Reflecting on my own primary experience, I can see that it was the educational experience that has had the greatest influence on the person I am today. As a student teacher, I have been reflecting a lot on the formative role I will play in shaping my students, and how this privilege brings a weight of responsibility with it. Higgins says that teaching “might be the expression of one’s personal ambitions and deepest motivations”. I am mindful that it’s not just who I am as a teacher that will affect my students, but who I am as a person.
Role of the teacher
Since my time as a student, the role of a teacher has progressed from being an all-knowing figure at the top of the class. I have grown to appreciate how much students can bring to the educational environment, as long as they’re engaged with in the right manner. As such, I’m interested by Freire’s belief that teachers themselves can be taught by students, through engaging in dialogue. I believe that an integral part of a being good teacher is the ability to continuously learn. With that, I view my role as being that of a co-learner with my students, so that they are empowered to become active learners in their own education.
As a learner I am greatly interested in phronesis. It resonated me when I read Van Manen state that pedagogy is “concerned with the ability to distinguish what is good and what is not good for children". By constantly engaging in reflection and self-evaluation, I hope to grow my sense of good judgement, which I believe is an important skill when dealing with children.
As a teacher, I want to be a facilitator in the development of all my students, by catering to their individual needs. Dewey highlights the importance of this when he says that it’s “not enough that certain materials and methods have proved effective with other individuals at other times.” Every child is unique and will have different needs, and I’m mindful of being adaptable in my approach. By creating a safe and encouraging environment, I can help students to can grow physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. By following this student-centred approach, students and their needs will always be the forefront of what I do.
Great teachers C.A.R.E
Process of learning
There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to learning. Students start on different steps of the ladder and progress at various speeds. Some do it as a marathon instead of a sprint, and I will show patience in supporting all students on their different learning journeys. As such, I have been reflecting on how I will create a learning environment that caters to all students.
Vygotsky says that the environment a child grows up in influences how they think. As such, I am aware of how a child’s context affects their learning process. A child who lacks support from home may have different learning needs to their more supported counterpart. To fully help a child and facilitate their learning, I will consider their background and surroundings, beyond what I see in the classroom.
I really resonate with Piaget’s theory that children are active thinkers, constantly trying to develop their understanding of the world. I believe that children have an innate curiosity and that it can be harnessed to great effect in the learning process. As such, I want to nurture them as little scientists in the world and to encourage them to ask questions, so that they can develop a better understanding.
Goal for students
I firmly believe in embracing the uniqueness of every child and in championing their individuality. The classrooms that helped me reach my full potential were the ones where I felt my voice was heard and valued. With that, I want to create a classroom where students have a sense of belonging.
Childhood is a very formative time in people’s life. As Aristotle said, “Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man.” As a teacher I want my students to develop their own self-identity. They will experience a wide range of subjects and activities, and I’m mindful of guiding them in exploring varied interests, instead funnelling them in a certain direction. Children will naturally develop preferences during their time at school, and my goal is to facilitate them in developing and exploring their unique paths.
In doing this, I will be conscious that students keep an open mind to all parts of the curriculum. From reading Dweck’s research into the impact of mindsets on children’s development, I’m mindful of encouraging growth mindsets in my students. I can remember words said to me during my own time in primary school. They have stuck with me for life, and shaped the perception I have of my abilities.
Creating a classroom environment where a growth mindset is encouraged will help students to see the bigger picture, beyond assessments, and realise that their education is a journey. I believe in the power of ‘yet’, and I hope to incorporate this approach to my classroom, so that students are encouraged to try again if they don’t succeed.
I can see moments in my own school experience where methods or strategies being applied did not fully support my development. As a child, I found it harder than my peers to focus in classrooms where I was required to just sit and listen. With that, I have connected with Freire’s dialogical idea of teaching, one which fosters respectful classroom communication and encourages students to play an active role in their own learning. Ogle’s KWL strategy is a very useful tool in achieving this, by linking students prior knowledge with what they are currently learning.
Arendt states that a primary need of humans is to appear before their peers, and I believe that students are more likely to participate within small groups. I am interested in Vygotsky’s ZPD theory that supports this notion, and I believe in using scaffolding with my students. This can be done by pairing students with more advanced learners, and by providing varying levels of support to students as needed.
To me, being a teacher is much more than delivering a curriculum. It’s about championing students and giving them the necessary to support to reach their full potential. I want to inspire them, motivate them and create a classroom experience that makes them want to come back the next day.
Dewey, J. (1997). Experience and education. New York: Touchstone.
Dweck, C.S. (2008). Mindset : the new psychology of success. New York: Ballantine Books.
Dweck, C. (2014). The power of believing that you can improve. [online] Ted.com. Available at:https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve?language=en#t-96973&gt [Accessed 10 Jun. 2020].
Freire, P. (1972). Pedagogy of the oppressed. London: Sheed & Ward.
Higgins, C. (2011). The good life of teaching : an ethics of professional practice. Malden, Ma: Wiley-Blackwell.
Jeynes, W.H. (2005). Effects of Parental Involvement and Family Structure on the Academic Achievement of Adolescents. Marriage & Family Review, 37(3), pp.99–116.
Maltese, R. (1991). Three Philosophical Pillars That Support Collaborative Learning. The English Journal, 80(5), p.20.
Mcleod, S. (2018). Vygotsky | Simply Psychology. [online] Simplypsychology.org. Available at: https://www.simplypsychology.org/vygotsky.html.
Ogle, D.M. (1986). K-W-L: A Teaching Model That Develops Active Reading of Expository Text. The Reading Teacher, [online] 39(6), pp.564–570. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/20199156 [Accessed 15 Jun. 2020].
Siegler, R.S. and Ellis, S. (1996). Piaget on Childhood. Psychological Science, 7(4), pp.211–215.
Van Manen, M. (2017). The Tact of Teaching: the meaning of pedagogical thoughtfulness. Taylor & Francis Group.
Wood, D., Bruner, J.S. and Ross, G. (1976). THE ROLE OF TUTORING IN PROBLEM SOLVING. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 17(2), pp.89–100.