My Working Philosphy of Education

I have hardly begun my journey as an educator, which affords me the luxury of being totally idealistic. Though I have read and heard sad stories from America’s education history, I have yet to be tainted by the system myself (especially since I was home schooled for most of my education). I will take full advantage of that pure idealism in hopes that if I build it up as a fortress now it will stand firm in the face of opposition. On the other hand, I realize that my understanding of what I am about to write will probably change as I begin to teach. Though this paper is technically my “philosophy of education,” I would feel more comfortable calling it my “working philosophy of education.” I will share thoughts from Freire, Kumashiro and Jesus with some of my own ideas in between.

Chapter two from Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire was for me one of the most impactful works of literature I have read in the process of becoming a teacher. A lot of what he said deeply resonated with what is becoming my philosophy of education. He distinguished between the “banking method” of teaching (which is to simply deposit information into students) from “problem-posing” education where:

…the students–no longer docile listeners–are now critical co-investigators in dialogue with the teacher…The role of the problem-posing educator is to create, together with the students, the conditions under which knowledge at the level of the doxa is superseded by true knowledge, at the level of the logos.

In order to adopt problem-posing education into my practice I have to shift my identity from “teacher” to “teacher-student” and my students’ identities from “students” to “student-teachers”. The goal does not revolve around tests and grades; rather it is to foster conversation and learning that brings forth creativity, reflection, original thought and action. I believe that this kind of experience for a young person is priceless. Challenging common knowledge will help them to genuinely engage with life and the world around them. To me this kind of education is an investment in the progress of humanity. I want to challenge kids to think beyond their conditioning. I want to create an environment that fosters creativity both from myself and from my students. And I want encourage their potential.

Kumashiro is another author whose philosophy has inspired me. The aspect of his viewpoint that I want to mention here, which is outlined in Against Common Sense, is the significance of learning through crisis. He defines crisis as “a state of emotional discomfort and disorientation that calls on students to make some change.” This occurs frequently in any classroom whether it is realizing that you have been spelling a certain word wrong for years or you are being introduced to a new perspective on American history you have never considered. What Kumashiro emphasizes as important is working through the crisis so that true learning and change occurs. If I am not intentional about fostering an environment that encourages students to face crisis by working through their emotions, seeking out more information and putting their new knowledge into action, I could be doing them more harm than good. As Kumashiro points out, if crisis is not worked through and frustration becomes too overwhelming, it can make a person more closed minded to new information than they were before. I hope to create a healthy and safe environment in my classroom where students can freely question information, seek truth, reflect honestly and develop according to their discoveries.

The third example I want to draw from is Jesus of Nazareth, the greatest teacher who ever lived. He employed both problem-posing education and learning through crisis in his teaching methods. He brought information to the table that was contrary to the teachings of the religious leaders and counter-cultural to the Roman Empire. He made people struggle internally with this new information until they either internalized it and changed their worldview (example of a positive experience in learning through crisis), they became indifferent and went on living as if nothing happened, or they violently rejected it. An example of this is in Luke 18:18-24. A rich, young man came to Jesus wondering how to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to obey the commandments. The man said he did since he was a young boy. In response Jesus told him he lacked one thing. He should sell everything he had and give to the poor. This created a major crisis for the young man. He either had to accept this new information and put it into practice or reject it. The young man left sad because he was wealthy and not  ready to take action, but his fate is never revealed. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up working through that problem and growing from it. Learning through crisis sometimes takes years.

