“What is your philosophy of education?” For decades now, the question that aspiring educators can count on answering in job interviews is one that asks us about our beliefs. What do we believe about students, about teaching, about education in general? Educators often develop a “stock answer” for this question (much like prepared answers for the old chestnut, “What is your biggest strength and weakness?”). School systems continue to ask that question for an important reason: beliefs drive behavior.

If we believe that public education is a cornerstone of democracy that empowers and educates the electorate, then we’re going to approach diverse groups of learners differently than if we believe that public education should ensure that everyone has basic reading and math skills. If we believe that children are autonomous, intelligent human beings whose talents and skills need nurturing, then we are going to treat them differently than if we believe that they are open vessels waiting to have knowledge and power instilled in them. Beliefs drive behavior.

In the first of Jim’s series of videos on the Partnership Principles, you’ll discover how our beliefs about teachers, coaches, and students drive our approach to instructional coaching. In this first clip, Jim describes how the seed for the Partnership Principles was planted in a college course titled, yes, Philosophy of Education. He explains how his philosophy developed over the years and led to the creation of our approach in his first books on coaching.

Each week, we’ll post a video of Jim discussing each Partnership Principle and how it affects professional interactions. What we’ve found as we present workshops on coaching all over the world is that understanding the philosophy behind our coaching model fosters a deeper understanding of the model itself. The more we treat participants as partners, the more engaged we all are and the more we all learn. When coaches treat teachers as partners, the more engaged they both are and the more they both learn about students and instruction.

When I first searched for teaching jobs back in 1989, I had a stock answer for the “What is your philosophy of education?” question. It was lofty and theoretical and grounded more on my hopes for the future than on any real experience or deep understanding. As I’ve learned more about teaching and about human beings over the years, that philosophy has remained fundamentally the same, with perhaps a few bullet points added in here or there. At times, when I have been overwhelmed by or even lost in the challenging world of education, my beliefs have brought me back to who I am, to what I want to do with my life.

“Philosophy” can seem other-worldy or “touchy-feely” or, at best, not pragmatic. It is, in fact, the opposite. We can trace how we interact with students, teachers, and leaders directly back to what we believe about the world and how we think it should work. Digging in deep on those beliefs can help to keep educators focused and happy in our work.

What is your philosophy of education? How might the Partnership Principles play a role in it?