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Every educator should possess his or her own unique set of teaching philosophy which suits the ever-changing needs and demands of education in today's society. Exploring and developing the beliefs of teaching plays an important role in contributing to the success of an educator in the teaching profession because our beliefs can generate our own confirmation. This teaching philosophy has been shaped by my personal experience when serving my alma mater as a relief teacher, as well as my prior experiences in teaching experience and teaching assistantship as a trainee teacher. It will serve as a basis for my embarkation to the profession of education with the aim of success in teaching.
My Belief of Teaching and Learning Paradigm
My core belief of teaching has been carved out based on the saying of a Greek philosopher, Socrates - Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel." Personally, I would like to further build this belief upon the old saying - "If I give a man a fish, I feed him for a day; if I teach him to fish, I feed him for a lifetime".
So, which came first, the chicken or the egg? If my student were to ask me this question, I would probably smile at him and reply, "Why don't you find out and tell me?"
Many times during my interaction with young children through my teaching experiences, I was often stumbled upon the questions posed by the inquisitive minds of theirs. While there may be not definite answers to their questions, I often did not give them the answers directly.
This is what shaped my core belief about teaching - learning is that it is not just only a "process of acquiring knowledge or skills" ("dictionary.com", 2012) but also a journey of discovery where sometimes the process of discovery is more important than the discovery itself. It is important not to spoonfeed the children with answers.
My Teaching Belief: Now and Then
Role of the teacher: To cater to Differentiation and Adaptations
In this 21st century, it is a generation armed with myriad of technologies. The power of IT allows an individual to "google" for the answers just by a few clicks in a space without boundaries. So, one may question the role of the teacher since most answers to questions can be found on the internet. A teacher takes up many roles, one of which is to teach. And so, what if the information found on the internet does not suit the appropriate level or the learning style of the child? In my view, this is where the important role of the teacher comes in.
In the past, I used to think that having a single-way approach of tackling the concept is sufficient, and assume that all children would be able to understand what is being taught. However, after taking this course, I come to realise that every child is a unique individual with different learning styles: visual learners, auditory learners, tactile learners as well as Kinesthetic learners. This is even more crucial when it comes to dealing with children with special needs. It is important not to assume, as it often does not reflect the reality. It is also essential for the teacher to adapt to the differentiation of the child. However time-consuming and taxing to modify the curriculum and the 8worksheets it may seems, I believe it is all worth it as the child would be able to learn something new that would benefit him.
In my opinion, the teacher has to package her lessons in a creative and dynamic way, at the same time, tailoring to suit the individual students with a myriad of different learning styles. There is never a "one size fits all" approach in anywhere, including the classroom, as well as the internet. To me, what the teacher does is to try her best and tailor the content to the ability of the class. Hence, it is essential that the teacher examine the profile of each individual student before the semester. Perhaps, it is also ideal to find out the learning styles of each child prior to the lesson from their parents or from the former teachers. However, if time does not permit, this could be done over the semester, when one has taught the class for a period of time and knows the different learning styles of each individual child. According to Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, there are a total of 8 intelligences: linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, naturalist, intrapersonal, interpersonal. It is important for the teacher to approach a concept in a variety of ways.
Hence, for my upcoming Practicum 1 and 2, I would be more tactful in including different approaches, such as including Youtube videos, songs, poems, story-telling, hands-on experiments into my lesson plan to cater to the different learning styles of my students.
Of course, there are many other roles of the teacher which include: counsellor, mentor, friend, disciplinarian, group dynamics facilitator, motivational speaker etc. This would also mean that the many roles of a teacher entail the never-ending list of workload. This is when the problem seeps in, when one has to struggle with the issue of work-life balance. To me, work is never-ending and time waits for no one. It is crucial that the teacher adjusts his or her working style, to deal with each matter one at a time. This would avoid creating unnecessary stress which is unhealthy to oneself.
Parents, too, have special needs
In the past, I used to think that the main challenge I would face is the children, especially those with special needs. However, after taking this course, I was taught to rethink and view things from the perception of the parent. It is not only some children who have special needs - some parents, too, have special needs.
In this generation where parents are generally more educated than in the past, they do have a high demand from the teachers of their children. Sometimes, these demands are something that supersedes expectations which can be way beyond our limits. Encounters with parents of children with challenging behaviour can come in a variety of forms and for a variety of reasons. It is worth remembering that sometimes they are flooded with a range of strong emotions triggered by nothing to do with school. Hence, it is essential not to take their comments personally and put you down. Ultimately, it is the children that we have in heart.
