November 2: The Key Idea

Arthur Ellis explains that an educator’s philosophic position on education and schooling stems from their own philosophy of life which is developed over time due to a variety of sources: people, school and environment being the most identifiable sources. As Ellis defines this development of individual philosophy, the answers to the questions; “What is real? What is truth? What is of value? How do we know these things?” help to organize those beliefs. For me, the questions can be answered with one simple word: relationships. My educational philosophy is defined by relationships, both interpersonal and intrapersonal.

This is understood, as Ellis mentions, through the people, school and environment I encountered in my life. Many people have come in and out of my life, and the vast majority of them have had the common belief in God; the triune God of Christianity; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael; the God of Judaism and Islam. The people in my life showed me a devout faith that questions and struggles, believes and praises, defends and gives thanks, all in the same breath. The most influential people have been my family, who chose my first two schools for me. Both of these schools which I attended (one I attended for 9 years and the other for 4) are faith based and are deeply rooted in the perennialism school of thought: schools that train both the intellect and the spirit of the individual. The people in my life and the schools I attended shaped the environment in which I was raised and informed the way I perceive and understand the world around me. This environment valued creativity, honesty, expression, hard work, kindness, friendship, patience and understanding.

All of these things have formed my educational philosophy, which holds true to the perennialism school of thought which, according to Ellis, is based in realism and neo-thomism and as mentioned before is concerned with not only with forming the intellect, but the character of the student. As Daniel J. McMahon explains it, “a student’s education, if it is only academic, is incomplete.” My philosophy is truly holistic and I believe to my core that the whole person needs to be taught in the school. Not only do teachers need to provide the knowledge and platform for students to explore content, teachers need to be just as committed to being role models to their students and shaping their character. Children need to learn how to be members of a community and how to relate to the people and environment around them. Through practice in classroom settings, they can learn to collaborate with, listen to, appreciate and understand the different perspectives of the people around them. In the classroom they can learn to “agree to disagree” and stand up for what it is that they believe in to their core. Educators can provide them opportunities to understand themselves and understand their responsibility to the world and people around them. Schools give them the knowledge to formulate ideas and articulate them and provide opportunities for leadership and service as well as the space to develop relationships with peers and adults in a variety of academic and non-academic settings. Through these experiences, students develop holistically and are able to become participating and invested members of society.

What is real? What is truth? What is of value? How do we know these things? The most real thing in my life are the people who have supported and challenged me. The truest thing in my life is the God who loves me. The things I value most are my family, friends and faith. I know all of these things because of the loving environment in which I was raised, full of people who listen, encourage, nurture and challenge me to be the best daughter, sister, aunt, friend, mentor and teacher I can be.

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