Though my content will be much different than what took place in Luke, what I learned from Jesus about teaching is to avoid “spoon-feeding” and not to force crisis. First, what I mean by avoiding “spoon-feeding” is that I shouldn’t feed them the conclusions I’ve drawn. Instead, I should present the raw material and allow them to make their own judgments.  Jesus never over-taught. He left a gap between where his teaching ended and where understanding began so his students had to work for it. As a student, it is a struggle to learn this way, but in the end it is totally satisfying, generates true learning and fosters a healthy addiction to development. In this example Jesus’ response to the man’s question was succinct and incomplete. He simply stated “You know the commandments” and he listed a few. By holding back he made the knowledge the man was seeking more valuable. The young man’s response of “all these I have kept since I was a boy” indicated he had not reflected deeply, so Jesus pointed toward one thing he could work through to get a true answer to his question: “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.” He didn’t go into an elaborate explanation about the political implications of rich people, poor people and inequality. Rather he posed a problem that would help him do that thinking himself. All people have access to Jesus’ teachings but those who really grow through them are the ones who work for answers. Therefore, in my philosophy of education I want to craft my practice so that I can help students think and struggle for answers without spelling things out for them. I want them to look within, around and above for answers, not to me. In the same way that Jesus simply posed problems and questions for people to struggle with, I hope to do the same.

Secondly, what I mean by not forcing crisis onto students is that as a teacher I should not have too much expectation for my students to have a crisis breakthrough while they are in my class. Jesus didn’t expect the crisis moment of the rich young man to be solved immediately. He did not pressure the man to change at that moment. Jesus understood that the fullness of this man’s realization might come under another Rabbi or not at all. So he did not measure the success of the interaction based on the man’s immediate response. My goal should be progress of critical thinking and reflection, but I should not expect major breakthroughs necessarily (though that would be very exciting!). I believe that only God teaches authentic learning through crisis and I am only a tool to help foster that process. With that understanding I will respect the unique journey of each of my students and try to fulfill the small role I play in each of his or her narratives.

Another aspect of Jesus’ pedagogy that I want to emulate is the way he encouraged and treated his disciples. Romans 4:17c says, “[God] calls things that are not as though they were.” Jesus called his disciples leaders, revolutionaries, and great men before they showed any sign of being these things. He saw their potential with vision. He called them out from among the rejects of society including a political rebel, a tax collector, and simple fishermen. He changed Simon’s name (which means sand) to Peter (which means rock) at the beginning of their relationship to give him tangible hope of becoming a great man. Jesus understood how important morale and a positive environment was for his disciples to overcome their weaknesses and what society had branded them as. I want to create a similar environment in my classroom. I refuse to invest only in the students who initially seem to show promise. I believe that every person has prospective to be great. I want to get to know each student until I see their unique potential and can specifically fuel their talent and confidence. I want to help them see their lives, their communities and their generation with vision, and to identify how they fit into it. I want to regard them as great members of society in spite of their reputation or how they are treated elsewhere because in fact, that is who they truly are.

And finally, I want to strive to be a servant teacher. Jesus was clearly his disciples’ teacher, but he had other roles as well. He was their friend and advocate. He earned their respect because he lived what he taught. He never asked them to do something he wouldn’t (or didn’t) do. He respected their decisions. He was incredibly patient. He learned alongside them. He was totally and completely involved in their lives. He cared about them more than he cared for himself. I also want to be this kind of teacher for my students. I want to be their friend and advocate but I don’t want them to feel like a charity case. I have to continually challenge my mentality so my relationship to them is genuine. I want to be an authentic teacher who practices what she teaches. I don’t want to treat my students as subordinates or to be condescending. I want to learn from my students. I want to suffer for my students. I want to suffer with my students. I think being a servant teacher will take a lifetime to master because only Jesus did it perfectly. But I think it is a worthy pursuit and I include it as an important part of my working philosophy of education.

So as I continue my studies in education I hope to develop my philosophy further than what I have expressed here. I am glad I was exposed to Freire and Kumashiro thus far to begin shaping my belief about how education should be done. I am also thankful that Jesus’ life has been recorded not only so I can study it on a spiritual level, but also to glean pedagogical principles from his examples.


  1. Joshua Brinkerhoff

    Hi Christian,
    Thanks for sharing your working teaching philosophy. I’m thinking about my own teaching philosophy now too as I come close to finishing my doctoral studies and am preparing to apply for professorships. It’s really cool to see how Jesus taught then use it to find the philosophies we can learn as educators. God bless all your teaching, especially Bible teaching!

