My Final Thoughts

EDS 111 has afforded me with deeper understanding and respect for teachers and the teaching profession. I have always regarded teachers as noble and considered teaching as very challenging, yet highly rewarding. This has been validated if not enhanced after doing the course. Teaching demands a lot of hard work, patience, perseverance, compassion and a whole lot of gusto from the teachers to ensure that their students are getting the most out of their time at school and are ensured a brighter future. As teachers, we are expected to help our students not just with their academic life, but also in their overall wellbeing. We have to make sure that our students are happy and healthy, that they feel safe, valued and supported. We also have to make sure that they are well prepared for the challenges that they may face in real life outside the classroom. As discussed in the modules, teaching entails many roles for teachers. We are also our students’ mentors, counselors, trainers. We are also co-parenting our students and ensuring that we are not only meeting their school needs, but also their needs as a whole child. With other professions, responsibilities do not necessarily extend to people’s personal lives outside their office or workplace. But for teachers, especially those who are committed to their students and their profession, we are more than willing to reach out to our students outside school. For teachers, we never stop learning with and for our students. In order to prepare them for the future, we have to know or get an idea of what the future entails and what is needed to thrive and be successful.

As I went through the modules of the course, I could not help but take the things I read personally. I constantly refer back to the way I dealt with my students in the past and the way I viewed teaching and learning. Did I really help my students reach their potential? Did I, or, do I know my students well enough to teach them the way they needed to be taught? It may sound like I am focusing more on myself but by questioning my own understanding, my own abilities to teach, it may provide me with significant information or revelations that will benefit my students.

What I learned from the course is that in order to improve or cause more positive impact on my students’ learning, I have to know what I don’t know about my students, about the subject I am teaching, about my school, about myself and my profession. In order to provide for my students’ learning needs, I need to identify those needs and establish a strong foundation of knowledge and awareness of what I can do to address those needs and who or what can help me and the resources available to me as well as my students. The principles I learned from the course are founded by research and practice. If I learn to fit these principles within my own classroom and with respect to my students, I may be well on my way to facilitating my students’ learning progress and success. The key is being creative and carefully selecting suitable teaching strategies and principles befitting my students’ needs. My own commitment and initiative to learn more about how I can teach effectively and creatively also plays a significant part in my role as a teacher.

After learning all the effective principles of teaching from the modules and learning from the experiences and ideas of my classmates, I now hope to become the teacher that values my students’ dreams and ambitions and their own unique talents and skills. I hope I am able to help my students fulfill their learning needs. With the principles that I have learned, I really hope to motivate my students to love learning, to love school, and build great relationships with their teachers and their classmates, develop confidence in their own abilities and creativity, and to be self-efficacious. I am well aware that in order to do this, I will have to actively practice what I have learned from the course as well as develop my own creative ways of teaching that will suit and cater to the needs of my students. I aspire to give enough appropriate opportunities for my students to showcase their knowledge and understanding and challenge them enough to keep them invigorated and engaged in their learning.  I definitely abide to the realization that I do not impart knowledge to my students but rather facilitate and guide them in constructing their own meanings and understanding of concepts and knowledge. I will encourage them to ask questions, to think out of the box, and to actively challenge and test their own understanding. I am also personally motivated to utilize what I have learned from the course especially the integration of the knowledge basis, to keep up with the demands of teaching and learning in our present generation, to continue learning and growing professionally through CPDs and PLC, and to uphold teacher professionalism.

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Principles of Effective Teaching

Module 6 was all about teachers’ creativity in their lesson activities and teaching methodologies, and teachers teaching and cultivating creativity in their students. I was personally intrigued by some teachers’ notion of fun lessons as less productive in producing student learning. I believe the opposite. As a student, I found that concepts that were introduced to me in an interesting and fun manner were the ones that I learned quickly and thoroughly with less effort. People in general like having fun so for teachers who are able to make learning fun and make it seems less of a task, it is very impressive and commendable. I firmly believe that, sometimes, it is not the actual lessons or activities that help students learn, it is the delivery of these lessons or activities that impact student learning more.  For me, effective teaching is not just about  adherence to teaching principles that other teachers vouch for or principles advocated by research, it is about finding the most effective ways of making these principles work for your own specific students or classroom context. This is what teacher creativity is for me. Consequently, in the process of making existing principles and methods of teaching work for your specific students, teachers end up generating new and innovative ideas along the way.

