Philosophy of Education

 

Below are a series of short write ups by different teachers, including their philosophical approach to teaching their subject matter.

 

Educational Philosophy 

by Gregg Garner, Headmaster

 

We believe students are moral and social beings, and that their educational curriculum must be tailored to acknowledge that reality. Students are not test scores, nor are they statistics to determine market trends. They are not merely future college students, or workforce potentials. They are primarily sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors. This is why moral and social development in a school curriculum are necessary components for any school who wants to contribute to the raising of children into healthy adults who will have healthy families, and in turn create healthy communities and contribute to a greater sense of peace in the world.  

We also believe that children are capable of much more than is often expected of them. The trend has been to have students memorize mass quantities of information, or formulas, to produce answers without any development of critical thinking skills. This however, fundamentally denies the most powerful gift a child possesses—the power of wonder! 

A child’s curiosity is the driving force behind their enthusiastic participation in any learning curriculum. It is the fuel behind their questions and when it’s intentionally addressed, it’s the best opportunity to teach critical thinking skills to a young mind. Teaching a child to respond to curiosity with the ability to critically think, opens up immense possibilities, in any field, or any discipline, for any future occupation.

By offering a diversity of subject matter across various disciplines, students have an opportunity to explore the world and themselves. 

Simultaneously, an opportunity is given to teachers to make assessments of individual propensities; the student’s preferences and strengths. Borrowing from the “Multiple Intelligences” approach, teachers evaluate what type of intelligence(s) a student shows proclivity towards. Their educational experience is then catered to develop those capacities.  All courses are designed to be flexible enough to give room for the development of intelligences, but focused enough so that everyone in the classroom attains mastery of the information taught per course in the curriculum.

Course Descriptions

Generals Homeroom
Kindergarten Homeroom
Problem Solving
Programming
Reading
Writing

Anatomy & Physiology
Bible
Biblical Hebrew
Biointensive Agriculture
Body & Health
Building


 

Anatomy & Physiology
by Robert Munoz

Anatomy & Physiology By Robert Munoz

Anatomy & Physiology
By Robert Munoz

Biblical Studies
by Gregg Garner

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Anatomy and Physiology is essentially learning the language of the human body by focusing on its parts and functions. Although it is vital to anyone wanting to understand how a healthy body works, it is not traditionally taught to children. By introducing children to the human body when they are most curious, we give them the opportunity to make healthy choices for themselves at an early age.

By learning the names of major bones, muscles, and organs they can go on to explore how the body works together, like in the respiratory and circulatory systems. With an idea of how the body normally functions, students can grasp how sickness and disease disrupt the body systems from working optimally.  Students will be introduced to the necessary practices of maintaining good health, like good nutrition, exercise, and even safety practice at home and at play.

The next generation of healthy people, and even caring doctors and nurses, are sitting in elementary classrooms all over the world with curiosity for how the human body works. Feeding their curiosity now allows them to make good decisions later about what health is and how they can maintain it for themselves and promote it for others.


Biblical Hebrew
By Brandon Galford

The Bible is more than a religious document. It is the authoritative Word of God. However, without a proper approach to interpreting the bible, including an understanding of the Bible as literature, one can unwittingly be subject to misinterpretations that lead to division, bigotry, prejudice and arrogance. In contrast, a healthy approach to reading Scripture enhances the moral fortitude of students so that their ethical positions in life lead to peace making, reconciliation, neighborly love and servanthood.

Students at G.O.D. Elementary are taught this Word of God, with the awareness that the Bible itself is not a document targeted at children. Not only is the vernacular a bit foreign to our culture, but the content is also for the matured, considering issues of violence, infanticide, war, genocide, adultery and the like.

In light of this, students are taught by a narrative approach, guiding young readers through a series of important texts that will help them gain an overarching, meta-narrative of the biblical story. Introducing students to biblical characters, settings and story lines, including the emergent issues and resultant principles, prepares the student for future biblical study when they reach an age appropriate for the contemplation of the issues of concern found in the Bible. Until then, an interpretive approach is taught, where students are asked to consider the historical-grammatical aspects of the text.  Attention to the details, including key terms, key phrases, motifs, and social apparatus are emphasized to enhance the interpretive ability of the reader, preparing them for a most exciting future of biblical interpretation.

Finally, it must be noted that learning the Bible isn't an end in itself, but a means to apprehending an ethic of holiness, that leads to healthy living and beneficial service to the communities within which we live and to the world within which we make history.


Bio-intensive Agriculture
By Seth Davis

Learning the original biblical languages is a very powerful endeavor and, believe it or not, can be a quite enjoyable process. In the translation of any language to another, meaning inevitably gets lost. Learning how to read biblical Hebrew empowers the student to approach the biblical text with a high degree of confidence and competency. Because the Hebrew people were so cautious to avoid the formtion of ‘images’ so as to eschew any possibility of engaging in idolatry, writing became their method of art for the expression of concepts and values. Because of this, there is a wealth of practical and theological value to be derived, not only through a basic understanding of words and their definitions, but even more, through the syntax and structure of a given biblical passage. Providing our students with the building blocks to develop this beneficial skill at such a young age is incredibly exciting to me. Proper interpretation of the biblical text is vital for learning who God is, what he is like, and what he expects from human beings.

In addition to the benefits of biblical interpretation, studies have demonstrated that students who begin learning another language at an early age perform better in other spheres of their educational experience. These students show greater cognitive development in such areas as mental flexibility, creativity, and divergent thinking.

Students in Introduction to Biblical Hebrew (a kindergarten course) learn how to properly pronounce and write all consonants and vowels, which results in the ability to read the text on a very basic level. Furthermore, they are provided a list of simple, commonly used terms in the Hebrew Bible to memorize, thus beginning what will one day be an extensive Hebrew vocabulary. The General students (General A and B) learn not only the basics of orthography (writing the Hebrew script) but also the more intricate aspects of punctuation and syntax. By the end of the first year, students at the General level will know 15 vocabulary words, which they will not only be able to identify by sight, but also be able to write accurately. In addition, General students will memorize and be able to recite orally Deuteronomy 6.4-5 (the Shema) and Genesis 1.1 with proper punctuation.


Body & Health
By Jason Roufs

Being physically healthy is not something that many people give much attention to early on in their life. Largely due to the volume of technology and entertainment available to youth today through television and video games, many of them are used to sedentary lifestyles that lead to ill health.  Couple this with the ease of fast and processed food, we learn that 1/3 of children in the US are either overweight or obese. This is the result of “caloric imbalance”: too few calories expended for the number of calories consumed.     

While we don’t desire to remove ourselves from our technological age, we do seek to promote a healthy lifestyle. In order to prevent issues ranging from physical injuries to social and emotional insecurities to heart disease, our courses will help students to engage in safe play and be aware of how food affects their bodies.     

While not every child will become a star athlete, it is good for every child to be physically active, learn basic coordination, and gain proper balance in order to prevent injury.     Childhood injuries often result when children are unaware of their environment, or are unable to focus or know how to control their body’s response to situations.  Children learn spatial awareness through the basic mechanics found in various athletic fundamentals (soccer, gymnastics, dance, and more).


Generals Homeroom
By Betsy Johnson

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As a homeroom teacher, I have the privilege of being with students on a consistent basis.  I greet them when they arrive in the mornings, and I dismiss them when they leave. Rather than teaching specific topic, I am responsible to establish and maintain a classroom atmosphere that fosters a positive and respectful learning environment.  

One of my primary goals as a teacher is to instill in my students genuine love for learning. Humility, curiosity, and determination are all necessary for learning, and my hope is that my students will remain actively engaged in learning throughout their entire lives. In homeroom, students learn proper classroom etiquette and explore the "why" of learning. It is a privilege to learn and it is their responsibility to respond to their teachers with respect and eagerness. 

I use modeling to help students achieve behavior that is appropriate to our learning environment, but sometimes students get off track and need extra help. The Proverbs say that fools despise correction, while wise people heed it. It is my goal to help students understand that discipline (or correction), particularly in the classroom, is something that benefits us all.

I maintain high expectations of all my students; I believe in them and in their abilities to learn and to do right to others, and I communicate these expectations to them.  I believe that when given high expectations, students rise to the challenge set before them. But sometimes, our most significant lessons come from our mistakes.  Failing is a part of life, and I get the privilege to help children maneuver through such life lessons.  

