Philosophy of Education: Gabrielle Wroblewski

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Gabrielle Wroblewski

Setting students up for success is the main goal of teachers and education in general. However, in order for this to happen, the idea of education needs to be expanded by first looking at who the teacher really is.

Ever since I was little, it has always been my dream to be a teacher. Now of course, I am in the process of living my dream because I am almost done with school. However, my reasons for why I want to be a teacher and for why I feel such a connection to and am in such support of education has changed throughout the years, after I have been exposed to literature, experiences, and relationships. I no longer want to be a teacher just so I can draw on the chalkboard, like I wanted when I was a child. I now of course my desire and beliefs about education come from a much deeper source. I have been exposed to many different education literature and many different school settings, throughout Peru, throughout Milwaukee, and throughout my own years in school. In accordance with these school experiences, I also have been exposed to many different theories and philosophies about education. With all of these experiences and knowledge combined, I am now able to have my own philosophy of education.

The teacher. The person who stands in the front of a classroom and is in charge. The teacher. The adult who is responsible for teaching students content that they need in order to move on to the next grade or pass the next test. The teacher. The person who has all the knowledge and figures out ways to feed this knowledge to his/ her students. These claims about who the teacher is are very basic, traditional, and incorrect. Many would disagree with my claim about these statements being incorrect, but I am here to write about why “the teacher” is a much more broad and flexible term that encompasses more than one person and more than one thing.

A lot of people underestimate the power and knowledge of children. Children are capable of having their own opinions of things, they are very curious in nature, so they ask a lot of questions. They are hungry for new information and new experiences. Children are always moving, whether that be mentally or physically. This movement that children have is what allows them to be teachers. Now, this may sound silly, since it is “common sense” that in order to be a teacher, one must of course be an adult and go through some sort of schooling or training. However, this is not always the case. A teacher is someone who both learns and teaches. A teacher is someone who is learns new information from books, others, the outside world, etc. and then relays that information to others. Children definitely represent this statement of who a teacher is. Like stated before, children are curious, questioning creatures who are always excited to share new information with whoever they run into. Children also come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, so when all of those children are put into a classroom, they all come with knowledge that others may not have, including the traditional teacher.

Seeing that children bring new information into the classroom, this also means that the teacher is learning from the students. Of course, the teacher is tasked with giving the students new information that is required that they know, in all content areas, but the teacher is not the only one who can teach during a unit or lesson. Students may have additional information about a topic that can be shared to the class. Students may raise new questions or ways to think about a topic, that the teacher hadn’t previously thought about before. With this mindset about the students’ role in a classroom, it is clear that the traditional teacher also goes through a learning process while simultaneously teaching. This is the same for students. This idea of the teacher- students relationship and roles within the classroom is greatly supported by Freire’s theory of education. In Freire’s work, such as Pedagogy of the Oppressedhe talks about the importance of the student- teacher relationship and emphasizes the idea that “there is no teaching without learning… one requires the other” (Freire). Because of this relationship between the students and teacher and learning and teaching, the idea of what education really is, starts to be the process of learning and teaching, for all those who are involved. Education is the process of individuals taking previously known information and expanding upon it, revising it, questioning it, sharing it, in order to grow as individuals and become positive contributors to society. The traditional teacher is not someone who has all the information that needs to be given to the children, the students. The teacher is the person who aids children in their learning process, by steering them and prompting them in ways to get them to advance their understandings of things and expand their knowledge in general. John Dewey’s view on education would support this claim. Dewey states in his work, “School and Society,” that “the child is already intensely active, and the question of education is the question of taking hold of his activities of giving them direction.” This statement also goes back to my claim that children are always moving- mentally and physically. Because children have this instinct to want to learn new information and question and share new information, then they play a large role in the teaching aspect. Dewey explains here that education is what reins in the activeness and point it in the right direction, and this is very similar to my claim that the traditional teacher’s role is to take the students’ knowledge and steer it in the right direction. The traditional teacher also is not someone who has all the information that then gives it to the students. The students learn from other things as well- research, books, the internet, other people, experiences, etc. When thinking about who is the teacher here, one couldn’t really say that these resources are teachers, but they are tools that allow the students to become teachers themselves; students use these resources, sometimes guided by the traditional teacher, to learn more and new information.