While doing the module, I had to admit that I shared the thought that one of the most difficult things that teachers have to face is the challenge of meeting each and every student’s learning needs. Most classrooms comprise learners with different capabilities, varying learning preferences, different backgrounds and upbringing, and diverse cultural, ethnical, and racial framework. In the previous modules, in fact, it was acknowledged that it is impossible to meet all students’ needs all the time. My understanding of it now is that teachers need to be creative in delivering their lessons to ensure that for every type of lesson activity, some if not most of the students’ needs are met. If teachers manage to incorporate a few activities catering to different needs of the students, then it is highly likely that they get to address all of their students’ needs. Not done at once, not right away, but through a series of attempts. Diverse learners call for diverse and differentiated teaching and learning opportunities. In light of this, students seeing and observing teachers making mistakes, taking risks, ‘having a go’ at making or doing something new learn and develop creativity in them. They are also empowered to take risks and be different, and find their own ways of solving problems, of showing their understanding of concepts, or to simply express themselves that is truly, uniquely their own.

Continuous Professional Development and Professional Learning Communities

When I first started working at my school, we had a 2 day INSET. I hadn’t heard of it before and I had no idea what it was and why it was needed. On the first day, we had sessions with a hired speaker about creating communication friendly spaces. Her creations (shown in pictures) were remarkable and inspirational. Unfortunately, for a beginner like me, it made me feel quite anxious as I thought I was not skilled enough to create something as inviting as the examples. To start with, I am not blessed with artistic talents and I also prefer a minimalist, rather than a very artistic, style. The speaker did, however, pointed out that if we look at a space from the perspective of the children, we would get insights on what could be comfortable yet exciting for the children and create something that will encourage student interaction, creativity and development.

The module about professional development emphasized how teachers are lifelong learners and the importance of knowing what we don’t know and then doing something about it. Looking back at my initial reaction to the creating communication friendly spaces training session, the reason I felt apprehensive about creating these spaces was the fact that I hadn’t had any experience doing it before and it forced me out of my comfort zone. Instead of welcoming the speaker’s ideas as helpful advice and useful execution tips, I looked at it as a standard that I was expected to meet. In my mind, I had to be as good as the speaker right away which of course, as I know now, was too ambitious on my part. Learning is gradual; gaining mastery in something takes time and effort, and a lot of practice. Also, I had my colleagues to help me make our classroom a conducive environment for learning.  That is the beauty of being part of a team!

In the last three years, I have participated in a number of workshops and training sessions that the school provided for us. I am now able to appreciate the school’s effort in making sure that we are all at our best, not just for the school’s benefit but for our students. Teachers must never stop looking for opportunities to learn, whether it is learning something new altogether or learning more about what we already know and discovering fresh and original ideas or ways of doing things. As mentioned in the resources, teachers are humbled by knowing that we really don’t know everything and that there is still so much to learn. There will always be something new to learn. Only those who are humble enough to acknowledge and accept this are able to do something about it, be it by research or by formal studies. Another significant aide in teachers’ learning is collegial collaboration. As the saying goes, ‘No man is an island.’ Even the best teachers or the smartest people need help from time to time. We can also learn from the experiences of our colleagues, their views, and together we may conceive better ideas or alternatives. All we really need is our willingness and the motivation to learn to realize that there are so many ways to develop and improve ourselves.

Teaching Perspectives and Approaches

Teachers’ views on teaching and learning certainly correlate with the ways they operate in the classroom. As teachers, what we deem important and valuable to students’ learning is often evident in our preferred teaching approaches, our enabling activities, and even in our relationships with our students. If a teacher has a vague and unfounded understanding of what constitutes effective teaching and learning, then that teacher will be swimming in a lot of ‘buts’ and is likely to blame others or external factors in their missteps instead of accepting the fact that they were ill-informed and incompetent.

Even with the surge of new ideas regarding the most effective ways of teaching and what teachers should be doing in their classrooms or how they should go about their profession, we still find ourselves lost and unsure of our effect as mentors. There is now a wide range of theories of learning that are at best effective and well researched, but we still have those moments of doubt that can result in frustration or defeat. Perhaps the problem does not lie in those theories or even in our methods, but in us. If these approaches have been proven effective and well researched, then why do we still have these problems? It is possible that it is because we are not using these theories and methods appropriately. Like most things, there is a time and place for everything.  As suggested in the module, teachers have to assume the role that is most needed in certain situations at a given time (I will revisit this point later in my journal). It is the same with the teaching approaches that we should be using in our classrooms. Just because an approach worked once doesn’t mean it is going to work all the time and in every instance. In the few years that I have been in the teaching field, I have had experiences with using a method that worked for me once or a few times with a certain group. I did a structured activity that was quite successful with my students last year. For our topic about pairs, we played an outdoor game where we removed one of each child’s shoes and hid them in the play area. The children had to explore the play area to find and match their missing shoe. However when I did it with our current group this year, it did not go according to planned. Although they recognized their own shoes, they were easily distracted by the toys in the playground. As soon as I let the children stand up to go look for their shoes they went straight to the slide, or the boat, or the balancing beam. I spent a lot of time redirecting their attention, but the activity still was not working well. Eventually, I gave up and led the children back to the room. This may be a simple example, but it still shows how one type of approach, an enabling activity, does not necessarily work the same way with different groups of children. It is important to reflect on why this activity did not work well with the second group of students. I thought that the game was a good way to get them to understand the concept of pairs but I failed to consider the students’ maturity, their ability to follow instructions and to stay focused. Back then, I had the ‘it worked then, why not now’ mentality.

