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Teaching is an extraordinary career that requires love, respect and dedication and good teachers would always want to bring big changes in children's lives. So as educators we need to be equipped with discipline, skills, and develop new ideas and techniques and evolve with changing ideologies to enhance children's learning who would constantly need motivation and support. Teachers seeking life-long learning must acknowledge and adopt change to improve practice (Vossler, Waitere-Ang, & Adams, 2005). As we go through life, it is essential that we learn who we are, and have the ability to recognise and grow from our own personal strengths and weaknesses. Knowing what we are good at and what we are weak in is the only way we can truly grow as individuals. This knowledge helps us to accomplish the goals we set for ourselves in life. Drawing on a range of literature below are my reflections which state my emerging philosophy of teaching and learning supported by artefacts from my teaching experiences along with the gaps in my teaching practice and my action plan on how I would address these gaps.
To me children are unique, competent and confident learners like sailors who explore the sea which can be compared to a multi-literate and bi-cultural environment that provides endless opportunities. The teacher's role in my metaphor is like a guide who works in partnership with parents to follow the children's interests. I strongly believe the relationships between the child, teacher and parent is a key factor which brings out the potential, creativity and thinking of child. The teacher as a guide celebrates the diversity of learning children bring from their worlds as travellers due to various dispositions. As a guide the teacher creates wealth of wonderful learning opportunities or highlights natural opportunities that arise. As a learner, a teacher engages in enquires created by children with children - in both roles teacher will view children's enquires as valuable, inspire innovative thoughts, provoke wonderment and act as a compassionate being. Both the teacher's and the child's role is based on the concept of Ako where they teach as well as learn together. The relationship between the teacher and the learner is based on trust and the role of the teacher is to build positive, respectful and responsive relationship with the children and their families and work collaboratively and take multiple perspectives into view. The teacher as a guide observes, assists, suggests and when things are going well fade into the corners of the classroom since the learners as sailors know their destination.
As a guide the teacher provides right level of challenges for children to explore but at the same time takes care of their safety aspects. The children's roles as sailors involve taking the lead and explore the world through all their senses. In my metaphor children are active learners who look forward for learning experiences which value their interest and use their language and reasoning for various purposes. Children are empowered to share their interest and culture with others and recognise themselves as competent and confident learners.
The teachers should act as positive role models and make sure the expectation of children's journey is meaningful, exciting and authentic. The students will see themselves reflected on this journey and come up with questions on this journey and both teachers and students will have the power to help them find the answers.
How my personal educational experiences influenced my metaphor
As a student I was influenced by the lectures of my mentors and through content knowledge and researches I became aware of how vital it is for teachers to provide a stimulating and safe environment where children's interest can be followed and sustained. I understood how social constructivist theories underpin much of early childhood pedagogy and the importance of developing the multi-literacy skills of children for which as educators we need to reconsider a methodology and context for children's learning.
My Lecturers imparted me with the importance of providing rich art programmes to enrich the optimal learning opportunities. As a teacher from my perspective visual images are powerful form of communication since we live in multiple communities. So during my TE I set up aesthetically pleasing environment by pinning up paintings representing the diverse cultures of my classroom which stimulated the children to explore and observe the work of their peers and this encouraged social interaction among children. Teachers should expose children to multiple opportunities and support them in their preferred activities (Young-Loveridge, Peters & Carr, 1997)
I was able to support children's literacy learning by identifying their personal preferences. During both my Teaching Experiences I communicated with parents personally and also through letters requesting them to identify their children's favourite stories and songs and bring it to class for sharing it with others which involved parent participation. I also made sure I was totally aware of the intrinsic details of my culture before addressing the cultural literacy needs of my learners which I feel is very crucial. I learnt to correctly pronounce Karakia from Maori children and their parents which reflects the concept of Ako in my metaphor. During my first Teaching Experience a toddler James showed great interest in reading his favourite book which had the picture of Mama and his baby sloth. I encouraged and reinforced his interest by rereading his favourite book whenever he wanted me to and engaged spontaneous conversations with him to build positive relationships. I understood James had demonstrated strong confidence in me and trusted that I would read his book whenever he needed. I also did a research about why he was so attached to this book by talking with my Associated Teacher and his parent and found out this was due to the arrival of his new baby brother. I found children are fond of creating their own interpretations based from their experiences. All these experiences had an overall impact on my metaphor of teaching.
