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Lessons In Life: My Philosophical Epiphanies of Education and Knowledge
In twenty three years of conscious existence in this body I have come to realize that there is an infinite amount of knowledge available to us. I have always asked the age old questions like why are we here, where did we come from, where are we going? In this pursuit of truth I have learned that there are many possible answers, many unknowns, and many puzzles that have yet to try and be solved. Living in a world with almost seven billion people who speak nearly six thousand different languages is an amazing thing and I want to make sure my time spent here is never wasted. This pursuit of knowledge, of truth, is my calling in life. I believe that school, the academic endeavor of learning itself, is the best representation we have in this world of humanities quest for answers. School is centered on teaching and learning, spreading information and the advancement of mankind itself. It encompasses the very nature of the human spirit, and it is my full intention to participate, contribute, and continue learning for my entire time spent on this Earth.
I came to this realization, this decision, sometime shortly after high school. Once I began paying for school I was immediately aware of the different between higher education and the public, free, schooling system. In my early years I was an excellent student, I was pretty much the dork with glasses that got straight A’s. Around junior high I began focusing less on school and more on my social life. High school was pretty much the most confusing four years of my life with regards to education. In some classes I hardly had to pay attention and passed without any problem; and in other areas I struggled and recall cheating or taking the easy road and only doing minimal work to pass. Looking back now I realize there were a lot of distractions in my life that led me away from my goals but I do not regret any choice I have ever made because my decisions in life have all taught me lessons and made me who I am today. One choice that made me realize I wanted to be a teacher was moving away from home after I graduated high school to a small town in the mountains called Sonora.
I was a freshman at Columbia Junior College living about thirty minuets up the hill in a quiet cabin surrounded by heavy forest. My roommate, Tyler, was what you might call a ‘free spirit’ and taught me some of the most important things I still hold true today. We had an English class together and during one of our many discussions at home we began talking about what we both wanted out of life, what our goals were that sort of thing. At the time my major was still undecided and I was really only focused on picking a career that made me rich and provided me with the ability to buy lots of ‘stuff,’ as the late George Carlin would say. So when I came up with any idea for a career that put money in my pocket Tyler would respond with “Ok, but how is that going to help the world Danny?” It was at that very moment that a total shift in my consciousness occurred and I began walking down a different path in life. No longer was I focused on materialism and happiness through ‘things’ but centered my energy and intention on the idea of sharing that wealth with others, through others, because of other people.
That shift subsequently led me to a two year long search for my calling in life. I took classes ranging from astronomy to post-modern philosophy, dipping into the arts with ceramics and painting with oils and acrylics. Towards the end of my second year I took a creative writing class and through the frustration of my one and only time with writers block I came to the conclusion that I wanted to be an English teacher, write several books on philosophical issues, and pursue knowledge in all areas of study. I began looking back at all of the teachers who I thought were simply the cool ones and I realized that I saw myself in many of them. At the time I was young and naive to their true intentions, and I when I decided I wanted to be a teacher I had to visit them and share the news. I met with my sophomore English teacher, my junior Biology teacher, my senior government teacher, several others and basically told them what I am saying here today. I thanked them for their inspiration and almost felt the need to apologize for not realizing these things sooner, but that wasn’t necessary. I graduated from Columbia with an AA in Liberal Studies and transferred here to CSU Chico.
Since I have been in this amazing town, almost two years now, I have learned much more. My focus has drawn me to the intellectual construct that is the Taylor hall mindset. The first year Chico dealt me was rough though; I let my social life take control once again and faced the consequences by having to lose my divers license because of drunk driving. Another lesson learned the hard way. That happened last June and has literally changed my life in ways I could have never imagined. Since then my focus has shifted back towards my education and finishing my goals I originally had in mind when I began my life here as a Wildcat. In reaffirming my beliefs and turning my attention back to my studies, I have become very aware that I still have much to learn.