I have seen students taking initiative in their learning in a number of schooling experiences. At the Fe y Alegria school in Lima, I was put in an English class where the students had to report on the different regions of Peru. The students did all the researching themselves and put the presentation together as well. Because the students live in Peru, they had background knowledge of the different regions to a certain extent, depending on the student and the students’ experiences. The “teacher” then assigned the students to different regions and guided the students in their research by giving them things to look for while researching. This learning shows how the students taught themselves in the process of researching their own region. When it came time for presentations, each group taught the class about their assigned region, so the other students learned from them (their peers). The students in the highlands and jungle group got creative and added a song in Quechua and a traditional dance. The teacher did not already know all of the information the students presented on for their presentation, so this means that the teacher also learned new information during this project. All the students seemed to really enjoy the project because they became experts on a region of their country and were then able to inform others on the information that they learned, including myself and Emily. The fact that the students found this project to be fun and interesting was beneficial to them in the way that a lot of the students were nervous to present in English because they of course were still learning English, this was an English class to begin with. The fact that they found this project enjoyable is what helped them get through the nerves of presenting in English. This is what makes education work. It is the process of getting the students to take initiative in the classroom in the form of research, asking questions, presenting/ sharing information, thinking critically about information, while having the students guide the students during this process, and as a result, the teachers learn from their students as well. The different aspects of education should all be interconnected- teaching is connected to learning, the students are connected to the teacher, all that is learned and taught in the classroom is connected to each other, such as students learning/ practicing English while they are learning about and teaching others the different regions of their own country.

Education, or being educated about something does not always happen in the classroom. Experiences play a huge role in teaching and educating people about things. Experiences are where students get their background knowledge which is then built upon by creating more experiences in school, whether that be in the classroom or outside of it. These learning experiences must be relatable and meaningful to the students, in order for the students to make sense of them and use them to build and expand their knowledge. These experiences also need to be ones in which the students are actively engaged and participating. They can not just be the teacher lecturing to the students, the students need to be really involved by sharing their own ideas, formulating and asking their own questions, and acting to reach a goal. Because it has been determined that students teach while learning, and teachers learn while also teaching, the students’ voices are just as important as the teacher’s voice in the classroom. The students should have a say in how they are being taught, and what is important for them to learn. Now, of course the students can’t always dictate what the teacher is going to teach them everyday because is content that the teacher just is required to teach the students, but HOW that content is taught can be greatly influences by the students. It is important for teachers to start where their students are and who their students are, and structure teaching strategies around that. Education involves students being active members of the classroom, so they can be active members of society, and being active members of the classroom happens through giving feedback on what’s working and not working, voicing opinions during discussions on different topics, and just having the feeling that they are not being ruled by a teacher, and instead their teacher is their partner in their learning. Dewy states in “School and Society,” that “school is traditionally all made for listening.” In other words, school is traditionally lecture-based. “The language instinct is the simplest form of the social expression of the child. Hence it is a great perhaps the greatest of all educational resources.” Dewey’s statements directly support my claim that students need to be actively participating in the classroom by voicing their opinions, thoughts, feelings, etc.

In the school La Inmaculada, in Lima, I was placed in an English classroom of 5th graders. The teacher Kathia, was excellent and used a very beneficial teaching strategy. She had her students write a reflection each week about specific activities or topics that were used/ taught during the week. The students had to state if they liked or didn’t like it and why. Kathia would then post the reflections in the classroom, in order to show the students that she didn’t just read them and throw them away, she really did care about what the students had to say, because the students should be n charge of their learning. This relationship and respect that Kathia has for her students and her students have for her is what makes her classroom run smoothly and sets her students up for success.

Setting students up for success is the main goal of teachers and education in general. However, in order for this to happen, the idea of education needs to be expanded by first looking at who the teacher really is. The teacher is both the students and the traditional teacher. The learners are both the students and the traditional teacher. Where one learns from, comes from experiences and from being actively engaged in the experiences both inside and outside the classroom. If the roles of the teacher and the students shouldn’t be thought of in the traditional sense, as the student only learns and the teacher only teaches, then perhaps a better way of viewing these roles is, the teacher is the person who sets up the students for success by being their partner in the learning process, and by giving them the responsibility and freedom to learn and teach at the same time.

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