What does it take to be a good teacher?
I believe the following qualities shape up a good teacher.
A good teacher has to be passionate about his job. The teachers should view all children as confident, competent learners in multi-literate and bi-cultural environments and celebrate the diversity of learning children bring from their worlds. A teacher needs to have positive, respectful, responsive relationships and interactions with their learners and families and find out the multiple perspectives. Good teachers would be caring, empathetic and connect at personal level with the children and show genuine interest in their world. "Good teachers are universally identified by students as those who care" (Day, 2009, p.5). Teachers should value the notion of partnership and work cooperatively and collaboratively with parents and colleagues to enhance and enrich children's interest and critical thinking. "Teachers need to establish positive relationships based on courtesy, mutual trust and open communication with parents/families and need to work cooperatively, share expertise and knowledge with colleagues" (Groundwater-Smith, Ewing & Le Cornu, 2007, p. 334).
Good teaches should role model good behaviour, show warmth, enthusiasm and be more resilient. Teachers have an awareness of the social and cultural experiences of their learners and create concrete learning experiences by providing a stimulating environment to make children's learning explicit. Teachers should effectively evaluate, assess children's learning, provide useful feedbacks and highlight the positive side of the learners and share it with parents. More importantly teachers need to listen to their learners and acknowledge them at all times to encourage and motivate them. "Teachers can make visible the children's learning processes and their own teaching practices as they interact and listen to children" (Taguchi, 2006, p. 262). Good teachers will have high expectations for their learners and will take an inclusive approach and critically reflect on their learning. "Having high expectations of learners and having a well informed plan of action is also important" (Ball, Russell & Smales, 2005, p. 290).
What kind of environments enhance student learning?
I believe we should provide a nurturing and stimulating environment for the children to have a sense of belonging and enhance their prior learning to make connections and facilitate social interactions with peers. The environment should empower them by providing opportunities to explore for holistic development. As educators I believe the environment should value children's ideas and contributions and support their dispositions. The resources should support children's needs and learning. The children should be seen as active learners and equal opportunities should be provided for all students. "Teachers will need to develop inclusive approaches and a classroom environment where all children are valued as individuals in which there are high expectations for all" (Smith, 2008, p. 50). Overall the environment should facilitate activities based on children's interest and teachers should consider the social aspects which promote children's learning to develop a love of learning and attention to make them lifelong learners. "It is vital when thinking about the learning environments teachers must also consider the social aspects that contribute to the learning process" (Perry, 2004, p. 101).
What part should family and whanau play in students' learning?
Parents should work in partnership with teachers in evaluating the curriculum and provide concrete feedbacks and share their aspirations, expectations and perspectives for their children. Parents should provide information about their child's interests, experiences and prior knowledge and take part in the assessment. "Families should be a part of the assessment and evaluation of the curriculum as well as of children's learning and development" (Ministry of Education, 1996, p.30). Parents should encourage and motivate their child's dispositions by extending it in home settings and have responsive relationships and interactions with teachers to foster their children's learning. From my perspective parents should encourage their child to share their language, culture and interest in school. "The knowledge and expertise of the children and whanau is recognised and they are encouraged to contribute these" (Thornton, 2010, p. 5)
What does bi-culturalism mean to you as teacher?
To me as a teacher bi-culturalism is to value Maori language, culture and knowledge in order to provide equal opportunities for Maori children to achieve success and for these teachers should have reciprocal interactions and relations with their learners and whanau.
Bi-culturalism is to recognise both the partners of treaty of Waitangi equally and acknowledge Maoris as Tangata whenua and treat them with respect. Teachers should acknowledge and embrace Maori knowledge, language, culture and values in their practice by ensuring equal opportunities to Maori children. They should understand Maori ways of teaching, power sharing and seek Maori contributions and have reciprocal relationships with Maori children and whanau. The Kaupapa Maori approach requires that educators not stand back as aloof but involve themselves enthusiastically in the process and the celebration of learning and success (Rameka, 2007, p. 135).
My own values and beliefs
To me my values and beliefs are deeply held convictions which guide my behaviours and decisions and I see them as components of a life of integrity. I accumulated my values and beliefs from childhood based on teachings and observations of my family, teachers and other influential people.