Character values are instilled in the classroom in such a way that an environment of respect is developed not only between students and teacher, but also among the students. Above all else, it is my goal to teach children the importance of loving God, which is best displayed in loving their neighbor - the people with whom they interact every day.  


Problem Solving
By Michael Davis

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When facing problems, there are several different ways to think about issues and to find solutions that will work. I enjoy analyzing issues and using logic to find solutions. In my class, I invite children into this process, with age-appropriate problems, and offer the assistance necessary for them to sort through them.  

Equipping elementary-aged children to think critically and find solutions to the problems they face now will enable them to solve complex problems in the future.  At the end of problem solving class, students will have increased their ability to apply logic and thinking skills to real-life problems.  The first skill the students learn is how to identify that they have a problem.  Second, they learn to express the problem in a way others can understand.  Next, students explore different possible solutions to the problem before acting on any of them, discussing the benefits and challenges of each.  Then, we determine the best possible solution to solve the problem and enact the plan.  Finally, if our first solution does not solve the problem, then we try again until the problem is solved.      

For each problem solving class, I have several ways in which the students can interact with the information being introduced and taught. My delivery varies according to the problem, allowing students to learn from oral and visually centered lessons on the board, as well as utilizing manipulatives (like the iPad, counting blocks or other physical objects), creating music to find patterns, or utilizing their bodies to give a visual to the problem(s) presented.  Students may have their own personal manipulative at their seat, work in small groups, or demonstrate the lesson in front of the class.  


Reading
By Kristina Davis

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In the kindergarten class “Learning to Read,” students become familiar with the sounds (phonemes) of the letters. Then, through songs, games and interactive activities, they begin to put the sounds together to form words. It is a skill that develops quite naturally in the right conditions, an atmosphere of safety and fun, and each child develops at their own pace. A student's level of phonological awareness at the end of kindergarten is one of the strongest predictors of future reading success (1) so it is of great value to the students that we take our time acquiring this incredibly important skill. Phonemic awareness is the process of understanding the structure of spoken language--the ability to "listen inside of a word.”(2)

In Reading Foundations and Fundamentals, students will become increasingly more fluent readers, able to read expressively, smoothly and with understanding. Reading comprehension is emphasized. It does not matter if a student can read well if he or she cannot comprehend and retain the information. Students become comfortable reading to a group, standing in front of the class and reading with expression.

As reading teacher at GOD Elementary, I am able to stoke the innate fires of creativity in each child. I reinforce the value of critical thinking, rather than structuring lessons to emphasize the regurgitation of information. I encourage the students to make connections—from my class into the content of their other classes, to their families and personal experiences, and even into other regions of the world.

The philosophy of Multiple Intelligences informs the structure of my lesson plans and interactions with students in the classroom. Each student is an individual, and possesses primary giftings and strengths. I remain mindful of this as I plan lessons and anticipate the needs of my diverse student personalities. The practice of incorporating hands-on activities, songs, games, group work, as well as quiet, reflective time all help ensure that I am able to address the individualized educational needs of my students, even within the group setting. I approach education holistically, and I take my responsibility to my students very seriously. It's truly an honor and a privilege to participate in the education of the future generation.


Writing
by Cadle Edwards

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The process of taking the thoughts in one’s minds and forming them into intelligible written communication can seem daunting!  My primary objective as a writing teacher of elementary-aged students is to equip them with the skills they need to translate their many thoughts and questions into coherent sentences on a page (or a screen). After 8 years as a college-level writing teacher, I am convinced that the crucial elements of writing well are: enjoyment, confidence, and curiosity.  These elements fuel the determination and stamina that it takes to endure and develop as a writer.  Further, when these elements are in play, the more objective aspects of writing, such as grammar and punctuation, are more easily comprehended and applied.