As mentioned earlier, the module also talked about the different roles that teachers play in their students’ learning. When I was younger and did not have any teaching experience, I also thought that teachers were the experts and students had to learn the knowledge and skills that the teachers presented in class. This is a very traditional view of teaching. In contrast to that belief, I now view teachers as facilitators of learning. We do not give knowledge, but rather guide our students to develop that knowledge; we facilitate the development of knowledge. This shows how important it is for teachers to identify what their students already know so they can decide how best to develop that knowledge further. If teachers fail to do this, it may result in disengaged and demotivated students instead of creating an environment that gets students interested and involved. In retrospect, I probably found teachers in the past boring because they spoon-fed us and they did not challenge, motivate and engage me enough. They failed to inspire me to question their statements, to experiment, to find other ways of doing things, to rouse an interest to make learning my own. I remember feeling embarrassed about making mistakes or voicing my opinion on concepts and ideas in class. I would not want to put any of my students in that position. I would love to be viewed by my students as their mentor, their inspiration to actively seek knowledge, to love to learn. In my opinion, that may be the best role I could play for my students.

My Perspectives on Teaching and Learning

I would describe my perspective on teaching and learning as holistic and developmental. I have always believed that teaching is not only focused on the acquisition of knowledge and skills but also on the development of the child’s overall well-being. Although I believe that teaching requires commitment to the content, a skill or concept, I also maintain that teaching involves building a trusting and supportive relationship between the teacher and the students. Teaching should not only be concerned about academic achievement, but also the welfare of the students.  I believe that my perspective is developmental because I am actively working on developing my students’ thinking and reasoning skills. I also consider my perspective holistic because I aim to enhance my students’ abilities in the different areas of learning and development. It is indeed very reassuring to learn that my own conceptions are aligned with current and advised ideas in teaching and learning, but I also acknowledge that my conceptions may have been influenced by my current school’s learning community, our curriculum, the leadership style and the school’s philosophy.

My perspectives on teaching and learning have not changed after reading the resources in this module, but rather it has been enhanced. Unknowingly, I have been using some of the concepts discussed in the module resources which are based in theoretical research. I am even more inclined to keep doing what I have been doing and to stay proactive in searching for better ways of teaching my students in order to present active and effective learning opportunities. Amongst all the contemporary perspectives and approaches discussed in the module, the idea of learning as active engagement has the most relevance to me. I always encourage my students to investigate, to be curious, to take risks and create something based around their own understanding of an object or a concept and from their own imagination. I want my students to engage with their environment, the resources and with each other. I believe that our students must be allowed to construct their own understanding of their encounters, exploration and discovery. The teachers are there to gently guide the growth of the students’ understanding, to make accurate translations, definitions, explanations and presentation of both cognitive and affective concepts in a way which encourages students to be critical of these concepts. Then again, I also know that this approach may not work with all of my students all the time. Different approaches work in certain situations, sometimes exclusively and sometimes combined. Constant reflection, student observation and assessment as well as awareness of students’ responses to my chosen approach will help me ensure that I assume the role and employ specific designs that my students need at any phase of their learning.  Overall, attention to students’ needs and learning goals will guide me in providing my students the most appropriate and effective learning moments.

Knowledge Base of Teaching

“Good teachers are the reason why ordinary students dream extraordinary things to do.” – WishesMessages.com

This quote sums up the challenges that teachers face in their profession. We don’t teach so students can pass tests but so they can do something great or make a difference in their lives and the lives of others. As teachers, we can only hope that the learning that we work so hard to guide our students through will be enough to help them reach this goal them.

