, your philosophy of education may not change any lives, including your own. However, it is extremely important to be able to articulate your philosophy of education. That should be the purpose of your writing.

Need more help? Check out my FREE product on TeachersPayTeachers. It includes a prewriting activity and rubric to help guide your writing.