In fact, I used to have this mentality to why I should take up the role of a parent when I am just a teacher. Besides, I am only in my early twenties and I cannot see myself behaving like a mother who possesses all the motherly traits. I would tend to draw the clear line between the responsibilities of a teacher and a parent. Also, I would think that it is the responsibility of the parent to build a positive upbringing in the child.
However, I realised that every family has their own problems. Sometimes the parents are in denial that the behaviour is unacceptable and feel the school's expectations are unreasonable. It can be difficult to deal with such parents (Rogers, 2004). However, it is important to remain professional and not to give in to the temptation of throwing in the towel. Even though, I still do not think that a teacher should take up a role as a surrogate parent, however, I am able to emphasise with their situation more compared to the past. I believe it is important not only to cultivate collegial and pupil relationship, but also parental relationships.
Creating a Positive Primary Classroom Environment
A classroom is the place where a teacher will be most involved during his or her professional career as a teacher (Louradusamy, Myint, Quek & Wong, 2003). Hence, creating a positive primary classroom environment for the pupils is an integral part of good classroom management (Weinstein, Miganana & Romana, 2011). I strongly believe in this and have integrated it as part of my teaching philosophy after taking up this course. In additional, a classroom management reflects about my philosophy of teaching and learning, which tells a lot about me who visits my class (Louradusamy et al., 2003). According to Doyle (1986), the classroom may be considered as an ecological system and viewed the classroom as a unique unit in which the teacher and the pupils interact for a purpose of teaching and learning to take place.
Given the already overload work that teachers have to juggle with, I used to think that going to the extent of having an attractive classroom may be over demanding and impractical. However, after going through the teaching experience at Lian Hua Primary School, one of the things that captured my attention is the class pets - a tank of guppies with iridescent colours and a furry Winter White hamster at the back of the classroom. Having to observe the class from the back of the classroom, surprisingly, it does not feel like an ordinary classroom to me. The entire feeling felt at the point of time was a brand new feeling that I have never felt before in a classroom. It felt more like a study room to me, rather than a typical classroom. After careful observation, I realised there was even a mini reading corner, with carpeted floor, and bean bags. By the side of the windows, there were pots of green bean plants with the students' name labelled on each pot. Apparently, that was a science experiment and the pots of plants were the works of students. The greenery brought the classroom closer to nature, and together with the pets' corner and reading corner, they add vibrancy to the dismal classroom setting. At the end of the lesson, the student surrounded the cage and fed the hamster and guppies. One of them even picked up the hamster and gave it a few strokes at its back.
Of course, I had burning questions flashed in the mind - who is going to take care of the hamster? Who is going to change the water in the tank? Who is going to dust the bean bags? As such, I spoke to the form teacher of that Primary 5 class. He said that the class pets are there to instil the sense of responsibility and to build a caring classroom culture. The students have a class duty roster where students will take turn to feed and clean the cage of the hamster and the guppies. He also emphasized that this takes time to build but the end result is often worth every efforts put in to create a positive classroom environment. True enough, the students I mingled with said that they do not find it a hassle to take up the duties of cleaning the cage and feeding the pets, "They're part of our 5G family".
The conversations exchanged with the students gave me further affirmation that it is all worth it to consider the aesthetic part of the classroom. In the future, I would definitely make the classroom attractive and pleasure-looking.
In the midst of the 4 years training as a student-teacher, I have been told of the endless stories by in-service teachers as well as ex-teachers, about how taxing and demanding teaching can be. Undoubtedly, it is hard not to feel disheartened, sceptical and even fearful about what is lying ahead of me. However, I believe that one should not let the self-fulfilling prophecy take effect (Myers, 2004). One should be positive and should embrace the future.
While it does not pay a lot in dollars to be a teacher in Singapore, the psychological and emotional rewards are more than suffice - the light up look on a face when a seemingly unfathomable concept is finally grasped and understood; the thank you cards from the students; and the internet satisfaction of knowing that you have made a difference that left an undeniable mark on the future. This is my teaching philosophy that I have developed thus far, and it will continue to evolve when I embark on my 4 year of teaching career.