I believe that any educational activity becomes meaningful only when it actualizes a student’s potential as a human being and thus linguistic and cultural development should also be envisaged as a process of becoming a better person. My experiences as a teacher, learner, materials developer, and researcher have led me to form the following philosophy of education: education should include three pivotal activities: reflection, communication, and solidarity. I briefly summarize these three pillars of my philosophy below.
1. Reflection: This dimension of education is related to the ontological question of “Who am I?” Education should encourage one to find happiness in exploring possible answers to this seemingly useless question and also to seek happiness in the very process of questioning the meaning of existence.
2. Communication: This dimension of education is related to the epistemological question of “What and how do I know?” Education should help students to become a confident speaker and modest listener, to foster in them the desire to build a commune of dialoguers, and ultimately to tear down the wall separating oneself from others.
3. Solidarity: This dimension of education is related to the ethical question: “How can I serve the communities to which I belong?” or “How can I pay back to society what I have been given?” Education should open up the possibilities of students’ passionate solidarity with others and help them to realize human existence builds on interdependence, rather than on independence.
On these foundations I pursue praxis, an integrated unity of theory and practice, in teaching and learning. Regarding the first dimension of ontology, I help my students open their eyes to the fact that we are inhabiting a symbolic world powered by language, which in turn defines who we are. As Searle (2010) points out, language is not just a great tool we use for communication; rather, it is a constitutive technology that defines human civilization. In this vein, we can better understand our own identities through studying language. I would like to keep my students company in exploring the relationship between words and the world and reflecting deeply on our existence as a symbolic species (Deacon, 1997).
My sincere concern about the second, epistemological aspect of education, leads me to a determination that I will help my students engage in a passionate dialogue with other people. I would like to create and share moments of deep empathy with my students so that they can appreciate the power of communication and develop the sensibility to the beauty of engaging conversations. In pursuing this enterprise, I hope to encourage students to explore the joy of translingual and transcultural activities, in other words, dialogues between languages and cultures (MLA Ad hoc Committee, 2007), through which they can appreciate the exquisite complexity of experiencing multiple languacultures (see Agar 1994).
The final element in my philosophy of education is materialized as teaching language as a concrete move, mediating sociohistorical actions of people in blood and flesh (Scollon & Scollon, 1998; Vygotsky, 1978). Even graffiti on the wall of a desolate street can summon passers-by into a symbolic space with specific sociopolitical impacts. Through words we can heal, we can hurt, we can build, we can demolish, we can love, we can hate, and we can make peace. Our linguistic choices can make a difference in the world. Helping students explore these dynamic, real impacts of language and empowering them to take ethical actions mediated by text serves as one of the main principles of my teaching.
My philosophy of education is in line with the notion of praxis as proposed by Freire (1968) and defined as “a complex activity involving a cycle of theory, application, evaluation, reflection, and then back to theory.” It is noteworthy here that praxis does not only include applications (or concrete actions in a specific field, as I understand), but also a series of elements like evaluation, reflection as well as theory. As Kurt Lewin noted, “nothing is as practical as a good theory,” and there is nothing as theoretical as a good practice. I aspire to see praxis emerging in my teaching, thus my students’ learning.
To conclude, I believe that a quality education should build on the nexus of reflection-communication-solidarity. I explore with my students the world of words, which can make us reflect, communicate, and form solidarity; words so concrete but profoundly inspirational: words so poignant but irresistibly emancipating: words so vulnerable but magically healing. I seek to create those words with my students.