To respect, recognise and appreciate other cultures along with reciprocal interactions and relationships with other people are some of the values I ingrained from the people of my land. I believe my ancestral land gave our family an identity which gave me a sense of belonging. Similarly I believe that my learners should relate to their place in order to build effective relationships and to know who they are. Dewey says that the child is isolated if its interest is not connected with his place (Smith, 2002). I also believe that each learner has an innate capacity to learn.
How my values and beliefs have been affirmed
During my Teaching Practice through my reciprocal interactions I was able to gain the confidence of children, families and colleagues and this helped me in having positive relationships with them and by confidently using Te reo I was able to connect myself with the Maori children and their families through which they felt valued. I was able to provide concrete learning experiences for my learners using Place Based Education which stressed the importance of their place and I believe they were empowered and gained a sense of belonging. Place Based Education challenges all educators to think about how the exploration of places can become part of how curriculum is organised and conceived (Gruenewald, 2003, p. 8). So from my practical teaching experiences my own values and beliefs were affirmed.
How one of my values and beliefs has been challenged
Having studied in India where the learning environment was teacher directed and fixed curriculum was followed, as learners we believed that we need to follow our teachers in contrast to the New Zealand early childhood curriculum where we follow children's interest. Initially it was quite challenging to achieve the balance between child initiated and teacher initiated activities.
How they have changed
Now I personally believe being a teacher I belong to the learners' environment. So during my Teaching Experiences when I followed the children's interest I was able to enrich and extend children's every day learning experiences. As Bishop & Glynn (1999, p. 132) recommend our education should be child- or learner-centred, wherein students should learn to think for themselves and become independent learners. I practically found one strategy will not work for everybody and as a teacher by applying multiple strategies I was able to meet the individual needs of each learners and was able to facilitate learning experiences where children were able to make more of self discovery. This I believe helped in providing children with optimal learning experiences. By understanding each and every child in my centre I was able to connect well with them and support them in creating their own interpretations based from their experiences. This helped me in achieving a balance between child initiated and teacher initiated activities.
Below are my artefacts which support my emerging philosophy of teaching and learning in action.
My first artefact is feedbacks from parents in the form of email and letter.
daksha chettiar to me
How are you and your family?
Meera is well organised and very efficient teacher.
Under her guidance I could find outÂ Noels hidden
talent. He started responding to others, to stories
and imagined ideas.
One day he bought a letter the ideas expressed by Noel and letter written by Meera
I was shocked to read the love and affection he had for his family. This was possible
only because of Meera, because of her special attention towards him.
She takes a special interest in knowing the child and recognising his interest in an
Its because of her efforts Noel gained confidence with the rituals, routines
and regular events at kindergarten.
Meera is loving, caring and very kind to all the children
The above artefact of feedbacks reveals how imperative it is for teachers to have positive relationships and interactions with their learners and how they impact their learning. I have chosen these feedbacks as my artefacts since they clearly support my philosophy of caring, respectful and responsive relationships that are authentic within the learning community. "Warm, supportive relationships between adults and children are important in promoting learning" (Arthur, Beecher, Dockett, Farmer, & Death, 2005, p. 270). It is evident that I was able to support my learners cognitively and emotionally in different contexts by understanding them and their perspectives. By providing them various opportunities I believe I was able to build up the children's self-esteem, their intellectual and social competencies.
The email was sent by the mother of a child, Noel, a student in the Kindergarten where I had my Teaching Experience where the mother had expressed her feelings about how I had helped in bringing out her son's talents and his affection for their family. I was able to understand through her email the trust and confidence which Noel and her family had imposed in me which was due to our positive relationship. I was elated and at the same time this made me understand how vital it is for teachers to gain the confidence of families. Though English was his second language Noel was very keen in expressing his ideas in different ways and loved to communicate a lot. I understood his views, interests and interacted a lot with him which built Noel's trust in me and we connected well. Also through my interactions with Noel's parents I was able to know his attachment with family members. One day when Noel's father left to Auckland he told me that he wished his dad was there to take him for shopping. So I suggested him to write a letter to his parents and this I believe excited Noel and as he expressed his thoughts I wrote a letter for him which explicitly described his love for his family. And on receiving this letter from Noel his parents were overwhelmed by their son's affection which is evident from the above email. I supported and acknowledged Noel and gave feedbacks on several occasions to communicate and represent his ideas through which I believe Noel was able to explore himself which boosted his self confidence and esteem.