  2. Darren Gruett

    Thanks for your thoughts on this, Christian. As a Bible teacher, a lot of it is applicable to me; although I much rather prefer to call myself a student of the Bible.

  3. Jim Rabchuk

    Christian, have you read a book by Daniel Willingham, called “Why don’t students like school”? The teacher education person I work with here at WIU swears by it (I mean, loves it!).

    Here’s a link: 
    Not sure why I can’t link here. Google it.

    • christian misurac

      Thanks Jim! I will check that out. 

    • Skimming the 1st chap on:, Willingham says that people/students generally don’t like to think (Rom 8:6). He seems to suggest that unless we get/stimulate/motivate people/students to think, to be curious, to truly want to know something, they won’t learn.

      It seems in keeping with the way God and Jesus approached sinners: Not to tell them or talk down to them like banking from a knowledgeable teacher to a docile (stupid) student, but to probe them to search their own hearts. Thus, Jesus’ parables always probes the hearts of his listener to search their own hearts and hopefully they will then desire the kingdom of heaven.

  4. Thanks, Christian! Your presentation reminded me of what Tuf Francis shared regarding teaching: not banking but problem-posing, not docile listeners but critical co-investigators, and learning through crisis (but not forced).

    When I studied Cain recently, I learned that God was such an excellent teacher. Duh! God didn’t say, “How dare you get angry at me! Do you know who I am?” God also didn’t tell him, “You better do this… and don’t do that.” Instead, God just posed questions to him: “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?” (Gen 4:6). Like Jesus, God didn’t force obedience and conformity and compliance out of Cain, but only appealed to him to search his own heart.

    Thank God that our Jesus is a Wonderful Counsellor (Isa 9:6)!

    • christian misurac

      Hi Dr. Ben,
      I totally agree about Cain. I realize there is a real risk of students not having that breaking moment (both Bible students and school students) where they come through the crisis to have a deeper understanding about themselves, God and life. God never forced that on people. He presented the raw materials, but it is up to us to work through it. He really let people go if they rejected his counsel. That is hard for me to do. I pray to be a wise and respectful shepherd who is available to others but knows where to draw the line and let go.

  5. James Kim

    “I believe that every person has prospective to be great. I want to get to know each student until I see their unique potential and can specifically fuel their talent and confidence. I want to help them see their lives, their communities and their generation with vision, and to identify how they fit into it. I want to regard them as great members of society in spite of their reputation or how they are treated elsewhere because in fact, that is who they truly are.” Hi, Christian, thanks for your article. May God give you heart of Jesus as you encounter many different kinds of students. As disciple means a learner, a teacher can be a lifelong learner from students. Effective Bible teacher and school teacher can share many common principles.

  6. Nicely written article. Gave me a lot to reflect on as an educator myself. As a parent who is contemplating homeschooling, I did have a few questions I would like to ask.
     You mention that your goal is not to revolve around tests rather crate an active learning environment that challenges common knowledge. At the high school level, this should be very easy to do as students are constantly trying to challenge established norms. But I am always concerned by students who take on this type of education as they become what I call, “challengers for challenging sake.” They question everything and usually will accept nothing. In fact, it was my experience that high school students will often accept prevailing cultural norms because they think they are challenges traditional cultural norms. Like accepting open relationships in opposition of waiting till marriage.
    So I guess I am curious how you would foster an enviroment that challenges common knowledge without providing students with an answer.
     Say for instance, the topic of objective truth comes up. A student may say.. yeah.. I want to challenge such an idea. After all, there is no such thing as objective truth. How do you challenge your student on this without crossing certain barriers that would make you look as if your instilling “your values on a child.”
     In terms of learning through crises, I would recommend you check out some of the psychological research on desirable difficulties by Prof. Robert Bjork. I think you will find it coalesces well with the learning through crises statement.   See
     I like your statement about not spoon feeding students and allowing them to come to their own conclusions.  However, again, I wonder what must Christian educators do if student come to a conclusion that runs counter to what they believe is true. For example, Christians are stupid because they don’t believe in evolution. So many problems in that statement but undoubtly students will make it given prevalent views. 