Many students become handicapped somewhere along their educational journey and conclude that they can’t write, that they don’t like writing, and/or that they are terrible writers.  In large part, their conclusion is often based on feeling inadequate.  To combat this type of conclusion in my younger students, I require them to write with frequency about topics that they are very familiar with.  I have found that when young students are writing about subjects that are familiar to them, the process of writing cultivates enthusiasm in them that is impossible to match.  As the students mature as writers, they are required to write about subjects that are less familiar to them. Perhaps it is a concept that they recently learned in another class, or it is an exploration of something that they have often wondered about.  This process comes more easily to students that have cultivated a level of confidence in the writing process.

In my classes, students can expect to write A LOT.  They write stories, recollections, tongue twisters, reports, and essays.  They learn bookmaking techniques and organizational strategies.  They learn to revise and edit.  They learn to write under a time crunch, as well as with the freedom to having “plenty” of time.  They will be quizzed on spelling and grammar via iPad apps and games, and they will be challenged to develop simple thoughts toward complexity.  They are taught to harness words to bring order and meaning to their writing.

With each of my students, in each class, my goal is to find the particular way that they will become inspired to write.  Whether it is by agreeing that a word is really not spelled how it sounds, or by posing questions that require a deeper level of consideration of their subject, my efforts are consistent and specific to each child. I teach children to find their way on the written page, and to confidently enjoy that process.


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It was not until after a trip to East Africa in 2007 that I began to consider the study of sustainable agriculture. On that trip, I visited a man named George who was working to provide food for his wife and five children with what he managed to grow on a very small plot. I had met George two years prior while on my first trip to Uganda. Upon returning, I observed that he was noticeably thinner, and I wondered if he was ill. I learned that the family's crops had failed, partially due to a lack of rain, and partially due to an imbalance in the pH of his soil. George had been giving the little food he could grow to his children, and was consequently wasting away. I began to realize the far-reaching impact that empowering farmers could have on men like George. Though organic gardening and “urban farming” is a growing trend, it’s George's situation (and others like him) that drives me.

In my class, students learn that food production, along with the science that comes with it, is a wonderful way to help those who are hungry. Our study of bio-intensive agriculture is centered around the need to maximize a small plot of land to reach its full potential. Prior to my occupational shift to farming, I played bass guitar in a Christian rock band. So, music and the arts continue to play a vital role in my teaching methods. Bio-intensive Agriculture class starts off each day with a song that supports the concepts they are learning (often I write them myself). Utilizing the Multiple Intelligences approach to learning about food production also creates a diversified educational experience, infusing an element of fun into everything we do.

Bio-intensive Agriculture is centered around eight principles: Deep Soil Preparation, Composting,
Intensive Planting, Companion Planting, Carbon Farming, Calorie Farming, Open-pollinated Seeds,
and the "Whole System” Approach.

However, as students work through the curriculum they also learn about many of the supporting
aspects of earth science. Such topics include: Soil Profile, Texture & Composition; The Community of
Microbial Life within the Soil, Insects and the role they play in the creation of Topsoil, Erosion, Eco-
systems and the need for Bio-Diversity, and Plant Composition, Photo-synthesis and Plant Life Cycles.

As the students work through learning these different components of science, they will learn to connect how it plays a supportive role in their ability to produce food, a fundamental God-given necessity for sustaining human life.


Building
By Joel Olson

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I have had an interest in building since I was a child. I would spend hours in the garage using tools and building with whatever materials I could find. In college I received a minor degree in Art and thoroughly enjoyed classes like Functional Sculpture and Pottery. After college and after having been exposed to the need for adequate shelter around the world, I began focusing my time and efforts on the particulars of building. Specifically, my goal is to teach building using local and sustainable resources and techniques.

Building requires a general knowledge of tools and materials. This is essential to building safely, quickly and effectively. As a result it is a part of my educational approach to give the students opportunities to interact with the different tools and building materials prior to jumping into an actual project. On day one the students are introduced to the idea that “tools are tools, not toys,” and I build upon this idea as we demonstrate how tools help us to do work (even though work can be fun sometimes).

Building requires a basic understanding of many different fields. As a result, I teach things like standards of measurement, geometry, fractions, and basic arithmetic, just to name a few. These educational standards are applied in fun and interactive ways that have the students out of their seats working with tools and different building materials on a daily basis. There have been numerous studies which point to the benefits of hands-on learning approaches over the traditional abstract lecture methods, especially in the fields of math and science. In one particular study 82 percent of teachers interviewed said that hands-on projects help their students apply information in new situations.  In my experience, applying information in different ways is an essential part of the building process.

