Since a student, I have nurtured the dream of being a teacher partly because of the powerful impact that my teachers had on me as role models. That dream was fulfilled two years ago when I was first given the opportunity to replace a teacher who took her maternity leaves at Imperial College and then I got to continue my journey in teaching in that same school. With only my BSC in Sociology as qualification and without any prior training in teaching, the first time I entered a form 5 class, the only vision that I had in mind was of regimented students following all my instructions and participating in the class. I was completely astounded upon the type of welcome I received from the boys: whistles and shouts. My first reaction was to maintain discipline as it is the main value of the college and thus, I had to adopt an authoritarian stance to maintain order in the class.
As time went by, I discovered few changes in myself. I was no longer the screamer who had to yell in classes to get students do their work, the way that I delivered the lessons were different and the questions that I set for class tests and exams were suited to the needs of the learners. I also developed interpersonal skills which I used to deal with different types of students. This made me realize that education is not a destination but a journey where one's philosophy is constantly changing.
2. 0 TEACHING PHILOSOPHY
2. 1 The goals of education
Education being a continuous process of learning, understanding and gaining knowledge is important for numerous reasons. Foremost, it teaches us how to fit into our social and cultural environment since it involves transmission of academic knowledge coupled with cultural heritage, traditions, customs and values which serves as a unifying force. In the National Curriculum Framework (2009), it is stated that within sociology, students should be taught about citizenship. Thus, school is the right place to plant the right seeds.
Moreover, academics argue that the primary aim of education is to prepare people for work. However, as Rifkin argued in the End of Work, in this rapid technological era, the human workers are becoming obsolete for there are machines that work better and faster than human. As such, the aim of education can no longer be to prepare individuals for work but it should be focused towards developing talents and potentials in students for them to become versatile. I agree with Dewey here when he said that education should develop survival skills and problem solving ability in the students.
Freire's arguments in Pedagogy of the Oppressed redirected my attention to another goal of education which is to develop the enquiring minds of students and make critically examine our society and its institutions. The concept of liberatory education was appealing to me as a sociology teacher and a Marxist since it argues for an education that will lead to conscientization that is breaking through prevailing mythologies to reach new levels of awareness in the students' minds, empowering them with a vision to transform social order. In this process, students should develop critical thinking skills or higher order skills (Bloom's taxonomy) so they are able to analyze and interpret the multitude of perspectives and issues that they will come across during their lifetime.
2. 2 Teaching ideals
To meet the above aims of education, there is the need for a professional teacher who not only acts with knowledge but also value the knowledge he possesses. Teaching to Transgress (1994) by Bell Hooks shed light on this issue. For Hooks, effective learning can take place when the teacher will see teaching as a sacred vocation aiming in the intellectual and spiritual growth of the students.
Besides, teachers should also watch out for pupils assigned to their classes, catering for the poor, the disadvantaged, and the less able students. This is in line with Dewey's statement:"Every mind has its own form" suggesting that individuals vary within stages and that education must as a result be individualized. Building on the work of Banks (1981), in the Mauritian context, the teacher should be able to maintain a multicultural school environment by reviewing his own attitudes, instructional materials, assessment methods, counseling and teaching styles.
2. 3 My Teaching practice
My beliefs of what education is and the roles of an 'ideal' teacher have shaped my way of teaching to a certain extent.
To begin with, I believe in implementing goal-oriented lessons. Usually, I cater for both academic and social objectives. Empathy in terms of respect and care for the students is embedded in my teaching. In fact, it has certainly been a powerful tool in understanding and connecting with students from diverse backgrounds. I realized that students are very much the product of their times due to globalization. Their identity, self concept, ambitions and expectations from schools are all modeled by the media.
Adjusting to the new situation is challenging and demanding. The traditional approach to teaching that is talk and chalk is working for few privileged pupils only and there is an urgent need to shift to a new technique. This is highlighted by Giroux when he said that we must move beyond reproductive approaches "by recognizing that reproduction is a complex phenomenon that not only serves the interest of domination but also contains the seeds of conflict and transformation." Thus, I had to find ways to cope to the new situation. This led me to transform my class into a differentiated one in terms of both ability and cultural background to deliver the lessons tailored to the needs of the learners.
"If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn." - Ignacio Estrada.
There are a number of assumptions underlying this particular quote. It not only suggests that we need to cater for the learning styles of the students but we should also review our teaching strategies to meet their needs. I have adopted the student-centered or constructivist learning where students are given responsibility for their own learning which further becomes meaningful for them. I thus see myself as a facilitator, guiding the students to construct their own understanding of the world around them. Thus, opposing the 'banking education' as argued by Freire where the teacher will deposit information in the minds of pupils, I opt for strategies where the teacher will serve as mediator while students will be active participants such as group work.
I have an image of children as strong and capable beings. It is important to stimulate their growth by introducing new ideas and "stretching" them to progress. As far as possible I try to adapt the curriculum to their current social situations as well as religious and cultural backgrounds. Thus, I often think of students' zones of proximal development to push them to the zone of potential development. For this very purpose, I consider the school to be the perfect arena for fostering life-long skills which are transferable to everyday life.
Further, evaluation is done with the goal for students to improve. I share to the students what is expected, so that when I evaluate, they will know specifically what they need to improve on. This way, everyone is given a chance to succeed. Evaluation is not only done for the students but for my own sake as a teacher. As Hooks puts it rightly, teachers must be committed to a process of self-actualization that promotes their own well-being if they are to teach in a manner that empowers students. Therefore, I see to it that after each of my lesson, I do a self evaluation exercise so that I can identify my forte and weaknesses as a teacher and work upon them to improve in the next class.
However, I come across many difficulties in my role as a teacher at Imperial College. Giroux's claim that the teacher is a mere specialized technician within the school bureaucracy instead of a transformative intellectual has led me to ponder on my own situation. The culture of my school is at odds with what I have learnt at the Mauritius Institute of Education for the former preach discipline and academic result while the latter caters for the all round development of students. As such, reconciling the two is a demanding task and this is reflected in the survey results  of the Teaching Perspectives Index by Dan Pratt and John Collins, especially where my beliefs score exceeds my actions score. Time is another factor that constraint me for doing additional things for the welfare of the students.
3. 0 CONCLUSION
Being a teacher is the most noble job. The satisfaction that I obtain when my students excel in the subject matter is beggaring description. There had even been times when I thought that I was living a nightmare with students misbehaving and not following the class but then I got solace when I came across the following statement:
"The academy is not paradise. But learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom with all its limitations remains a location of possibility." (Hooks, 1994)
I realized that I have a powerful tool (teaching) in my hand that I should use as much as I can. Readdressing disciplinary issues is possible and this requires commitment as a teacher and dialogue with students, school management and the wider community.
BOOKS AND ARTICLES
Dewey, J. (1897) 'My pedagogic creed', The School Journal, Volume LIV, Number 3 (January 16, 1897), pp. 77-80.
Giroux, Henry A. (1988) Teachers as Intellectuals: Toward A Critical Pedagogy of Learning, pp. 122-123.
Hooks, B. (1994) Teaching to Transgress. Education as the practice of freedom, London: Routledge.
Freire, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Seabury.
Ministry of education, Culture & Human Resources (2009) The National Curriculum Framework, Phoenix, Mauritius.
http://www.teachingperspectives.com/ last accessed on 11 August 2012