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It has been a dream of mine becoming a teacher. Working with all ages of children I really enjoy, they brighten up my day with their sheer excitement over stories and their laughter. I feel that I can make a difference for my students through facilitating ongoing learning and knowledge whilst allowing them to grow into young adults.
Thien (2003) discusses the importance of teachers needing to learn, how to teach learning and what learning means. To me, teaching and learning involves motivating, explaining, and discussing topics that are understandable to learners. Group work, individual work, active and experiential learning; questioning and group discussions are teaching strategies that will be applied in my class. All of these aspects ensure that I cater for diversity whilst in the classroom and reach appropriate educational outcomes for each individuals needs.
I will be incorporating "Vygotsky's sociocultural theory of cognitive development" (Burton, Weston & Kowalski, 2009, p. 479) into my classroom. This means that I will be using the "zone or proximal development" (Burton et al., 2009, p. 479), which is described as a "range of tasks that cannot be performed independently but can be performed with the help and guidance of others" (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2010, p. 214), this is an aspect that I believe in. Through motivation, encouragement and support, my students will learn how to interact and develop a strong sense of belonging. As mentioned by McMillan (2007), motivation is the level of student involvement in their learning, therefore motivation is a key area in education something of which I can certainly ascertain
I will be providing challenging tasks that promote my students learning which continues to develop their abilities through social interactions. Vygotsky theory also discusses how influential significant others and cultural backgrounds can influence a students learning (Burton et al., 2009). Considering these aspects when I am preparing my lesson plans and activities, ensures that students do not feel inadequate or judged, whilst in my care. This also creates a positive learning environment where all students are treated as equal, are respected and feel valued therefore thrive on learning.
I will provide a safe, secure, warm, positive and fair environment. I will have routine and structure in my classroom. I am very organised, punctual and eager to learn. Feedback from my students and fellow workers will assist in improving my teaching methods and gaining differences of opinions and ideas, something of which is extremely important. My students will understand the rules and how my classroom operates. I will manage poor behaviour using strategies, such as, Drieker's discipline model (1960) which I value as a tool. I will be firm yet fair with all students in my class. I will approach challenging behaviour responsibly whilst aiming to reach positive outcomes for each individual. The classroom environment will be somewhere that my students will take pride in, with their work displayed on the wall. A happy and yet controlled classroom where I can teach my student's how to learn and they too can teach me how to improve my teaching.
Scenario 1: Catering for diversity in the classroom.
I am teaching a grade one/two composite class and have begun my lesson on mathematics, utilising patterns and skip counting. For students at this level, as stated by Victorian Essential Learning standard (2009), "they can recognise patterns in relation to skip counting and numbers names." I noticed during the duration of the class that the same students where answering the questions and realised that many students did not understand the concepts that I was teaching.
Being a graduate teacher, I find that one of the most difficult aspects of teaching is catering for diversity. As discussed by Dinham (2008), diversity refers to teachers focusing on the individual, catering for their differences and teaching that child. I needed to firstly, determine each child's abilities with mathematics and their individual level of understanding. I decided to organise a program for the week that assessed each child's abilities "using a variety of assessment tools, to get a broader picture" (Underwood, 2010, p. 20). I began taking notes on each student, assessing their abilities to work on their own. I used a mathematical program on the net books, which gave me further information. I organised worksheets, pattern colouring sheets and discussed numbers names with the class. The last class was a short test.
With this information I placed the children into groups according to their abilities, as stated by Marsh (2010, p. 267), "catering for individual differences in the classroom is a major commitment", which I was certainly realising. The lower level group required the most attention, however I could not forget about the rest of the class. I began taking more notice of how I was explaining the lesson and ways in which I could improve. I would rotate around the class checking on each child's work, developing their needs. I began planning my lessons around the same topic, however, gradually introducing harder tasks for each group, as a result catering for their diversity. I now knew for the future, that I needed to establish clear understanding of each child's abilities, how they learn and how my teaching can improve their learning.
Scenario 2: Motivation
Every morning after the bell went, Sam would wander into class, hair messy and uniform dishevelled. Her intrinsic motivation was at an all time low. She was not eager to contribute to anything we did in class, nor did she socialise with other class mates.
Motivating young people I thought would be easy, that it would only require encouragement and all would be resolved, clearly, I was wrong. Sam needed to learn how to believe in herself and I need to help her achieve this. Intrinsic motivation refers to "factors within themselves" (McDevitt & Ormord, 2010, p. 482), and in Sam's case her low self esteem and confidence levels where affecting her motivation levels. To improve Sam's confidence, I assigned a class buddy for Sam; they would work together with the aim of establishing a relationship and also providing Sam with a confidant. This utilises Vygotsky's theory on cognitive development, as Sam felt she could not complete the tasks individually, however was able to complete the tasks with a buddy. I reorganised the classroom seats, so they sat together. I initiated contact throughout the day with Sam, even by a smile. I spoke to Sam about her appearance and ways that she could improve. I needed her to feel safe and secure and know that I cared; success involves the learning process and not just high grades (Eggen & Kauchauk, 2010). In Sam's case she was learning how to re-establish herself, change her ways and improve her willingness to learn. I provided positive encouragement during our lessons, displayed her work on the board and continued with our conversations.
Sam was making friends and turning up to class on time, her appearance had changed. She was walking into class with confidence. This situation impacted on my teaching not only did I need to motivate Sam to change her way, I had to assist in aspects of her social learning and interactions, all whilst still teaching the class.
Scenario 3: Managing classroom behaviour.
Michael is in grade four at school and has trouble concentrating. He constantly interrupts my class by making silly noises or crawling around the room. I feel like that my class is not being taught anything due to his interruptions. I am telling him off all the time which only contributes to his behaviour. He is really frustrating me and now I doubt my methods of teaching.
Dealing with behaviour is another aspect of teaching that can be extremely daunting, especially as a graduate teacher. On this occasion I felt that I had lost control, which is not in my nature. I thought I could handle and control any child's distractions. He simply would not listen nor would he do what I had asked. I decided to continue with the class attempting to ignore his antics.
Drieker's discipline model (cited in Edwards & Watts, 2008, p. 118), explains three steps in attempting to prevent this behaviour. After the class, I asked Michael to stay behind so we could discuss what had happened. He explained that he did not like writing; it was too hard, the first step in understanding why he was misbehaving. I discussed this issue with Michael privately, with no distractions which allowed him to open up. Rather than Michael attempting to complete his writing he rationalised that it was easier to distract the class (Gordon, 1996, p. 9). Together we developed strategies to eradicate this behaviour, step two in Drieker's model (1960). Michael wrote down the triggers for his behaviour and ideas on how we both could prevent this occurring in class. Michael and I set up an area in the classroom for reading, and when he felt he was losing control he would walk to the reading area and read a book for five minutes. I began helping Michael with his writing aiming to improve this skill and his self esteem.
Michael was learning to control his emotions and behaviour and I could see an improvement with the amount of distractions. I was kind, responsive, firm yet fair and praised Michael for his good behaviour, step three in Drieker's model (cited in Edwards & Watts, 2008). I was now able to teach the class without the constant distractions from Michael. Through ongoing encouragement and support eventually Michael did not have to remove himself from the writing class, this was a great achievement.
Overall, I am a teacher that will cater for all forms of diversity. I will build strong relationships with students, parents and the school community, whilst allowing my students to think on their own. My student's behaviour, motivation and influences will be monitored ensuring that lifelong learners with respected values are formed.