Teaching to your personal educational philosophy

How can you stay true to your ‘why’ in a world where politics and policy are the driving factors in educational institutions? Read Olivia Peach's advice.

teaching to your personal educational philosophy
Olivia Peach Award-winning primary teacher and mum of three BEd Wednesday, 14 August 2019

A recipe for teaching

One of the pivotal moments in our teaching career is when we sit down and write our philosophy of education; the core ingredients for a recipe of our teaching programs and progression. It usually happens near the end of our tertiary study, in preparation for those first interviews as a graduate teacher. It’s made up of the ingredients of theoretical perspectives and practices, entwined with our professional values and views towards education. On top? A sprinkling of our personality. We reflect on the reasons we chose education as our pathway.

Staying in our own lane

It is more complicated than it sounds. In a world where education is heavily impacted by politics, constant education reforms and ever-tightening policies, how do we stay in our lane, teaching to our individual philosophy? How do we respect individual school values, yet teach with our beliefs at the forefront?

Education is a constant discussion in the media; there’s always progression, innovation and discovery reported. However, we are also hearing about increasing teacher burnout, alcohol intake and high turnover. I have spent most of my career in a school that was very aligned to my personal and professional values. This meant I could teach with passion and conviction that related to my beliefs.

Revisiting the ‘why’

After several other teaching experiences, and being exposed to different systems within education, the more recent experiences have given me the insight, confidence and power to be able to refine and strengthen my philosophy of education. I have learnt not to lose sight of the reason I say goodbye to my own children each morning to educate others. It also gave me the strength to walk away from a school that didn’t encourage and support beginning teachers, allow for philosophies other than its own or engender respect for individuality and difference.

Our schooling system has become so bogged down in what I call the Triple P – programming, politics and policies. It’s these things that distract us from our reason; our own philosophy of education. I recently had the opportunity to redefine what I want from my career in education. I looked back at my early philosophy to check I hadn’t lost sight of the key ingredients. Policies change, theoretical practices may rank in different priority and you may change schools but two things remain —your personal educational values and your personal touch. 

Our values often reflect our own experiences as students and our personality will always be ours (a leopard doesn’t change its spots, right?). No matter where you teach or what system you teach in, your students have the opportunity to learn through your lens. That responsibility can be daunting sometimes, but it is also mighty powerful.

When I am feeling overwhelmed by my responsibilities, deadlines and just simply getting it right, I think of my why and I am immediately drawn back to my philosophy of education. It’s a moment to learn to have some professional and self-reflection. I often realise that I am happiest, most fulfilled and motivated when I am physically teaching; teaching in my own classroom, with the wing expansion to teach to my personal philosophy.

Looking to the future

When we can feel restricted by the Triple P package, it’s imperative to focus on the aspects that remain in our control. These are the values of what we are teaching, the way in which we want to teach the curriculum and knowing the learners in our classroom.

We sell ourselves short when we get caught up in the programming, politics and policies; aspects that are beyond our control. But how we choose to execute a lesson is where we get to shine. It’s those small lightbulb moments and the big milestones for our students that light us up. They ignite the spark and confirm that we are exactly where we should be; educating today’s students to be the leaders of tomorrow – educated, respectful and well-rounded global citizens.


Dr Selina Samuels
Education expert

BA(Hons), LLB, PhD, MEd

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