Projects therefore become an essential component of my educational philosophy. Starting in their second semester, my students will be challenged to apply the knowledge they have acquired to develop their skills as builders. The projects will be aimed at solving real world problems, and involve the use of many different tools and building materials.


Kindergarten Homeroom
By Rachel Nowlin

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Children need structure in a classroom setting.  My classroom management philosophy is that if children know exactly what is expected of them and are held accountable to it, they will thrive.  Thus, my classroom is one where children can be relaxed because they know when to listen, when to talk, and are encouraged to do both at the proper times.  Thus, participation is highly encouraged and children are pushed to try their best in order to learn.  Because each child is a unique individual, they are taught to compete against him or herself, rather than against classmates. This leads to a child’s readiness to encourage and celebrate the strengths of others. Learning how to work well in a group is a skill that is fostered as children are taught how to communicate their own thoughts, as well as listen to the thoughts of their classmates.

As young as kindergarten, children should be taught practical skills so they can start helping around the house in whatever ways they can.  This fosters confidence and a sense of responsibility that should only grow as they age into young adults who can responsibly contribute to their society.

Above all, I teach children that they should love God and love their neighbor.  They should work hard in school to have the skills to be able to help other people.  Global issues of poverty are raised daily in the classroom, and the children enjoy doing what they can to help people, both abroad and in their own neighborhood.


Programming
By Skylar Aaseby

From phones to computers, tablets to websites to remote control devices, everyone has some interaction with modern technology.  My history in working with these different technologies has been a result of needing something to function a specific way and not having the right program or application to do it. This is not abnormal. This is why so many programs and apps exist, because someone wanted something a specific way and nothing existed to do it just the way they wanted. I find it valuable to give children the opportunity to be creative with their technology, making technology work for them and not being subject to it.

Students should be able to think through and problem solve in order to create solutions that will meet their needs or goals. That is exactly what programming is: solving a problem in order to have an appropriate solution.  I teach this through games that give the basic concepts of programming (like conditional statements, loops, & functions). The games become progressively harder and require more thought, which helps the children develop the ability to think through more complex issues and find solutions. I say "find solutions" and not "find a solution" because I appreciate creative thinking in problem solving, and don't want to hinder the children from coming up with their own way of solving issues, while still considering conciseness of code important.  

As students advance, they will move from visual games to more written code. At that point, we will look at creating simple games and compiling information in creative and fun ways. Children growing up with this exposure to programming will be able to create websites, apps for different phone systems, and with some basic electronics training, work with simple robotics.  All of this starts with the ability to problem solve, familiarity with programming concepts, and obtaining some practical experience with programming languages.


Technology & iPad
By Adam Loeffler

Technology is something that we use in our society to help make life more productive and efficient.  Since the Industrial Revolution the ability to mass produce products has dramatically increased humanity’s use of and access to technology.  In recent years, some of the technologies that have been produced have been made into manipulatives that can serve as helpful educational tools.  For this reason, The Academy has chosen to use the iPad as our main manipulative in and out of the classroom.  

The iPad gives students hands-on interaction with material that they normally would not have access to. Whether it is learning about all of the bones in the body or how to problem solve, there is an application within the iPad that can assist this learning experience. Teachers at the Academy share the responsibility of teaching children to properly use their iPads and the applications on their devices.  The better students understand how to navigate their iPads, the better learning experience they will have in their other classes.

Statistics About Utilizing iPads in Classroom
In a study done by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in California showed that students using iPads saw their math test scores increase 20% in one year compared to students using traditional textbooks.  (Source: CNN)
A study from KIPP Academy in Houston, TX showed the percentage of students who rated either proficient or advanced (the 'passing' rate) was 49% percent higher in the 'flipped classrooms' using the iPads than in the traditional classrooms with no iPads.  (Source: TUAW)
A research study, conducted in Auburn, Maine showed that Kindergartner students using iPads scored much higher on literacy tests than students that didn’t use the device.  (Source: TUAW)


 

The Academy for G.O.D.
401 Center Street, Old Hickory, TN 37138, (615).722.7107