Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 2/2.2.2

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"Ecology of Achievement"

What is to taught? How is it to be taught? To Whom should it be taught? When should it be taught? Where should it be taught? These must balance! -Robert O. Slater


One of the ways The American Heritage Dictionary defines "philosophy" is "the investigation of the nature, causes, or principles of reality, knowledge, or values, based on logical reasoning rather than empirical methods" (American Heritage, 2001). When we consider this definition, we must all certainly agree that it is important that we have a genuine philosopny of education, that is, an in-depth reason for choosing this profession and maintaining effective ways to keep up with it, and that it is not our intention to teach "just because."

Teaching affects all aspects of our very existence and involves all influences, in school and out, that causes change in the behavior of our students. This includes both character and intellectual changes that occur throughout life. We as teachers must realize then, that the influence we have on our students may very well begin in the school, but surely does not, should not, and must not end there.

Staying Ahead Of The Game-[edit]

The unbelievable growth of our society from a preindustrial nation to a highly technological one - in barely over 200 years - has been a major issue in the progressive and orderly development of our teaching procedures. Because our nation is continuously growing and changing, it is necessary to understand that we must constantly renew the many different methods of education found in our school systems (Kozol, 1981). After all, schools are one of the most important educational systems that affect the children of our future world. On the national level then, it is clearly understood that we as teachers must stay current in meeting our educational requirements so that we will be the most effective teachers as we can possibly be.

But what can we do on a more personal level - as personal as within the four walls of our classroom - to stay ahead of the game? The list of suggestions (both written and verbal) is probably endless, but more than likely should include these:

  • 1. Any problems we encounter as teachers are primarily problems of attitudes - our attitudes, not just the kids'.
  • 2. There is much that individual teachers can do, but so much more can happen if we work together.
  • 3. Parent / teacher collaboration helps resolve many obstacles.
  • 4. We must include our students in recognizing, analyzing, and challenging obstacles (Hirsch, 1996).

This certainly does not mean that society does not play a large role in attributing to a teacher's success, but these suggestions are for the teachers who believe that they can make a true difference in the education of their students and are willing to exhaust every effort within the four walls of their classroom to do so.

Maintaining Effective Ways-[edit]

It is highly important that when we take the development of teaching approaches into account, we know that it is an "ecology of achievement." This phrase refers to the proper balance in the merging of environments of teachers and school systems. The nature of this balance, or ecology, is best treated in the framework of major functions of teachers and education as a whole: what is to be taught, how it is to be taught, to whom it should be taught, when it should be taught, and where it should be taught. Although these factors are of equal importance, they still must be handled separatly to a considerable degree (Slater, 2008).

First and foremost, we as teachers must realize that education revolves around various types of relationships. We must know and respect our students and help them know and respect each other as fellow learners. We must remember to focus on our student's in-school and out-of-school learning. When this is done, not only are we recognizing our student's academic accomplishments, but we are also acknowledging their sense of ownership and resourcefulness. We must also build a sense of "community" within the class. This in turn will greatly assist in setting boundaries of mutual respect for each other.

Last, but certainly not least, we must not be fearful to continuously stay in touch with parents about our students' academic and social progress. When educationg children, far too often the trust of the parents is placed too low on our list of priorities. In return, most parents feel that once they have taken care of the child's physical needs in the morning and take them to school, it is solely up to the teachers from that point on. After all, "that's what they get paid for!" is the claim of most parents. Contrary to popular belief, it is not merely our job, but also our moral responsibility as teachers to let parents know that the best interest for the child's education is supposed to be equally shared between the teacher and the parents. Any teacher, particularly in elementary school, who believes that he or she can provide an adequate education within the classroom with only sporadic contacts with parents are very unprepared for the task at hand. Such teachers compel their students to view the world of school and the world of home as unconnected realities,driving a wedge between the child's loyalties to family and the desire to succeed in school(Rice, 2004).


So is it really important to have a philosophy of education? What about the original question, "Do I really want to teach?" Although the main two goals of a teacher is to "stay ahead of the game" by "maintaining effective ways" to teach, we must consider that there are other underlying issues that may eventually change our tactics used to achieve these goals.

There are many teachers with many philosophies of education. Many have remained true to theirs, as many have not. Should we attempt then, to define a good teacher - perhaps one who did remain true to his or her original philosophy of education? Let's see... From my observations of several different teachers, I have discovered the following: A good teacher has never met a stranger. You seldom need an appointment to visit; they are always happy to have you drop by. They are closely tuned in to their student's personal as well as their physical needs. They know the true value of "hooking" a student, making the subject real, and giving the student a reason to learn. A child rarely has to ask them, "why do we have to learn this?" because nearly everything they learn relates to a real job at hand. These teachers are those with a mission, of which each child is a part. These are the teachers that we should all strive to become.


Rice, Suzanne. (2004). Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Ethic of Love": Virtues Common and Rare.

Slater, Robert O. (2008). American Teachers: What do they believe?

Kozo, Jonathan.0 (1981). On Being A Teacher. N.Y., New York: Continuum.

Hirsch, E.D. (1996). The Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have Them. N.Y., New York: Doubleday.

The American Heritage Dictionary. (2001).

Review Questions-[edit]

1. Why is it so important to "stay ahead of the game?"

  • a. To be constantly reminded of our original philosophy of education.
  • b. So our teaching procedures will not fall too far behind our fast-growing society.
  • c. Because any problems we encounter as teachers are more likely due to our own attitudes and not our students'.
  • d. All of the above

2. What is very important to teachers but is often placed too low on their list of priorities?

  • a.Their creativity to maintain effective ways to teach.
  • b. The time they set aside to meet with their students' parents.
  • c. Gaining the trust of their students' parents.
  • d. The attention they pay to their students' personal needs.

3. What should be our main reason for choosing the teaching profession?

  • a. Because we want to be remembered as someone who made a difference in the life of a child.
  • b. Because we want to help children prepare to be successful adults.
  • c. Because of the lucrative income and benefits package.
  • d. Because we love working with children.

4. What is the best way to insure our success as teachers?

  • a. Stay focused on your original purpose for choosing to become a teacher in the beginning.
  • b. Act swiftly to remove children with discipline problems; they hold up the progres of the others in the class.
  • c. Follow the lesson plan schedule as closely as possible - it's almost impossible to catch up once you fall behind.
  • d.Try your best to attend all teachers' meetings so that you will be aware of what's going on in your school.

(Answers: 1.b, 2.c, 3.a or b, 4.a)