My dad died two months ago. Since then, I have been reflecting about transition and my own life purpose. When considering my father’s influence on my life, I came to realize what an impact he had on my life as an educator.
My dad encouraged independence in deed and in thought. He exposed me to radical thinkers and authors. He demanded that I question “facts” that the news presented and he encouraged me to see alternate views and sources, not to simply accept prevailing thought or opinion.
My dad was a dedicated peace activist and fought for equity and justice. He taught me that the powerful were just people– and that it was okay to question them.
My dad’s work on civil rights and his housing refugees exposed me to cultures and conditions that many of my peers never saw. Simply living life with people who were outwardly different than me, made me realize that they too were people as well, having the same wants and desires as all of us.
My dad and I both received our Master’s from the Curry School of Education, even sharing a professor. While we didn’t often sit down to formally discuss pedagogy or educational philosophy, his opinions and actions left a firm imprint in me and how I view education. I learned to question the mores of the educational system and to reject the assumptions that it might make about learners.
My dad educated me by questioning and challenging me. It wasn’t always comfortable to defend my assumptions, but it taught me to stand by decisions and opinions that I felt were right, and to yield when shown to be wrong. I too have a reputation for direct talk and questioning. I now see it as a sign of respect to treat an individual as a person worthy of serious debate, no matter their age or status.
Bob Covert, the professor who Dad and I shared, hammered into his students the importance of acknowledging their own biases and histories as they taught and researched. What are your stories? Who influenced you to teach? What are the underpinnings to your own educational philosophy?
An introductory Tom Joseph reading list: