Interview, interview, update my resumé, interview, complete my clearances and send out copies and answer these questions: Why do I want this job? What sets this job apart from others? What is my teaching philosophy? Why do I want to teach here?
After Graduating from East Stroudsburg University in 2012, these words and questions boggled my mind. I was constantly researching school districts and kept coming up with the same answers to these questions. “I want this job because I love to teach and enjoy being around children. I want this job because I am dedicated and willing to go the extra mile. I think that children are ongoing learners, and we need to teach them self-discovery.” “I want to teach here because . . . .” That was a tough one. All the schools are so different.
Then I received the call to be the 1st and 2nd grade teacher at Gillingham Charter School. A CHARTER SCHOOL as my first full time job?! But I’ve only ever taught in a regular public school district, and I was a public school student myself. I wondered how this school would be different from the traditional public school of which I was accustomed!
At the interview with Gillingham Charter School, I already felt a little more at ease when I first walked into the building. A beautiful painting by Henri Matisse was hanging on the wall. The desks were beautiful and wooden and were all throughout the building. One of the directors greeted me at the door with a smile on her face and welcomed me into the room. (Is she allowed to smile?) I was used to someone who gave an intimidating look at interviews; does she actually care about how nervous I am? There were chairs in a circle around a wooden table that were different sizes, colors, and had different, but beautifully designed cushions. It made me feel relaxed and comfortable. They began the interview asking me to introduce myself! (What are my hobbies and interests?!) I was amazed that they wanted to know about more than just my professional life. They wanted to hear about what I love to do! My mind was in a whirl….”The interview questions are so different! Why are they different? But, for some reason I feel comfortable, and the answers to my questions are coming out so easily and just seem to be what I want to say, not exactly what I have to say to get a job. They seem to actually be listening. They are not writing down what I am saying, but instead looking with caring faces showing they were listening to all I had to say!” I remember walking out that door and knowing I wanted this job!
When I received that call, I knew that Gillingham was the place for me. During the two weeks of training, I met my colleagues who were people who wanted to help, wanted to work together for the common goal of the children, and who cared about each other and the school! We learned a lot about the philosophy of the school and the way of teaching, and I was intrigued. I knew why the interview went the way it did, why the school environment looked so inviting, and why I was cared about in my interview. My ideas, concerns, and questions were important to these people because that is how the school looks at any person or child – as person who matter. Since then the philosophy of Charlotte Mason has done nothing but strengthen my way of teaching, my way of interacting with others, and my way of living life.
This past year I made amazing friends/colleagues, met inspiring and talented children, and gained a love and passion for the philosophy of Charlotte Mason and Gillingham Charter School. I watched children narrate entire stories with great detail and sequence at only a first grade level. I sat back and watched my class debate and converse on the significance of the stories we read. The students learned self-discovery, something which has always been part of my own philosophy of education. A child needs to want to learn, and with the living books that are chosen for the curriculum at Gillingham Charter School, it is easy for them to get lost in a book and want to know more about the story and its ideas.
The philosophy of Charlotte Mason sets students up for success without forcing facts and textbooks upon them. Instead they are given ideas which spark and ignite a flame. They want to keep learning, turning the flame into a full-fledged fire of knowledge. These ideas give the students the desire and need to learn more because we are not feeding them all the answers but leaving them to wonder and to make their own conclusions.
In a regular, systematic public school, this is not the case. I can vouch for this having grown up in a public school district. I was “fed” textbooks beginning in kindergarten all the way to my senior year of high school. I hated reading and would never read at home because I read too much in school. Was it really that I was reading too much? No, it was that I was fed facts and forced to read text books which had deteriorated my understanding of what reading for enjoyment truly meant. I had this same experience in college. I had to wait until I graduated from college to find my love for reading.
Gillingham Charter School and the Charlotte Mason Philosophy ignite a love of reading in children by presenting rich, living text of which they truly become a part. They feel as if they know the characters and are in the books with them. I have watched stories unfold this year and see how much my students love to listen to the stories. And they love to try to read because they want to read these stories on their own. The living books are setting these children up for a love of reading and a passion for lifelong learning.
I have found the place that I call my “second home” at Gillingham Charter School. Our beliefs, philosophy, and passion for our children and their future have helped to change my outlook on my own philosophy of education. After reading Charlotte Mason’s works, I have come to love that she viewed children as people. I, too, feel that they deserve the same respect as any other adult or human you would encounter. When a teacher treats children as persons, they feel important and a part of the classroom community. They feel that their opinions matter and that they should have a voice in the classroom.
I have treated my students as persons this year, and because of that, I feel I get a level of respect from them that you would not see in a normal classroom. I want them to know that their opinions are important, I want to feed them ideas that spark their fire, I want to read the living books that spark their love of independent reading, and I want to help them become successful well-rounded persons. I feel that Charlotte Mason has changed my philosophy for the better, and I am excited to see what Year Two will bring to my table of education because I am also an ongoing learner. Charlotte Mason has brought ideas to me that will spark my own philosophy and help me to better educate in the future.
© 2014 by Megan Lengle