When I picture myself teaching I am still a bit intimidated. It is a large responsibility to be in a position where so many young minds often have more interaction with you than their own parents or guardians. Holding this position of power makes me think of that great Spiderman quote, “with great power comes great responsibility.” It may be silly, but it’s so true. And no, Lord Byron, it’s not absolute power so it will not corrupt, absolutely-not. Now that I am taking classes focused specifically on what I am going to be doing for the rest of my life I am learning lots and having to question my beliefs continually. I find that there are certain issues and topics that I have never had an opinion about simply because they were not known to me; and it is tough to develop opinions overnight, they take time. Even the methods to which I am learning these things are often times new to me and require new methods of thinking. These past few years have been the most challenging, the most informative, and have taught me so much about how I think I’m going to get this done.
Unconditional Positive Regard is the answer. I learned this term from my junior year biology teacher Mrs. O’Brien. If this is the only “rule” in the classroom, the only law, the ultimate authority, then I believe each and every day will be rewarding for me and my students. I believe that in order to make a classroom work effectively, 100% in its sole purpose of learning, the teacher student relationship has to be utilized to its full potential. What I mean by this is I believe that the students will teach me as much as I will teach them, that this relationship of equal learning happens naturally and needs to recognized, used, and harnessed for its full power. I have no intention of walking into classroom and running it as an authoritarian figure. I understand that that idea is hard to break apart from because there is only one teacher for every twenty to thirty students per class room in the average California public high school. I know that some students may view school like this; I sure did at one point. I was to make it clear to my students from day one that my intention is to get them to want to come to my class. I want them to look forward to the fifty or so minuets we spend together each day and not dread the boring lecture from Mr. Baldanzi in fourth period. In fact, I don’t want my students calling me Mr. Baldanzi; my first name will do just fine. That’s something that seems simple, but when my professors in JC said they preferred to be called by their first name it helped me feel as if I were getting to know them more. It might sound weird, but little things like can have deeper impacts we often times may overlook.
I believe that this is the foundation for my teaching philosophy. From there I plan to build things like student driven learning where the students teach themselves and I act as a last resort for answers or information. This technique was used in several of my science classes at the JC level and was a very effective way of learning. I won’t use this technique all of the time as I believe a well constructed teaching philosophy employs many different ways of utilizing the learning process. I will try to get students involved in debates ranging from political, philosophical, historical etc. settings because what’s great about teaching English is most material, when appropriate of course, can be brought into the classroom. I remember reading all sorts of things over the years; fiction or non, historical documents, manifestos and mission statements. It really doesn’t matter what you are teaching, it’s how you teach it. With that said, one thing I continually see myself doing is spending a great amount of time on the ancient Greek and Roman eras. It was an area of great boredom to me until I actually started pay attention. Tales of boys growing up to kill their father and marry their mother, long epic journeys with giants and goddesses, death and destruction, love and tragedy. It’s bringing these things to life, the how part, through my teaching that I hope to engage students on a very real level. I want them to want to learn. I want them to ask questions, use their imaginations, and above all have fun learning.
Now, I understand there may be some students who will never amount to this idealistic image I have just painted of my ideal classroom filled with the perfect students. And, since I will be teaching in the inner cities, these may become regular occurrences and at often times the least of my worries as a teacher. That’s motivation for me. I no longer desire the easy roads in life, that’s boring. I want to be challenged, pushed, tested, and surprised every step of the journey. Life is not easy and it is not short. Life is the longest thing we will ever experience and it is constantly demanding more and more of us everyday. I want look life in the eyes and welcome everything it has to offer with open arms in all shapes, ways, and forms. In choosing the path I have set out before me, I have faith that it is no accident, that there are never really any accidents and everything does indeed happen for a reason.
I wish to continue and explore much more but have already passed the page limit. Let me end by saying that my teaching philosophy is a never ending work in progress that runs parallel with my philosophy of life in general. In its simplest form it is what they teach you in your first year of education, it is the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto you. It really is that easy when you think about it.