A letter from Nicholas's parents in response to my learning story
Nicholas felt sad about going to Kindy. When it was time to leave home and head off to Kindy he would say he didn't want to go and start to cry..... He came home from Kindy and told us about the shadow game...... At the weekend we went to Te papa and looked at our shadows under different spotlights. Nick told us again about the shadow game at Kindy. We talked about how he would go to Kindy the next day and instead of his usual "I don't like Kindy, he gave us a big smile! We noticed a big difference in Nick's confidence and willingness to come to Kindy. Meera helped Nick to come out of his shell. We are grateful for the learning story so that we could see what was behind his shift in attitude.
This letter highlights how I supported and helped the child Nicholas to overcome the challenges he faced during the transition through my responsive relationship with him and family. This letter clearly shows the teacher's need to be sensitive to the learner's needs and meet them effectively which is one of my emerging philosophies in teaching. Te Whariki (1996) states that "children trust their emotional needs will be responded to" (Ministry of Education, p. 50). During my Teaching Experience I noticed Nicholas crying a lot and seldom mixing with other children. I found he was unsettled and was not able to connect himself with the Kindergarten since he was finding it difficult to form relationships. So having understood Nicholas I decided to pay special attention and support him for a successful transition. By recognising his interest in shadows I encouraged him to play shadow games with me through which slowly he was able to form friendship with his peers. Through the shadow play I co-constructed Nicholas to exhibit his leadership qualities by playing with the shadows of his favourite super heroes. When his parents learnt about the change in Nicholas through my learning story and interactions with me, they felt very happy and thanked me. When the other teachers appreciated me I felt elated and I realised how important it is to support children's interest during difficult times. Close secure relationship provide an opportunity for children to learn, play and explore (Watson, 2001).
The feedback on the above photographs on my bi-cultural project work by Visiting Lecturer reads as follows.. Excellent group work on your bi-cultural project. The completed work was exciting to look at and at the same time very much "owned" by the children. Well done. You are very positive, open and enthusiastic in teaching in a bi-cultural way. stands as an evidence to support my bi-cultural practice during my teaching experience at Lyall Bay Kindergarten where I incorporated Place Based Education. I chose the above photographs as my artefacts because they clearly make it visible how I supported Maori children along with other children by providing culturally appropriate learning environment and empowering children to be active learners. Research shows that teachers with positive focus are committed they create appropriate cultural ways of learning and make changes in the achievement of Maori children (Erb, 2010, p. 4).
The above artefact also supports my emerging philosophy on bi-culturalism where I feel children should be given equal opportunities to explore and share their culture, language and values and have a voice in decision making. One of my philosophies is as educators we should understand Maori ways of teaching through which Maori children and their families/whanau feel included and valued. Children achieve better when there is a close relationship in terms of language and culture between home and school (Ministry of Education, 2004, Book 3, p. 3).
I also believe that teachers' knowledge about Maori culture and their language will have a strong, positive impact on the Maori children. This was visible when I interacted a lot with the Maori children and their Whanau to understand their aspirations and perspectives. When teachers have face to face relationships and interactions with Maori children it will have a significant impact on their educational achievement (Penetito, 2008, p. 15). The artefacts also reveal how I was influenced by the Place Based Education which I was inspired from my academic learning.
When I went to Lyall Bay Kindergarten for my Teaching Experience through my interactions with teachers, parents and children I found the Kupe story had an important role to play in connecting them to the environment and I learnt about its history by visiting the local Maori community which gave me an insight about the significance of the place and its culture. So I decided to do a project using the local story 'the legend of Kupe' to strengthen children's connection with their place. As Dubel and Sobel (2008) conclude there is better outcome when you know your own place first which contributes to better learning dispositions.
