Evaluating my School Relative to my Professional Philosophy.

This is my third post examining aspects of my teaching philosophy.  Today, I’ll focus on how well my current school’s practices (insofar as I perceive them—I certainly realized how incomplete my picture of this school is as I prepared for this blog) align with my professional values.  Anyhow here are the eight points of my personal philosophy: community, respect for the individual, service, “anti-doucism,” goal-orientation, growth-orientation, assertiveness, and a wellness orientation.  My quick evaluation produced mixed results.  There are certainly some strengths and I also feel there are areas which are very deficient…Anyhow:

Philosophical Tenet

Comments about my Current School


This is a strong point.  Students are involved in cleaning the school daily.  Many students are required to do a “Saturday school” service project.  This often means volunteering at a nearby hospital.  In my “department,” multiple students are given roles during the English Café which operated during lunch.  Though, the roles do not rotate among students, such responsibilities and tasks tend to remain monopolized by high-performing students.

Respect for the Individual

There is an “anti-violence” campaign in effect in my school.  Thus, I presume it is emphasized during “social education classes.”  During homeroom, I know students occasionally see films telling them to stop bullying, et al.  My ocular evidence indicates that such messages are of limited effectiveness.  In the English classes, students have few options to determine how they study, thus diversity is not necessarily promoted in the classroom.  Though, I will refrain from elaborating further, I may need to ask a few more questions about what other activities are happening in the larger school to get better insight into this query.


There are a variety festivals occurring in the school throughout the year.  Examples include: sports day, art day, Hangeul day, et al.  There are several field trips (for instance, we recently had a trip to the aquarium) during the school year.  These provide a forum, hopefully, to build social relationships.  Additionally, the English Café gives students socializing time, as well as the above mentioned Saturday school project.


I can’t say I see much here.  To state this tenet in more positive terms: students need to internalize the values of discipline and striving for achievement.  The Korean educational system is driven by standardized forms of assessment.  The curriculum is delivered in a top-down authoritarian manner.  Everything I see indicates that students are only willing to do a learning task in so far as there is an external form of authority cajoling them to perform (or via “gamifyng” everything to death).  There seems little internal incentive for students to perform.  This is a great way to produce people whose sole joy in life is temporarily throwing off the shackles of imposed responsibility and engaging in indulgent pursuits during their free time.  Ever notice how much the students love their games?


In the classroom, as I have seen from observing my Korean English teacher colleagues, this is largely absent.  The focus is on the numerical score/grade.  Pertaining to the larger school, I can’t speak for the curriculum.  However, there are many extra-curricular competitions (i.e. sports/science/art/Hangeul day).  Such competitions generally promote more re-fined thinking.  Whether or not actual goal-setting is taught in school (something I need to ask my colleagues about!), competitions will certainly promote metacognitive reflection for those willing to engage in the process.


Theoretically, if the student learns the content in his (I teach at a boys’ middle school—this isn’t sexist!) classes, it should contribute to personal growth.  Competitions certainly compel growth.  I remember a real emphasis on the need to continually grow and develop as person from my education in America, I don’t know how emphasized this is in Korea.


I would guess a no.  Generally, students are not establishing learning goals.  Most teaching is predominantly a top-down transmission/banking method.  In many respects it seems as though the individual’s life in Korea is established by someone else (those parents know how to cram in another hour for Hagwon study every night don’t they!).  The framework seems unconducive to promoting assertiveness for our learners.  Quite frankly, assertiveness and a personal sense of identity requires a little bit of personal reflection, space, and time.  Most of what I see and hear from my students and colleagues at my current school seems to indicate that there isn’t much room for that, either in the school or the larger culture.


Physically, there are some good things here.  Students have PE daily, There is a sports day; there are sites in the school to build social relationships (such as the English café).  One would assume there is some health training/classes in this school.  It doesn’t appear that knowledge informs food selection among the students, as the cafeteria has a limited (but not entirely absent) range of healthy food choices, during the post-lunch breaks I frequently observe students sucking down a variety of sugar-laden items.  I suppose this is a feature of adolescence in general, but I suspect the high levels of stress and probably powerlessness that students experience in this culture may contribute to their penchant for sweets (see Schiffman, et al. 2000 and Oliver, et al, 2000 for more on the relationship between stress and food choice).


All in all during this brief “evaluative reflection” I learned how little I know, and the greater need I have to inform myself about the workings of my workplace.  Even so, a cursory glance around my school indicates that there are ample areas of alignment between my professional values and my current school, especially in the areas of community and service.  This is less so for many of the other items on my list, nevertheless, there are often some points of agreement for the majority of my “philosophical tenets.”  I have some inquiring to do.


Schiffman SS, Graham BG, Sattely-Miller EA, Peterson-Dancy M (2000).  Elevated and Sustained Desire for Sweet Taste in African-Americans: A Potential Factor in the Development of Obesity.  Nutriton 16, pgs. 886-893.

Oliver G, Wardle J, Gibson L (2000).  Stress and Food Choice:  A Laboratory Study.  Psychosomatic Medicine 62, pgs. 853-865.


About cmiller112

Teacher, Father, Jogger, Sleeper, Husband, (add extra label here)
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One Response to Evaluating my School Relative to my Professional Philosophy.

  1. Grover says:

    Great idea, doing an alignment check at your current place of employment. Could be the start of an action plan, a prelude to moving on in hopeless situations or a step towards establishing longer term job search criteria.

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