​​Personal Philosophy of Education

Students often ask, “Mr. Enrique how did you learn to do that?” I’m not sure how, or when it happened, but I have always had a curious mind that led me to do things I had never done before. Whether I was attempting to give my mom’s record player its own power source or making a ramp and riding my bike off it, I went for it with reckless abandon. In both of these examples the result was not in my favor, yet I still learned and grew through the experience. After high school I had the opportunity to attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo whose motto is, “Learn by doing.” At the time I didn't realize how meaningful this was, and more specifically, how well it captured my spirit.  

When I first started teaching I would begin each project by showing students professional examples of what their final work of art would look like, followed by a lesson on the technique(s) required to execute this work. The result was students creating work that looked very similar to the examples and which had very little of them in it. There were also students who immediately shut down because they “couldn't do something like that.” For someone that loves art this was hard to hear. I quickly realized that most of us get to an age where we place so much value on what others will think and compare ourselves in ways that are paralyzing. Because of this, my mentality shifted and I decided that what is most important for my students to learn is confidence. I want my students to experience art in a way that allows them to acknowledge their ideas as valuable, that being creative is not limited to those who can draw or paint, and ultimately that art can be anything!

The Learn By Doing motto is, in my opinion, the greatest strength of our school (High Tech High Chula Vista). Everyday students embark on projects that are designed for them to explore, learn, and grow through the process. To me doing IS what learning is all about. We grow up hearing from adults that tell us how they are wise because of experience. Well, why should the learning of teenagers be any different? Some of the greatest lessons I have ever learned have been those where I failed miserably. None of those experiences included a textbook or a model to follow and although not always pleasant they always had a bright spot in the end. I want my students to be prepared for the unpredictability of life. I want my students to never be afraid and to never compare themselves. My goal is for every single one of my students to embrace the fact that just like their works of art, they are each unique and original. I realize that this is a tall order to fill, but it is what I am most passionate about. I get excited wondering what our world could be like if all students graduated high school knowing that they are who they were meant to be and that they will never stop learning, growing, and evolving unless they choose to. That no one can define them but themselves, and that there are no boundaries to what they can achieve. 

I consider myself a lifelong learner using my past experiences as a guide and embracing new experiences as opportunities for growth. Through my master’s coursework and project, I have learned a lot about teaching practices and teaching philosophies. In thinking about what I do on a daily basis I have come to realize that my personal philosophy of education lies somewhere between Progressivism, Reconstructionism, and Essentialism. I always try to present students with experiences where they get to dive right into the creation of artwork with very little instruction on my part. Students get right to work learning techniques as I help them navigate through their projects. I structure projects that hope to engage students in ways that will provide a deeper meaning, personal connection, and that will serve a purpose beyond an exhibition in our community. My goal for this is to help students realize their place in our community and empower them with the belief that their ideas not only have value but can change the world around them. There is also a traditional side to me which expects students to be respectful, disciplined, and to (at the very least) walk away from my class with a basic set of skills and knowledge that they can apply in the future.

With a clear vision for what I want my students to experience and the educational philosophies to support it, I can truly begin to master my craft. My goal is to structure my classroom in a way that allows my students to learn the skills required to create work that no one has ever seen before. Work that even they never thought they could achieve. Thanks to all the learning that happens at our school, for adults and students alike, I know I will get there. I have an amazing support network of family, friends, and colleagues who encourage and challenge me to improve. That is exactly why I love education: a student can be a teacher and the teacher is often the student, a cycle that mimics real life and allows for us all to grow in unexpected ways. Maybe its less about the skills and more about the mindset. How did I learn to do that? I am not afraid to make mistakes and I see everything around me as a learning opportunity.