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Critical Self-Reflection on the Role of a Teacher

2389 words (10 pages) Essay in Teaching

08/02/20 Teaching Reference this

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Through the different readings that I have analyzed during this period, I have learned and reinforced the idea that every educational system must adapt to the historical, economic, political and social demands that the world demands. In other words, I believe that education must be contextualized culturally. From this, I believe that one of the main aspects of education is to position among my students a culture of analytical and critical thinking. As Ritchhart (2015) explained that a culture of thought is developed in the classroom through work with thought dispositions such as: inquiry, curiosity, game of ideas and analysis of complex issues. This is the way my students could achieve a successful learning process. I believe that, in our society, education must aim at pluralistic and participatory democracy, build a society of autonomous and thinking people who are capable of living cordially in communities, and promote a socializing and democratic education. Therefore, I think it is important to see education under the prism of a cosmopolitan education as Hansen (2011) argues, “from a cosmopolitan perspective education has to do with new forms of understanding, undergoing, and moving in the world” (p. 93). I think that education should be turned into State policy, that it contributes to the formation of future leaders and that it promotes civic values. In short, that it becomes the great possibility of improvement and development. Thus, that my role as teacher is fundamental in this process, as Dewey (Flinders & Thornton 2017) says, “the teacher has the mission not only to educate individuals but to train them for true social life” (p. 34). However, I believe that the challenges presented by education require changes in the structure, orientation and content, but mainly the educational paradigm must be changed, from the class centered on the teacher. As a Spanish teacher my duty is to apply a method focused on student development, it is to teach how to think and put into practice what they have learned, especially in the cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity context. I think that these elements together generate the skills demanded by the global world: experience, creativity, interdisciplinary thinking and solution of problems in teams; that translates into a more innovative workforce in a world that is changing at great speed. Hence, I believe that education should evolve from a passive role to a much more active one, while students should be aware of their ability to learn to think. By reinforcing their critical and creative thinking, I not only allow my students to develop emotionally, but they become more reflective to learn and act in their daily lives.

Also, in assessing their ideas and opinions, I am creating an environment prone to tolerance and constructive criticism. At the same time, these learning and critical thinking spaces invite my students to be an active part of their own academic development. Hence, I focus my educational goals in terms of their behavior, as Popham (Flinders & Thornton 2017) says “measurable learner behavior” (p. 115), which should be aimed at stimulating the development of critical thinking of the student through explicit strategies that lead them to think more deeply, broadly and autonomously. Without a doubt, the success in the classroom depends to a large extent on my capacity to offer active and attractive learning experiences that help my students to realize their maximum potential, in order to integrate them in a productive way and have a vision criticism about the environment and cultural aspects, with criteria, values and principles. In other words, I am helping my students connect academics with the community, practicing their experiences beyond the classroom.

Teaching is an activity focused on transmitting to students not only specific skills and content, but also proper habits and behavioral attitudes. It is clear that different situations at the classroom can lead teachers toward their own auto-discovery and personal growth. As Ayers says, “the teachers bring their constantly developing experiences, their growing sense of themselves and their work, and their ever-widening knowledge of both content and craft to their work. Teachers accumulate experiences, skills, and techniques. They develop a repertoire that is complex, multilayered, and idiosyncratic” (p. 50). Education has to approach daily life; therefore, my way of teaching is practical and simple. For this reason, it is important for me that what I teach have a meaningful learning and be related to the experiences of my students both at the level of their family and their community.

Of course, all this is possible if the school and administrators provide students with options and opportunities to participate in their interests. Success or failure at the school level is not only a matter of studying more or less but depends on the student having the necessary conditions that allow an effective and happy learning process. Therefore, I am aware that this requires teamwork to carry out this vital process. According to Blum (2005), “Schools are responsible for providing students with a safe environment in which to develop academically, emotionally and behaviorally. One element of the school environment is the school “climate,” which, at its most positive, includes a strong emphasis on academic achievement, positive relationships among students and teachers, respect for all members of the school community, fair and consistent discipline policies, attention to safety issues, and family and community involvement” (p. 7). It is necessary that I work hard in order to allow this “relational” pedagogy to be possible, hence that I foment a close contact, for distances to be shortened and for an intimate space to be created between my student and me. As Sidorkin (2002) says “We need restore the power of relations in school” (p.80). In this way, I can use the power of relations as the initial platform from where I can project a really effective teaching. At the same time, I am aware that the relationship with my students can make a difference, both in their lives and in mine. As Ayers (2001) mentioned “It is through our relationships with students the way in which we generate the biggest difference in their lives says, as well the way through we receive the greatest satisfaction of our work” (p.14). Therefore, I have to know and understand, from a pedagogical practice, that each of my student has a unique set of talents, skills and limitations, and therefore requiring an education more in line with their own ways and styles of learning.

Another very important aspect in me to do pedagogically is to be a positive influence for my students. So, I try from the first day of class to establish a solid relationship, in which my students feel cared for, which is what they expect from me, without losing sight of their school performance. In this way, I think that ethics of care and moral education can be the pedagogical strategy for this time. As Noddings (1995) argues, “the ethical ideal is the motivation that compels us to respond to the demand of the other. It is nourished, therefore, by the positive experiences in which we have cared for or been cared for. Therefore, I create the proper conditions to construct the ethical ideal” (p. 176). Thus, I offer educational experiences that facilitate personal encounters that are positive from the point of view of the practice of care. My role as the teacher is key in this process. I have to pay considerable attention and have a deep respect for my students while I seek to earn their respect as well. I would like to be part of these reverent professors (Rud and Garrison, 2012) that not only know their students and dominate a specific subject but recognize that their wisdom goes beyond the limits of knowledge, something very difficult to recognize, especially at the university field.

