As a pre-service teacher I have had a lot of time to think about my beliefs when it comes to education, and why I want to be a teacher in the first place. I believe that teachers have the unique opportunity to make a direct impact on their students lives. There are many jobs and career paths that make our world a better place, but being a teacher provides the up close and personal ability to change the future of society. That change would be impossible without education. At this point and time my philosophy of education goes something like this;
“I believe that children learn in different ways, and there are many different abilities in our classrooms today. No one way of learning is better than the other, and no ability is greater than the other. Every student has a unique strength that should be held to great value. We need to learn about each other’s strengths and celebrate our diversity. The learning environment of our student’s should reflect all the diversities of our real world.”
Nelson Mandela says “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I believe this statement has influenced my philosophy as a pre-service teacher. We are a diverse world from may cultures, religions, and socioeconomic statuses. Though many people will forget it, we are ALL humans FIRST. The key to empathy and understanding is education. Educations about other cultures, education that will help students fulfill their passions and purposes in life, and education that is inclusive to all. When education includes all of these things, empathy and understanding are born. Empathy and understanding are the tools that will help our students make a change in their world.
When I focus in on the curriculum theories of Ralph Tyler, much of his theory seems vaguely familiar to me. The way I see it, much of Tyler’s theory revolves around generally figuring out what children need to know. Tyler also focuses on how students need to behave, and what teachers need to do to make that happen. Tyler created a “full proof” formula to ensure educational success. I can recall this most vividly when the math curriculum switch in high schools. I was not affected by the switch but my younger brother was. I learned math with a more generalized curriculum, separated by grade and levels, math 20 as was the requirement but there were about 4 or 5 other classes to take after that. Of course some classes were prerequisites to certain university faculty and college programs so many people took all of the maths. Taking all of the offered math classes was seen as smart, because as high school students most of us had no idea what we wanted to do after high school yet. When my brother got to high school his experience in math was much different. I don’t recall the exact names (I suppose as an education student I should know them) but the curriculum was separated into a more business influenced math and a more trades influenced math. I could be completely wrong here but I do remember the general idea being that you would take whichever math curriculum that pertained to the area of work you wanted as your career. Pretty intimidating for a high school student wouldn’t you think?
While my math experience revolved more around Tyler’s curriculum theory with no choice and a generalized idea of what students needed to know, my brother’s math experience gave him choice. Here is what I find interesting about this situation… we are told choice is always better, but in this case it was intimidating because they have to choose their careers paths when they may have no idea what they want. When I was in high school you could simply take all the maths and your bases were covered for what ever career path you might choose. Now, I am sure there is actually some sort of option to cover all your bases on the math front, but this example just goes to show how comfortable we are with a set structure as opposed to choice.
As I delve into thought about Tyler’s theory of curriculum I think of some of the downfalls. I see it as very ridged. Aside from the obvious lack of human emotion and relationship, his theory seems to limit the student and teacher. As said in the assigned article “The problem here is that such programmes inevitably exist prior to and outside the learning experiences. This takes much away from learners. They can end up with little or no voice. They are told what they must learn and how they will do it.” (Smith 2000 Curriculum Theory Practice, pdf, P.4). If we acknowledge that there a different types of learners than why would we teach for one general type. Call me dramatic but doesn’t Tyler’s theory seem to make children into robots and teachers into technicians?
As a preservice teacher I hope to give my students choice in their learning, while making sure that they are “covering their bases”. I don’t believe that choice limits students, but I do recognize that there are some general ideas and aspects of the curriculum that need to be learned by all students. I believe that the biggest job of a teacher today is helping their students to learn in interesting and empowering ways while still making sure to meet the curriculum outcomes. My job as a teacher is to guide students to learn these general outcomes, but to enlighten and empower them to learn these outcomes in the ways that benefits them. I want to be the reason that my students like learning, I want to show them that learning is not boring or uniform. I want my students to feel that though they are all different, each of them has strengths that are important. Most importantly I want my students to know that they are unique leaners, not robots.
In the introduction of Against Common Sense by Kushamiro, Kumashiro writes “common sense” in brackets many times as opposed to the free standing word. As a reader when I see words in brackets or even in conversation when we use air brackets; it is as if we are acknowledging the illegitimacy of that word’s definition. In this introduction Kumashiro legitimizes the definition of the word common sense by exemplifying the fault in the word itself. Through reading the introduction I began to realize that common sense is a cultural theory. Though I am semi embarrassed to admit it, I have never recognized the cultural aspect that is common sense until Kumashiro’s explanation ans theory.
More and more in my home of Saskatchewan today I have experienced and witnessed small portions of, for lack of a better word, culture shock. In present day I find myself not surrounded by, but with easy access to cultures different than mine. And now, reading Against Common Sense I can finally put my finger on why moving through cultures that are different to mine is… well, difficult at times. Common sense may be common within a culture or similar cultures even, but when a culture differs from another, so does the so called “common sense”. Drawing from Kumashiro’s personal experiences in Nepal, and especially as a teacher I have realized the fault in “common sense”. I am now aware of the responsibility I now have to pull away from my personal and cultural “common sense”. I have this responsibility, not only as a citizen of my multicultural home, but especially as a teacher of what will indeed be a multicultural classroom with young minds full of different “common sense”.