    • Darren Gruett

      I just wanted to throw in my unsolicited thoughts here. One of my early majors in college was philosophy which, of course, taught me to question everything. It even taught me to raise questions just for the sake of questions. But eventually that kind of thinking leads nowhere. I did not want to endlessly ask questions; I wanted answers. So, I started asking questions, not just for the sake of questioning things, but because I was searching for truth.
      In the Bible, when the disciples asked questions it was because they were looking for an answer. On the other hand, the scribes and Pharisees asked questions because they doubted who Jesus was and were looking for reasons to accuse Him. The same is true today with skeptics who constantly raise questions about the existence of God or the credibility of the Bible. It is not because they are looking for a reason to believe, but because they are looking for a reason to continue in their disbelief.
      In regards to evolution, I remember this issue coming up while taking an astronomy class by an instructor who was a Christian and a member of the church I was attending at the time. Rather than trying to discredit evolution or bolster the idea of Creation, instead, he said that regardless of which idea we accepted it would have to be by faith, since no one was there when it happened. That is really what education is about, not so much telling people what to think as it about teaching them how to think.
      On a completely different note, I was home-schooled from 5th grade to 8th grade. And, as one of four children, it was a big sacrifice on the part of my parents; but it really helped me a lot, especially because it allowed me to study subjects, like science, from a Christian perspective.

    • Yes, I have found that I was taught to question in college as well but they never led anywhere. And it just made me prideful. 

       Teaching them how to think is definitely an interesting approach. I try to do this with my own students. But I always have that one student who makes a comment like, “religious people are delusional and stupid.” I have to hold myself back during these times and probe the student for more information, challenge his premises and yet.. I feel.. I also have to support some of his ideas so as to not make the student feel stupid. Not saying this is the right approach but it highlights my initial question about how do you challenge a students ideas when they differ from your own. 

      As Christian educators, we deal in matters of truth when we teach that 2+2=4 and when we consider Jesus as our Lord and savior. So to me, I find it hard not to challenge a student when he says, “Jesus never rose from the dead” because he is not dealing in opinion but in truth. And if the classroom is suppose to be an environment of  learning, then I am tempted to really challenge that student but worry that I will hear from the dean that I shouldnt be “imposing my opinions on others.” 

    • As I was considering this post, I came across Pope Benedict’s prayer intention for the month of september which I thought I would share here.
      ” That all teachers may know how to communicate love of the truth and instill authentic moral and spiritual values.”

      neat huh? 

    • christian misurac

      My reply to this post is at the bottom. Sorry, I didn’t hit the right button. Thanks for your thoughts!

  7. Lee Griffin

    I have had the chance to read your position paper a few times now, and am so thankful to God for what He has done in your life! Additionally, I am thankful for the fruit that has been born in you as a result of so many people investing in your life for His sake! My admonition to you is to pursue truth (John 8:32) and the Truth Giver with everything you have so that you will continue to bear fruit worthy of your calling as a teacher! Education is important, to be sure, but as you well know, it is not the most important thing! Continue to seek and to share so that may more may be reached for the gospel! And thank you for sharing this with me!

