I was recently asked to write up a statement about my educational philosophy and this is what I came up with. What is yours?
Education is one of the most powerful forces in the world. It can change people, communities, and even the globe for the better. My educational story helps frame my educational philosophy:
When I was applying to college, I was doing so as a poor kid from rural downeast Maine, who was also the first person in my family to even apply to college, and my grades from high school weren’t that great. The odds were against me getting in to college and especially against me doing well there.
On a whim, I applied to Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts (a top 50 ranked school), thinking I would never get in but through the strength of my essay, high school involvement, and fantastic recommendations from teachers I did get in. With substantial financial aid, and the occasional loan, I graduated with a dual major in English and philosophy in four years and had some of the best experiences of my life.
After Clark, I got a job as a Resident Dean at Landmark College in Putney, Vermont. Landmark is one of the nation’s only higher education institutions that work exclusively with students with learning difficulties and disabilities such as ADHD, Dyslexia, Aspergers Syndrome, and others. I fell in love with the work, helping students find their place, their ways of learning and knowing, and themselves in profound ways – often for the first time.
Once getting accepted in to a doctoral program (Ed.D. with specializations in Leadership of Higher Education Systems and emergency management), my partner and I at the time decided to move to Utah so she could advance her career. Once in Utah, I continued my work with Landmark by becoming the Associate Director of the Landmark College Summer High School Program at Southern Oregon University, a program for high school students with learning difficulties for the next three summers. In that program, the Director and I were the founding directors so we had wide latitude to design curriculum, establish staffing models, do recruiting, administer, and evaluate the program year after year.
Currently, I am still learning everyday at Utah State University as a Residence Director and Emergency Management Coordinator. Every place and program I have worked in has had such different, and fantastic, student populations. Working with all of these students and the great professionals who support and teach them has given me such a great appreciation for all the diverse ways of knowing and learning.
All of these experiences and many more, have made appreciate that as educators students are the core of our mission. Even (especially!) outside of the classroom, their academic, personal, spiritual, and physical development is what we work to enhance everyday. If we do not believe this, we should not be in our jobs. I believe that from the custodians through the president of our institutions are stewards of student resources and the student experience – we must do what is right for them.
One of my main passions in life and work is emergency management. Many people have asked me how that is important to education. I argue that safety programs, plans, people, etc. are the fence around the student experience that keeps the bad things out. When disasters and crises get thorough and disrupt the educational mission of the institution, it is these people and initiatives that respond and get the business of advancing the educational mission back on track.