Teaching is an essential and noble profession. Next to parents, teachers are arguably the most foundational element in our society. As they say, from teachers comes all other professions. Philosophy is the window and compass of a teacher in his profession. It becomes his opening to every opportunity so he could identify every existence of learners and make it a guide in imparting his knowledge towards the students. It is widely believed that a good educator is capable of adapting to changes through times and does what is relevant to the development of the person. The western schools of thought have had a tremendous influence in the current educational climate in our modern times, Essentialism and Existentialism are two to name a few. In a classroom that focuses on respect, high standards, and mastery of skills, their attention is on the philosophy of essentialism. Personally, I think that it is important for students to learn the critical, basic knowledge they need to know in a structured environment. An emphasis should be placed on the basic subjects and that students master these basics before moving on to harder more complex things. Knowing the basics serves as strong foundation of knowledge that will allow the students to learn the more complex concepts with ease. Essentialism, in my perspective, is a practical philosophy that should be applied in every classroom. Essentialism is a relatively conservative stance to education that strives to teach students the knowledge of a society and civilization through a core curriculum. In this particular school of thought, the aim is to instill students with the ‘essentials’ of academic knowledge, enacting a rather ‘back-to-basics’ approach. This philosophy ensures that the accumulated wisdom of our civilization as taught in the traditional academic disciplines is passed on from teachers to students. Essentialists believed that children should learn the traditional basic subjects thoroughly with the goal of preparing students to be productive, contributing members of the society and to teach essentials to be able to live well in our modern world. Arguably one of the most typically enacted educational philosophy in the United States today, there are enough tenets in this philosophy that is rather compelling in my view. The philosophy of essentialism has many advantages that help better the students. Because of the focus on learning subjects in a rather rigorous and thorough approach, students are taught the value of perseverance and persistence. Students are taught to be disciplined in completing their projects or assignments. These attributes, I believe, are especially useful in their adult life. Students therefore learn the importance of completing their assigned tasks, to persevere despite difficulties ahead – to persist in their ideals even if everyone believes otherwise. As a professional nurse, having such attributes are a tremendous importance. Our eight or twelve-hour shifts are oftentimes not rainbows and butterflies. In these moments, I am guided by the importance of accomplishing my tasks at before my shift ends. Any delays meant that the patient’s treatment of care will be affected; and sometimes it can lead to fatal consequences. I persevere despite the difficult shift because I know that life depends on me – that yes, my shift maybe a chaos, but the more my patients are feeling at the moment. They maybe in pain, unable to breathe properly, grieving, feeling doomed and all sorts of emotions but they rely on the nurses to care for them in these vulnerable times. No to be sentimental, but most often than not, we prioritize our patients before our own personal needs. We don’t eat on time, hold our bladders to the brim, stand for countless hours, and cover distances from all the walking we need to do. Such values, essentialism brings to the table. The essentialist classroom focuses on the individual mastery of each student. No matter what the student’s ability, each student will have a core curriculum at a mastery level before moving on to new subjects. Essentialism in nursing education, or at least in my university, is common. The concept of mastery of the basic subjects before moving to the more complex ones are evident. During my first year in the university, we were only given the ‘general education’ courses. We do not have any health subjects. Nursing subjects are only introduced at the end of our sophomore year when we had the very basic – NCM 100: Foundations of Nursing Practice. NCM stands for Nursing Care Management, which is the course code for all major nursing subjects in my university. We then progress to studying anatomy and physiology, to pharmacology, to the different illnesses across the life span and its treatment. And on our final year, we had Nursing Leadership, Management and Jurisprudence. In my view, this approach is essential in nursing education – something that was imparted to me by my older brother who took up the same course. He told me before I started my first major course: “master the basics, Fundamentals of Nursing and Anatomy and Physiology, the rest will be easy”. An advice I followed with zeal. True enough, I found my university days as rather enjoyable instead of dreadful. All because I understood the concepts from the start. It all made sense: understanding anatomy and physiology – the normal functions of the human organ systems made understanding the deviations from normal easier. These deviations are of course the different illnesses. Once I learned how the body works, it is easier to identify what’s wrong with it. And from the understanding of the fundamental practices in caring for the patients, the easier it is to go to the more complex care. Imagine studying the multitude of disorders, illnesses and diseases without first understanding the concepts of how the normal and healthy human body functions; it is like asking a three year old to write a sentence in cursive without him knowing the ABCs. A similar theory in nursing comes to mind, which is by far my favorite – From Novice to Expert: Excellence and Power in Clinical Nursing by Dr. Patricia Benner. This theory posited that in the acquisition and development of a skill, nurses pass through five levels of proficiency: novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, and expert. Dr. Benner’s model is one of the most useful frameworks for assessing nurses’ needs at different stages of professional growth. Her theory proposes that expert nurses develop skills and understanding of patient care over time through a proper educational background and multitude of experiences. The theoretical framework of this theory is a ladder where the novice nurse is at the bottom and the expert nurse on top. To be an expert, the nurse needs to possess all the knowledge, skills and attitude from all the different levels. The philosophy of essentialism has close similarities – it teaches the basic subjects and allows the students to learn them at a mastery level, only then are they allowed to move forward. I believe that mastery of the core basic subjects as essential, without which, students will struggle in the higher level courses. One of the striking features of Essentialism, at least in my book, is the recognition that the immature student requires the guidance of a well-educated, caring, an cultured teacher. Essentialists believed that teachers are student’s role models – both intellectually and morally. Respect is especially very important in the essentialist’s classroom. This sort of environment causes students to learn on how to be well-behaved, since this philosophy has high expectations for excellent behavior. They try to implement traditional morals and qualities such as respect for authority, determination, loyalty, and consideration for others, to name a few. This element of essentialism is especially close to my core, as the primary reason I am inclined with nursing education is because of my clinical instructors. Early on in my student days, I realized how much I impact my clinical instructors were to me. I revered their wisdom, their calm, their decisiveness and their knowledge and grasp of the profession. Early in my training days that I have told myself how one day I will be like them – a nurse educator in my own right. I took those inspiration to better myself – to study hard, and acquire the needed skills expected of me. When I finally graduated and passed the licensure exams for nurses, I aimed at becoming a registered midwife as well. All the while taking my post graduate degree. All because my university only accepts Clinical Instructors with such qualifications. I took one of the most distanced major in nursing – Mental Health and Psychiatry. But I did not stop there, I endeavored to have a good clinical background by gaining experience and working in the hospital. In my mind, R.A. 9173, otherwise known as the Philippine Nursing Law of 2002 mandates that clinical instructors need to have at least one year of professional nursing experience to be qualified, aside from the educational background. I have not been in the academe yet. However, my clinical experience and my educational achievements have led me in the clinical education both local and overseas – something I realized that I enjoy even more. And because of this, I decided to even further my knowledge-base and credibility by taking doctorate degree. All these were fueled by my reverence to my college professors and clinical instructors. If not for their inspiration, I will not be where I am now. Though Essentialism has flaws and may be challenging to some educators, I must say that it still has several great uses an advantages. If children were able to master the basics and build their moral and character, they will have the tools needed to establish themselves in their future lives and careers. Aspects of essentialism, I still believe, should be implemented in the classroom – more so in nursing education. Perhaps a philosophy that directly negates Essentialism is another western philosophy: Existentialism. The tenet of this philosophy can be summed up by a quote from one famous existentialist, Jean-Paul Sartre, “man is nothing else but what he makes of himself”. Existentialism is a philosophy that stresses on individualism and self-fulfillment. It is a philosophical approach that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent, determining their own developmentthrough acts of the will.
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