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Philosophy of Teaching
Teacher as a Renaissance Man
Matthew Henry
December 2011
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Introduction
I have always found myself to be an intellectually curious person. As a student, I have
always been interested in all of my subjects; I was never exclusively interested in my music
studies. For all six years of middle and high school, I was highly involved in my German
studies. I became very confident in my reading, writing and speaking, and achieved a passion
for the language and culture of Germany. My German teacher, Mr. Kipp Matalucci, was a
man who is very knowledgeable in a multitude of disciplines, often using popular references
and outside knowledge to give examples of German grammatical phrases and syntax. I grew
very fond of his methods, and the many facts and ideas he knew, off the top of his head. I
was always very interested in math, English, science; any subject in high school, I was
somewhat proficient in it. This inner-drive to master any school sphere of learning helped me
feel confident in many occupations. I engaged in my performing arts outside of school,
martial arts in my community. There was so much being involved into my being. Then one
day, whilst browsing through Wikipedia, I came across the article on the Renaissance Man.
After reading through the article, and recollecting back to middle school world history class,
I realized that I was turning into a modern day renaissance man; in my high school we even
ran a program called the renaissance club, which required exceptional academic grades as
well as a signature from an outside supervisor, showing you were active in more than just
academia. It helped me understand the meaning of what I wanted subconsciously to become;
I was attempting to broaden my horizons and become a new renaissance man. I realize now
that Herr Matalucci was a modern day example of a renaissance man, a jack-of-all-trades. I
know that his teaching had great effect on me, because I can still remember many of his
lessons to this day; what he taught us, how he introduced the topic to us. Herr was a man well
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rooted in critical pedagogy, and I learned valuable critical pedagogical knowledge before I
even heard of the term in Critical Pedagogy classes I and II. Because of Herr Matalucci, and
my self-discovery of my involuntary path towards being a well-versed man, I know now that
a proper approach to an effective teaching method lies within being a modern day
renaissance man, who leads his community and students with his broad knowledge. In
becoming a Renaissance man, I will (at the least) administer and change these facets of a
student body: rid students who become marginalized or silenced in their cultural capital
(Wink 2011, p 63 p81-82). I will use my position in my educational community as a leader,
and make sure students are acknowledged on information that matters to them. I will
empower students to become renaissance men and women as well. All of these relate back to
something I refer to as the exceptional emulator. I know that Herr Matalucci is the
founding father of my own personal school of thought, and that he is the original man upon
whom I wished to emulate myself.
Kurt Lewin and CP
My psychological framework for my teaching philosophy lies in the work of Kurt Lewin,
German-American psychologist of the early 20
th
century. In his work, The Special Case of
Germany, he describes the methods by which a leader or government could employ upon
Germany to help them break their habits of blind obedience toward leader and government.
For example, in his abstract he states that Germans are incapable of criticizing their own boss
because they never learned how to during the time of Nazi Germany. I find that in regards to
a student classroom being analyzed as though it were post-Nazi party Germany, I can find
many parallels can be drawn between the two. In his composition, Kurt states that there are
three aspects on how to change a general culture. In his first point, Lewin points out that a
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culture is not a single solitary being. It is constantly being changed, and there are forces that
either hinder or speed up the flow of this cultural equilibrium, which will never be able to
stop flowing as new ideas come in or out. (Lewin 1943, p558) It is important as a teacher that
we are able to recognize how a certain behavior or cultural capital exist, and once we are able
to identify these parts, we will be able to make a transformation in the student.
The second point Lewin states in this section of his draft is how to properly change the
constellation of forces. In this paragraph, Lewin uses the example of post WWI Germany,
and the Weimar republic. In his example he explains that the removal of only a few
important officials from Prussian Germany government caused somewhat of an outward
change towards a democratic republic for Germany, but the rest of the officials still bitter
about the downfall and loss Germanys loss in WWI causes those feelings to actually
increase the violence and radicalism that we now associate to Nazism today. (Lewin 1943,
559) How I believe this connects to my teaching philosophy works like this: in order for my
students to truly undergo a change in social character, and accomplish the goal of social
reformation (which will be present in any one of my lessons), I need to make sure that the
change runs deep enough to affect the student deeply and profoundly. I cannot be swayed to
believe that I have transformed my students for only one day.