I first read the Kupe story to children and used a lot of Te reo words and encouraged the children to tell the story in their own words. The next day I made a chart with keywords of Kupe story along with the map of Aotearoa, showed and explained to the children and invited them to contribute their drawings. I also brought an atlas and showed them where geographically Aotearoa was located. This stimulated the children to express great interest in drawing pictures. The children worked collaboratively and drew pictures for the story by sharing ideas by revisiting the story. "Children can practice using sense making processes they bring to the relationship and share these with others as of right" (Bishop, 2003, p. 226). The children worked with great involvement and later enacted the play of the story by looking at their own drawings from the char and practised the concepts of Tuakana/Tena. Tuakana/tena is an important dynamic of whanaungatanga and therefore Tuakana to her or his tena is acceptable and in fact is encouraged from an early age (Royal-Tangaere, A, 1997, p. 50). I facilitated them with cultural resources and invited parents and colleagues to become the audiences and this triggered a lot of interaction between me and the children. This approach encouraged the holistic way of children knowing their identity and place and their well being was nurtured and they were empowered as learners.
The children shared the ideas about the story of Kupe with their family and friends. "Within a socio-cultural perspective children's development and learning is a function of their participation within their families, communities and institutional settings (McLachlan, 2008, p. 110). And also during this project I learnt from children and parents the right way of saying karakia and some of their customary practice which reflects the concept of Ako. "In the Maori world it is an acceptable practice for the learner to shift roles and become the teacher and for the teacher to become the learner" (Royal Tangaere, A, 1997, p. 50).
IV GAP Identification and analysis
How am I going - two areas of strength
I believe that my caring respectful and responsive relationships along with interactions with children, family and colleagues as one of my strength. This was evident during my Teaching Experience when I took care of my learners and was sensitive to their needs. By listening to my learners I was able to show that I respect their respect interest, values and knowledge. I often supported and acknowledged children. From many instances I understood that when children trust a teacher and know that their voice actually matters it strengthens in building up positive relationships. This was evident when my learners constantly shared their views and sought my assistance when needed and one little girl introduced me to her mother as her friend and I felt elated. This incident made me realise that children see teachers in various roles. I consider relationship building is important and I truly enjoyed meeting parents and getting to know them and I feel it was invaluable for me as a teacher. I also took pleasure in seeking the suggestions, skills and perspectives of other teachers which helped me in building positive relationships with my colleagues. Through my interactions I was able to ask many open ended questions which I believe enhanced children's cognitive thinking and through my warm interactions. I was able to provide emotional support to children in times of need. I believe this strength of mine is evident from my feedback given by my visiting Lecturers, Associate Teacher, parents, children and PDM. When I see the glow in my children's faces when they learn something new it gives me a sense of achievement.
I consider myself as a reflective person and this trait is also evident as a teacher where I frequently looked back on my teaching experiences so that I could understand my own practice and make changes and adapt myself to suit the varying needs of my learners. This is evident from my PDM and Visiting Lecturer's report. Reflecting on my performance as a teacher I believe is one form of feedback. Keeping a diary and writing down my day today experiences as a teacher helped me to reflect and learn from experience and by rereading the diary I found that overtime I have developed and need to develop strategies to deal with particular teaching problems. I feel it is also a way of continually challenging my current behaviour and ensuring that my teaching is developed and enhanced. I also reflect to inform my thinking about a specific activity to evaluate any developments and its connected assessments which could aid in my teaching practice. During my TE being reflective has helped me to recognise the influence of my colleagues around me which aided me to support my learners in their learning. This was evident when I sought frequent and constructive feedbacks from parents and colleagues and used it my personal and professional development. I realise that my colleagues can tell me more about my teaching than I can observe by myself. This has helped me to work more towards in enhancing children's learning and be aware of diverse perspectives.
Two areas of challenge and further development
When I tend to do things with enthusiasm sometimes I may miss noticing the cues of other children while I am engaged with a particular child. So I need to regularly scan the wider environment to notice safety issues and check for children's cues and do some personal research.
At times when children have conflicts I find it hard to handle the situation due to my soft nature. For further development I need to observe how my colleagues deal with conflicts and learn more strategies of positive guidance skills.
Where am i going
Gaps and the possible reasons
Though I believe teachers enthusiasm has positive effects on the learners' achievement, at times due to my over indulgence I may not notice learning opportunities for larger group. I feel the reason for this gap is I always try to do my best and sometimes I get deeply engrossed with a particular child or an activity. The goal for this gap would be to foster a real sensitivity in what is happening further away but still around me and get constant support and request for constructive feedbacks from colleagues and do some personal research and learn strategies of time management and positioning people.
