Has your educational philosophy changed?

Brian Barry is a teacher in Nunavut, Canada. I know what he believes about teaching and learning and he knows my beliefs, although we have never met. We have read each other’s blogs and exchanged ideas on Twitter. One of my favourite posts from his blog was one in which he asked teachers to think about what’s important, in the interest of letting go and allowing students to take control. I’ve used it in PD sessions with teachers at my school.

Brian has a fascinating series happening on his blog at the moment, in which he has been interviewing educators around the world about their experience and beliefs.  Some are well known personalities, others are members of  his personal learning network, and it’s interesting to read what’s important to them. Since I was included in his series, I thought I’d invite him to answer the same questions for my blog…

How long have you been teaching?

I am in my 12th year of teaching in Nunavut, Canada. I have taught Grades 4 (4 years), 7 (2 years), 8 (2 years), 9 (4 years).

Has your educational philosophy changed since you began teaching?

Yes. It used to be based on extrinsic motivation. I used rewards and punishment to control students. Now it is based on intrinsic motivation. I try to tap into my students natural curiosity. Their motivation now comes from within (intrinsic). They control themselves, not me controlling them.

Has Twitter played a role in your evolution as a teacher? If so, how?

Indeed. It has helped me grow by making connections with teachers of like mind. Moreover, I have connected with teachers that have changed my mind on specific topics.

What’s the best advice you have received as a teacher (or can give to a new teacher)?

Teaching is all about students and not subjects. That means it is about relationship building. Get to know your students; ask them plenty of questions about themselves. The rest will follow.

As I write this post, I realise that strangely, I know less about some of the teachers in my own school than I do about Brian, or many other educators whose blogs I read regularly. So, if you teach at my school (and if you don’t) I invite you to reflect on the questions above and answer them in a comment. There’s so much to learn…

My answers are here.


11 thoughts on “Has your educational philosophy changed?

  1. “Teaching is all about students and not subjects. That means it is about relationship building.” Such an important insight as we struggle to find the PD that is better, faster and less expensive in terms of stress and time spent.

    What I think I’ve seen is that healthy growing relationship based on trust have the ability to mitigate time constraints. I think it’s fair to say that in a “good” relationship time stops or disappears. It’s the experience often referred to as Flow.

    One might also consider that the same effect occurs when an artist or scientist or hobbyist is doing work with which they have an authentic relationship. Time becomes the dependent variable while making the Art, solving the problem, doing the craft becomes the independent variable.

    In my view, being free of the time constraint, is an operational definition of “having fun.” It might point to the usefulness of asking one self – either in PD, in the classroom, or in a good relationship- “Are we having fun yet? “


  2. Pingback: Philosophy
  3. Edna, I look forward to your entries and this is another great thought provoking and reflective one. I have already passed it on to my student teacher, her faculty advisor, and will pass it on to my PLN after my response. This one in particular is relevant to me because I do truly believe I my educational philosophy has changed and thanks to educators like you! So here goes with the questions.

    I have been teaching for 15 years, Science/Biology/Math. I am also the Coordinator of the McNair Mini School (http://mcnairminischool.wordpress.com).

    My educational philosophy has changed quite a lot in a lot of ways. I too did extrinsic motivation but with that had a lot of individual conversations with students using discretion. What I often found was that the model of reward/punishment often conflicted with what came out of the conversations. It was as if the traditional model of marks/consequences were being broken every time I used my discretion, that kids were being ‘let off the hook’ because life happened to them. Now I tell my students that their education is something for them to embrace and I can help guide them through it. Instead of being their ‘deliverer of information’, I try to be their leader through their development.

    Twitter has played a role in my development! It has allowed me to participate in constant and self-directed professional development (much like I would like my students to learn.) I have been able to read the perspectives of others and not just those that I consider myself similar to. I find it very educational to be perturbed and have some abrasion to really make myself consider where I stand. I feel Twitter has been so helpful to me that I am going to lead a professional development session at my school next month on using Twitter in the way I described above, and also a way to connect with students.

    The best advice I received as a teacher? There really is so much! Right now, how about: “A student who is ‘misbehaving’ is really just asking for help… but they don’t know how.” From my good friend and retired counsellor Bill Cartwright.

    The best advice I can give to a new teacher? “Look into the eyes of every learner beyond their face as they all have a story and personality. That means they all learn and see the world differently.”


  4. Hello!

    I’m a student in Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class at the University of South Alabama. As a future teacher, I’m always interested in hearing from experienced educators about their experiences in the field. I don’t know why it’s so fascinating, other than the obvious hesitancy that all teachers in training have prior to taking the big plunge into molding young minds. I want to know, I suppose, that the others that took the same path turned out alright in the end and are still excited about what they are doing.

    You see, it’s somewhat worrisome at times to go through all of the preparation, but when I read responses like yours and your friend Mr. Barry, I feel relieved. It’s great to read this and to see that he is still learning and still pushing the envelope in education.

    Since I’m not actually a teacher yet, I won’t answer the questions, but maybe in two years I’ll come back and we’ll see how I answer.

    I’m already using Twitter, and I find that it’s an amazing tool. Just yesterday I helped spread the word for @thenerdyteacher and his class’s hope to use @taylorswift13 songs in a class production. It was astounding to see the response he got from other educators and followers on Twitter. I was impressed.

    Thanks for the wonderful post! I’m going to be summarizing your post and my comment on my class blog and you are more than welcome (I’d actually love it) to leave me a response. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Bailey Hammond


    1. Hi Bailey. Great to hear from you. I work with a bunch of middle aged teachers and we are still very excited about what we are doing! Read the interviews at Brian’s blog and you’ll see that many educators are still learning and changing, irrespective of their years of experience. Good luck with your career. You’re lucky to be in a class where the teaching and learning is open and forward thinking.. so many teacher training programs really don’t prepare students for the world they are entering.


  5. Hi Ed,

    I thought this was such a great idea to ask these simple questions to find out about how he teachers at or outside your schools might change their views on education.

    I was wondering if you’d allow me to borrow this idea, to post it on my blog in Hungarian, as I would like it to reach educators who are non-English teachers or speakers in Hungary, of course mentioning your names – together with Brian’s.



  6. Differences of philosophies of education on what is important in every educational philosophy involves relationship building, whether a philosophy of education emphasises intrincis motivatation or extrinsic, and great teachers are are hailed as bestknowing how to do that -this may be useful and inspirational to teachers aspiring to be great teachers: http://www.geocities.ws/greatteachersari/


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s