Men of the renaissance would have looked into work like this, even if the subject of
education or political psychology on a mass scale would not normally apply to their own
personal careers. However, this is the point of a renaissance man; the renaissance man is not
a mathematician who decides he wants to learn about Portuguese. The renaissance man is a
citizen who has decided to learn mathematics, Portuguese, psychology, biology, and
philosophy all in the name of becoming a well-rounded and respected individual. In essence,
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Lewins methods on psychology are not specifically meant for psychologists; an educator
should understand many forms and sciences if he wishes to be able to adapt a teaching style
and method that is effective and prepared for any angle of sabotage. (Simpson 2005, pp. 115-
126)
Leadership
Through my experiences in the classroom of Critical Pedagogy II with Dr. Frank
Abrahams, as well as the experiences I gained from teaching young students Tae Kwon Do, I
have learned how a teacher is expected to be a leader in the classroom community. I feel
grounded in the words of Simpson, Jackson, and Aycock, where we merely open the
universe to students and allow them to discover, create, and construct on their own, instead
of making all-powerful, autocratic decisions for the best interest of immature children and
youth. (Simpson 2005, p178) I know too well what the authors meant by these words; we
must not super-impose our knowledge and will unto these children. We must understand that
as a leader we must not take seriously the title of leader. We are given this position as an
honor coming from the students, whom have given their whole trust in us. I believe in order
to show that you are aware of the trust that has been laid between one another, the teacher
should honor their world, or as Dewey states, I believe that, as such simplified social life,
the school life should grow gradually out of the home life; that it should take up and continue
the activities with which the child is already familiar in the home. (Dewey 1897, para. 12) I
believe that in order for effective communication and cohesive teaching to be happening
between teacher and student, the student must be comfortable with what they are learning, or
how they are learning it. In order to bring this level of comfort to the table, a teacher must
allow the students to choose and interact with previous knowledge that they bring into the
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classroom. (Abrahams 2005, p62) In every lesson, Kipp always managed to honor our world,
and bring our interests around home into our German lessons. The context is the most
important part when teaching material to students that will matter to them. If the student is
familiar with the context, then the students should be able to understand the content that will
be delivered to them (McCarthy 2003, p 188). Joan Wink even talks about the importance of
teaching aspects of language in ways kids wish to learn them, in her section working with
Benson City school district in Arizona. Just as Wink decided that is was up to the students to
learn what they wanted to read and write in English (Wink 2011, p33), and just the way Mr.
Matalucci discussed with our class what we wanted to learn how to say in German, I as well
want to establish a lesson plan based around what my students wish to get out of the course.
This is what I wish to achieve with my pedagogical dogma; I want to be able to teach
subjects that the student will find useful every day.
A renaissance man is not only just an experienced academic, but also is a role model to
those that look up to him. The reason I have chosen to become The Teacher as a Renaissance
Man is that I learned long ago that the renaissance man was a leader. In order to become this
man, I need to be a leader, and in order to become a leader, I must be a renaissance man. I
will have many students looking towards me for guidance and knowledge. A renaissance
man was someone who very much influenced those that admired him, so if I am to influence
my students for the better, I must be the finest leader and role model I can be.
Conclusion
Any leader, who wishes to be a good leader, must have a specific set of tools and abilities
before them that aid in their quest to empower their citizens, or in my case, students. In order
for me to be able to broaden the subjects and topics I am able to give to my children, as well
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as adapt to their learning styles, or bring knowledge to the table that will matter to them, I
must have a broad spectrum of tools and tricks of my trade. Through studying the texts of
McCarthy, Wink, Simpson, Jackson, Aycock, and with the help of Lewin to help me dissect
the minds of my students in relation to a cultural capital, I am able to ground some rules as to
what I wish to accomplish with each lesson I bring to my students. The help of my accidental
mentor, Kipp Matalucci, really helped me increase my skills as an educator exponentially,
even before I had decided I would pursue the career professionally at a collegiate level. I do
not know of Mr. Mataluccis endeavors in the world of critical pedagogy, but I would one
day like to reconnect and find out if he knew how well he was teaching.
I once heard a phrase, Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I know that in
regards to critical pedagogy, one should not simply emulate what other past teachers have
done (Simpson 2005, pp. 115-126). I am well aware of the fact that I cannot copy what Herr
Matalucci has done with me as a student, but I know that I can very well expand upon his
methods, as teaching becomes a more radical part of my life. I know that his knowledge in
many different subjects in addition to German has worked well for him; in my collegiate
pursuits, I wish to retrace my steps back to what I learned in high school and expand upon
that knowledge. I know that the information learned in sociology class can very well help me
adapt a lesson to fit the needs of student with a different learning type.

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Reference list
Abrahams, Frank. Transforming Classroom Music Instruction with Ideas from Critical
Pedagogy. Music Educators Journal, Vol. 92, No. 1 (September 2005), pp. 62-67
Dewey, John. My Pedagogic Creed. School Journal, Vol. 54 (January 1897), pp. 77-80
Lewin, Kurt. The Special Case of Germany. The Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 4, The
Occupation of Enemy Territory (Winter, 1943), pp. 555-566
McCarthy, Bernice. (2003). About Teaching 4MAT in the classroom. Wauconda, IL: About
Learning.
Simpson, Douglas J., Michael J.B. Jackson, Judy C. Aycock. John Dewey and the Art of
Teaching Toward Reflective and Imaginative Practice. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage
Publications, 2005.
Wink, Joan. Critical Pedagogy: Notes from the Real World. Fourth Ed. Boston: Pearson
Education, Inc., 2011.