I need to understand the various situations and reasons for children's conflicts in order to handle them. I need to be more effective in the way I handle children's conflicts because only then I will be able to support and guide children how to handle conflicts. My goal for this gap would be to develop repertoire of effective strategies of positive guidance skills to teach children accepted alternatives, to consider the reasons and put in practical terms. And also I would exercise effective responses by starting from low intervention to high intervention depending on the situation.
My action plan for bridging the gap of over enthusiasm would be to reign my over enthusiasm, step back, observe and use my strength of refection to identify under what circumstances I involve deeply. The specific actions would be to do some personal research on how I can achieve a balance of my enthusiasm. In order to be more effective I plan to work on learning specific teaching techniques like positioning, grouping and scheduling which I believe would help to improve my teaching practice. As a first step I would use the technique of positioning people and would make myself available near a learning experience where I can easily scan the environment on a regular basis to ensure children's safety (McNaughton & Williams, 2009, p. 143). This I believe would help me to notice children's cues and notice learning opportunities of a larger group. As the next step I would get suggestions from my colleagues and tell them and children about what I say and do in order to extend their learning.
I understand it is very important for teachers to manage their time because as a teacher you need to allot your time for various tasks. So I would use the technique of Scheduling to strike a balance to spend time with all learners. For this I would organise and plan time by taking into consideration the different needs of the children. I will apportion my time equally between my learners.
I shall use the technique of grouping to know my teaching and learning goals for my children and its influences on how I group children (McNaughton & Williams, 2009, p. 108). I would also note the grouping strategies of the centre and discuss with my colleagues about the pros and cons of grouping (McNaughton & Williams, 2009, p. 113). I will evaluate my progress by getting constant feedback from my colleagues about my teaching practice and by recording the different ways in which I position myself in relation to children and note how long I stayed in each place and see how I ensured safe supervision and notice particular learning experiences. I would also look back at my assessments in the form of comments and feedbacks, categorise them together along with my learning stories and use it like a research to consolidate information of what I did with the children and what changes I could make in the future. For achieving this action plan I would set a time frame of two months to learn one strategy. So by the end of the year of my future practice I believe I could learn all the desired strategies in depth and put into practice till I evolve to do it in perfection.
My action plan to deal with children's conflicts would be to observe in depth the way my colleagues handle conflict situations and develop positive guidance skills. Also I would plan alternative strategies I could use in particular conflict situations for example asking the children to use their words and helping them to read another person's feelings and if this does not work shall try to find out why it didn't work. Initially I would build my awareness of finding out my children's intention in order to help them make clear their own understanding of the conflicts. I would co-construct and guide children to solve their conflicts and let children to work out things themselves. "Teachers who use guidance provide leadership so that children can interact successfully within the reasonable boundaries of the classroom community" (Gartrell, 1995, p. 27). To begin with I would start dealing from low intervention conflicts and then move to high intervention depending on the situation. During times of high intervention levels of conflicts as a beginning teacher I would seek the constant support of my colleagues and at times request them to be with me to observe how I handle conflicts and get their feedbacks on what I could do in a different way during those situations.
My specific actions would be to avoid children's conflicts by finding out the causes which lead to the situation and on my part I would create positive environment and make simple physical changes by providing ample materials which are easily accessible to children. I would ask children's opinion of what items they like while setting up the environment. I shall also encourage parents to share their ideas about how they deal with conflict situations at home. During conflicts I would explain to children that it's only their behaviour which is wrong and acknowledge their feelings. I shall ask the children to explain what they would do differently and have the child agree on a workable idea, help them to try it out and finally check how the idea works by appreciating the effort made by the children.
I would evaluate my progress by self-monitoring constantly, by questioning my actions during conflicts and I would also observe if the children are with me or am I losing control of them during conflicts. And I believe the value attached to self-monitoring is, it is immediate, constant and meaningful. I shall evaluate my progress by seeking my colleagues' perspectives on how I handle the situation. This feedback would be by a person who has professional expertise in the same field and I believe would be honest whether positive or negative since it does not involve their personal stake.
Through taking the personal inventory of my strengths and challenges in my teaching practice I have determined what I need to do not only to better understand where I am as a teacher but also how to improve my future teaching practice and support my learners. In future I would modify my teaching strategies as I move into a new context as a teacher and add it in my portfolio. By reinforcing my strength and overcoming my challenges I believe I will be more successful in my professional life.