  8. christian misurac

    Hello Gerardo, 
    I don’t think we have met in person, but nice to meet you via ubfriends!
    I am certainly no expert educator (considering I am still in school to be a teacher!) but I will try to answer your questions/thoughts based on my experience thus far (being around HS kids and as a Bible teacher). I see your point that some people use “questioning” as an excuse to do or not do whatever they want. I would never advocate that. If people make uneducated statements/assumptions about anything I try to ask more questions to reveal that their stance is groundless (due to lack of research) and therefore invalid to anyone beyond him or herself (or maybe to a group of friends). I think this is the case for most young people making bold statements. I encounter this often while fishing. People make ridiculous claims about Christianity as an excuse to not come to Bible study and it usually only takes a couple of questions to uncover the fact that he or she has not acquired that information personally, rather assumed it as true through word of mouth or common opinion. Even what you mentioned falls into this category:”Christians are stupid for not believing evolution.” There are plenty of intelligent Christian explanations for how the world came to be which include science (to a point). I would challenge that person to do more homework instead of basing their assumption on certain “kinds” of Christians. I found the literal 6-day explanation of creation hard to swallow (what I was taught growing up), but when i realized that Genesis 1 wasn’t necessarily literal it opened a lot more options for me (I don’t have a solid opinion on Genesis 1 interpretations. All I know is God is creator, but when I was seeking truth I found the option to not have to believe in 6 literal days incredibly liberating). So he or she might be basing the opinion of Christians on “uneducated” Christians (who are Christians nonetheless) that don’t typically have a very good answer for big questions like evolution, but it doesn’t mean intelligent answers don’t exist. He or she can still say no to Bible study or be open to Christians not being stupid, but he or she at least has to admit that it is not an educated statement. For people who are doing their research and genuinely looking for answers I hope that I could be a resource for them to bounce ideas off of (so I can share what I think instead of imposing) and I will pray a lot for Jesus to catch them! People like that seem to be the ones who usually find truth and they make much better disciples than the former. And if not, I at least respect them more (as authentic seekers) than people who make flippant claims. 

    I will always push for people to do their “homework” (research) when asking questions and I will not accept lazy opinions or assumptions. That is not the kind of education Paulo Freire or Jesus advocated for. Along with what Darren was saying, the Pharisees had no intent to seek truth, they didn’t do their homework and Jesus rejected them as students. I may not be able to kick kids out of my class who are not genuinely open to seeking and finding, but I don’t plan on letting them slide by. I will poke them until they have to start actually using their brain. Like Darren said, in a HS setting, I can’t tell them what to think, but I can try to teach them how and hopefully model genuine truth seeking. 

    I firmly believe in “Seek and ye shall find.” It is my life testimony. But I do believe the seeker has to do the genuine seeking (I can’t impose truth on people). Many people presented Biblical truth to me throughout my life, but it wasn’t until I was seeking and finding truth on my own (through the Holy Spirit) that I actually began to take ownership of it in a meaningful way. I am glad they were there along the way, but I am also glad they didn’t try to force me to accept the truth without understanding it. I think that is what Jesus modeled and what I hope to do. 

    And as for truth, I am kind of obsessed with it. It dominates a lot of my thoughts (ideas, how it manifests and how to reveal it). John 8:31-32 is one of my life key verses. I always want to lead people toward truth. But I realize that I am limited in doing so (because I don’t always get it and truth can only be revealed not found). The Holy Spirit can complete the connection between a person and Truth (whether it is a Bible student or a classroom student). I want to be a truth seeker for the rest of my life which is why I am attracted to the field of education. I pray to keep truth at the forefront of my goals as an educator. Thank-you for reminding me of this important truth.

    So I hope some of that made sense. It was a good exercise for me to think about what is most important as an educator. Please pray for me to grow as Jesus disciple as a teacher. I want to learn from him most of all. I would actually like to study Exodus with M. Barry because she said she learned a lot about education from God the great Educator through how he dealt with the Israelites in Exodus. M. Barry, if you read this, I have been meaning to ask you about that:). I will send you an email.  

    OK, back to writing lesson plans!
    Gerardo, I will pray for you as an educator as well!

    God bless!

    • Though I generally avoid long write-ups, yours was a nice, long, interesting, easy read. Seems like you’re on your way to being a great teacher, Christian. God bless.

    • Christian,

      This is an awesome comment: “I will always push for people to do their “homework” (research) when asking questions and I will not accept lazy opinions or assumptions.” I hope your thought process toward education posted here will inspire many to reject lazy opinions!

    • Great response. I think i lack that fines you describe. In the classroom, I have often challenged students to support their assumptions instead of encouraging them outside of class. I have difficulty turining off the apologetic side of me even in class. I guess I (rightly or wrongly) constantly feel attacked so I get very defensive and try to nail certain points right there on the spot. I think encouraging students to do their homework is a much better approach. Thank you.