Hence, each educational act that I do must be oriented to the formation and improvement of the relationships with my students. I believe that this will make my students have a comprehensive and responsible education, which will allow them to integrate into society. Likewise, it is substantially important to invest more time in the well-being of the student, to generate trust, respect and be attentive to their successes and failures. Therefore, it is important that I know and understand, from a pedagogical practice, that each student is a unique set of talents, abilities and limitations, and that, therefore, requires an education more in accordance with their own ways and learning styles. Also, I am aware that our current society is much more diverse than before in terms of cultural factors, and this is something that is easily visible in my classes. Therefore, to develop an appropriate study plan it is necessary and meaningful to take as a resource the experiences of my students in all their diversity. As Nieto, Bode, Kang and Raible (2008) say “Teachers and other educators must daily face the realities of students and must strive to develop curriculum that best meets the needs of their multiple identities and their struggles to be heard and acknowledged” (p 185). It is imperative that my students feel an active part of their own immersion in the educational system, generating a better curriculum and a more appropriate pedagogy for students of ethnic and racial minorities.

Another factor to take into account in the educational and pedagogical process is to continue thinking about my classes with a multicultural approach that goes beyond just teaching to teach, according to Nieto et al. (2008) “Multicultural education must go beyond its traditional parameters of curriculum integration and cultural awareness, must include such issues as multiple identities, curriculum in non-school contexts, and different approaches to understanding race, culture, and community, among other issues” (p.179). Therefore, I need to understand that each of my students contributes a particular culture and that this one could be very different from my own culture. Also, I project a class that is antiracist, as Michael, proposes “In an antiracist classroom, the curriculum is rigorous in a way that demands the best of each student and holds them to high expectations, even if it is not a lesson on race” (p. 83).  Thus, I design educational strategies that prepare my students as citizens capable of facing situations of inequality and racism. I create conditions and social environments within the classroom in which students are motivated to investigate, analyze and solve common problems associated with sociocultural contexts that influence the development of their lives. As a Spanish teacher, I am disappointed to work with curricula that contain some cultural biases in the way we treat cultural diversity. I see how some curricula silence the diversity of the cultural referents, others have no connection with the experiential culture of the students or there is an aggressive perception of the cultural environment to which it belongs, especially when working on such a controversial topic as “immigration”. So, I have to implement new discursive strategies that allow me to create awareness, with the objective that my students recognize the cultural diversity under a discourse of equality and respect.

Finally, it is important to promote a democratic curriculum that develops in my students the ability to reflect and think. Likewise, the school must be conceived as a dynamic factor within social structures and not as a mere mechanism to adjust the student to the current system. For this, I believe that the curriculum should be a means of life and action in such a way that we all build and reconstruct the meaning of experiences. The school must be a space for social practice, in which the student prepares for adult life in community. I believe that a progressive, participatory and democratic education today should generate possibilities for social transformation, as Dewey (Flinders & Thornton 2017) suggests, that the school must assume the characteristics of a democratic society, hence the importance of a democratic curriculum that develops in individuals the ability to reflect and think. That is why I think that the curricula should be open, flexible and not totally centralized. Where my role is to mediate between the content and the student, help to discover healthy and active relationships, to build meanings, to offer experiences, to promote an adequate environment, to guide and structure the thinking, not only of my students, but my own. Where the role of managers, family and community are facilitators of spaces and times in the development of training. That is, everyone in the school and the community must create the space. In this way, our students will develop their skills from their abilities, always reaching the solution of their conflicts and thus experiencing the reality of their environment.

References

  • Ayers, W. (2001). Beginning: The Challenge of Teaching. In W. Ayers, To teach: The journey of a teacher (Second Edition) (Chapter 1 – pp. 1-24; Chapter 2 – p. 25-47). New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Ayers, W. (2012). Lesson One: Reverence. Teaching With Reverence. A. G. Rud & J. Garrison, eds. New York. Palgrave MacMillan. 129-136.
  • Blum, R. (2005). School Connectedness: Improving the Lives of Students. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland. 1-15.
  • Flinders, D., & Thornton, S.  (Eds.).  (2017).  The curriculum studies reader.  5th edition. New York: Routledge Press.
  • Hansen, David. (2011). Curriculum and Teaching in and for the World. The Teacher and the World: A Study of Cosmopolitanism as Education. 90-118.
  • Michael, Ali. (2015). A Multicultural Curriculum is Not Sufficient for Building an Anti-Racist Classroom. Raising Race Questions:  Whiteness and Inquiry in Education. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Nieto, S., Bode, P., Kang, E., Raible, J. (2008). Identity, Community, & Diversity in F. M.
  • Noddings, N, (1995). An Ethic of Caring and its implications for Instructional Arrangements. 171-181.
  • Ritchhart, R. (2015). Creating cultures of thinking: The 8 forces we must master to truly transform our schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass & Pfeiffer Imprints, Wiley.
  • Rud, A.G, & Garrison, J. (2012). Introduction: Teaching with Reverence: Reviving an Ancient Virtue for Today’s Schools. Teaching with Reverence. New York. Palgrave MacMillan. 1-16.
  • Sidorkin (2002). A Case for the Pedagogy of Relation. Learning Relations: Impure Education, Deschooled Schools, and Dialogue with Evil. New York: Peter Lang. 79-89.
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