Beyond Sharpening Pencils

Preparations for the new school year are beginning all across the country. Back to school sales have popped up in stores and this last weekend was one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year. I have already taken advantage of 50 cent marble notebooks and crayon boxes at Walmart. In my classroom I have begun my own preparations for the new school year; desks have been arranged, name tags laminated and cut, and pencils sharpened.

But preparing for a new school year is so much more then cutting lamination and sharpening pencils. Instead it is a preparation of the heart, making room for the twenty-or-so eager souls about to embark with you on the 180 day journey in the sacred space we call the classroom. This last week, I finished up my summer graduate course and was encouraged to consider my “Philosophy of Learning.”  I dug through old discussion posts and uncovered my old philosophy from undergrad and as I began the work of piecing the old with the new what I truly discovered was the foundation for why I do what I do everyday of the school year. I was so excited by how this process prepared my heart and what I discovered was that my beliefs about learning shape the teacher I want to be and the space I want to create for my students this year.

Philosophy of Learning

By nature, learning is a vulnerable process. It means one must expose what one does not know.  It means one must admit that they do not have all the answers. It necessitates risk and failure so that growth and success are possible. Fundamentally, learning also exists in the context of relationships and connection.  These relationships take many forms: teacher to student, student to student, teacher to content, student to content, teacher to self, and student to self.  Because learning is both vulnerable and relational, creating a community of learners founded on mutual trust and respect is imperative for the educational process to be successful. This community empowers students to become participants in their own learning by becoming “meaning seekers,” “problem solvers” and “active creators of knowledge.” (Bas, 2015, p.113) Students take an active role in their own academic learning through goal setting, reflection, developing intrinsic motivation, practicing higher order thinking processes and creativity.  It is in this context that my students will be able to learn, grow, take risks, fail, learn from failure, and succeed.

In The Heart of a Teacher, Parker Palmer (1997) proclaims that, “good teachers share one trait: a strong sense of personal identity [that] infuses their work” (p.2). Creating a sense of self-hood becomes our most important work as teachers because we teach who we are. In the district which I currently work, teachers are called “lead-learners” and this resonates with my view that all members of a school community are both teacher and learner.  While learning content knowledge is important, what is even more important is the development of students’ thinking abilities, metacognition and their own journey towards developing a sense of self-hood and identity. Influential teachers eagerly continue to take the posture of a learner, welcoming their students into this vulnerable, risky and communal process by demonstrating the life-long learning themselves.


Bas, G. (2015). Correlation between teachers’ philosophy of education beliefs and their teaching-learning conceptions . Education and Science, 40(182), 111-126.Retrieved May 14, 2017, from vid=6&sid=2f51644a-aa68-4db4-9266-f1be979b3d84%40sessionmgr4008&hid=4208

Palmer, P. J. (1997). The heart of a teacher. Change, 29(6), 1-15.


One thought on “Beyond Sharpening Pencils”

  1. hope you have a great year. take these last few days to something for yourself. remember that your happiness is a big part of the happiness of your classroom. Take time to get to know the kids for who they are not just what type of student they have been.


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