I had a teacher in high school who was obviously very smart and very knowledgeable about her subject, physics, but most of us in the class found her lessons to be too difficult. We just thought that she took pleasure in seeing us all fail. We complained to the school and eventually our principal moved her to a higher grade. It is only now that I have some understanding of teaching and learning that I realized that she probably did not want us to fail, she simply did not know how to teach us. Just because a teacher has wide and in depth content knowledge doesn’t guarantee that they can teach it well to a class of students. As mentioned in the module, teaching is a complex profession that requires constant development of skills and reflection and evaluation of events involving our students.

As teachers, we need to be aware of all the important details and information that can contribute to our success or our failure. Our knowledge bases are our foundation and we must maintain this base to remain strong and effective. If our foundations are weak, inaccurate or insufficient, we may crumble and fall short in serving our purpose at our students’ expense. For every decision we make, it should be backed and assessed according to our specific educational context. What do we need to teach and attain, how can we teach content in different ways, who are our learners, what resources are available to both us and our students, what’s our environment like and how it may affect our teaching and the students’ learning, who can help us and how they can help us: we must learn to integrate and use all these critical factors to become effective teachers. This learning, this questioning does not stop and does not end. We may already be doing commendable jobs, but we should endeavor to find even better ways of educating our learners. It’s the constant cycle of teaching and learning.

 

Reference:

Shulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and Teaching: Foundations of the New Reform. Retrieved from: https://people.ucsc.edu/~ktellez/shulman.pdf

 

 

 

Teacher Professionalism

Professionalism is a broad concept that not one definition perfectly describes it. It is also open to interpretations from both professionals and non-professionals alike. My previous definition of teacher professionalism may be more similar to the traditional definitions. I viewed professional teachers as those who have undergone required years of study to obtain necessary knowledge and skills for teaching and that they are paid for their practice. After reading the resources in the module however, the way I view teacher professionalism has changed. I found myself agreeing to all of the definitions and arguments presented in the readings, and I now bear the sentiments of why we still need to debate about teacher professionalism. Amongst all the varied definitions, there seems to be only one thing that people consider to be a point for debate; teacher autonomy. Yes, school teachers are regulated by a higher body of authority and they are compelled to meet standards, fulfill or carry out mandated curriculums, standardized tests amongst other things, but when it comes to their classrooms, they are their own authority. They teach the way they feel works best for their particular set of students. Teachers set the pace; students sometimes set the pace of their own learning. The state mandated curriculum may set the destination or the target, but teachers pave the way for students to get there. Teachers work as hard as other professionals, they strive to uphold their status in the society, teachers sometimes even sacrifice their personal lives just to make sure that their students reach their potential. Indeed, module 2 stirred the aspiration of promoting a reform to allow teachers to participate in curriculum development at the state level (they hopefully do already). Or better yet, give schools more control and responsibility in developing and implementing their own curriculum where school administrators, together with class teachers and other school personnel such as guidance counselors, all work together in planning a holistic curriculum that accommodate the needs of their specific learning environment.

According to ATL-The Education Union (2012), teacher professionalism is based on six principles.

  1. The teaching profession is a learning profession, continually developing deep knowledge of:

– learning

– how the brain works

– subjects and the relationships between them

– pupils, as individuals, and their interests

– the broader context (political, economic, technological, social, cultural and environmental)

2. Teachers’ professional role is based on care for pupils and responsibility for their learning. As part of that, teachers need to build relationships with pupils, families, communities and other professionals.

3. The teaching profession draws on theoretical understanding and knowledge in order to adapt teaching practices and methods to pupil need.

4. Teacher professionalism is about exercising judgment on curriculum, assessment and pedagogy.

5. Teachers have to balance their own professional values against their responsibilities to the organizations in which they work. Further, there has to be a balance between teacher autonomy and appropriate accountability measures prescribed by government.

6. Teachers have a responsibility to debate education practice.

In my opinion, these guiding principles are a simpler but detailed notion of teacher professionalism. Compared to my previous understanding of what teacher professionalism was, this is more in depth and covers all areas of what it means to be a teacher. The definitions provided by the authors in the resources struck me as bullet points standards that are set by others, whereas these principles sound like it is understood by the person (teacher) and he is telling/reminding himself of what he should be doing and what is expected of him as a teacher, an understanding and a desire that comes from within. Now, for me, teacher professionalism means being able to perform and abide to these principles. I certainly hope that I could live by these principles as a teacher in the future, not just so I could be what others think I should be, but for myself and for the sake of my students.

 

 

Resource:

ATL-The Education Union (2012). Teacher Professionalism

Retrieved from: https://www.atl.org.uk/Images/Teacher%20professionalism%20-%20April%202012.pdf