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Why become a primary school teacher? Being a primary school teacher means, I have the opportunity to be a role model in my students’ eyes. I have the privilege of looking after and shaping the future generations of our societies. When I was a young boy growing up in school, I loved it; I had such amazing teachers who connected with me and work with my strengths, motivating me to strive for the best I could be. Now I want to be those teachers, and fulfil my role as a teacher to shape my students’ lives, through providing an educational experience which helps them to become successfully functional members in society, able to work and survive on their own. I want to encourage parent and community involvement within all schools, as I believe an interested parent is a supportive parent, thus helping my students to grow both at school and at home. Lastly I want my curriculum in terms of the syllabus to provide students with flexibility. I want to be able to run with students’ interests and ideas and provide the necessary skills needed within the schooling years, and achieve academic results.
OVERALL FRAMEWORK OF PHILOSOPHY
When thinking about my overall philosophical perspective, I find that when I’m in the classroom my style of teaching changes, depending on the children I am faced with and the school environment I am forced into. I feel that to simply use one method of teaching would make me an ineffective teacher in most aspects of the classroom, as I believe we as teachers need to be able to adapt and change our styles to suit the children’s need and the teaching context. I realise we as teachers can’t always have our way, so we need to be flexible, and I would happily change the way I operate, to benefit my students and maximise their learning. As E. Heyman a highly experience primary school teacher once told me “If you are aware of and understand your students’ needs, you can adapt an approach to teaching that best serves you, your students and their parents, and your employer.” (personal communication, October 29, 2008). However my underlying reason for why I adapt myself to these varying situations is the same. Upon reflecting back at my philosophy of teaching at a deeper level, and talking about it to others, I’ve come to realise I am a strong progressivist. Although I believe in using what ever methods to achieve success with my students, it is for the reason that I want them to grow and become part of a greater cause, that I am a progressivist.
AIM OF PRIMARY SCHOOL EDUCATION
I believe the aim of primary school education is to prepare the child for the world we live in. This means teaching them; good morals, healthy eating habits, their rights, life skills (i.e public speaking and cooperation), academic skills (i.e reading, writing, counting) and lastly world history. Education should assist students to grow, ideally grow into law abiding, world changing citizens who will create a better future. I believe I feel this way because of my upbringing. I was given every opportunity in life to learn and to do what I desired (i.e play sport and go to youth group). By giving students opportunities to experience life they learn the essence of what it means to live; to be happy, to be healthy, to help others, to feel safe and loved. Faith and morality is a big part of it to. I was born into a Christian family where both my parents were community orientated, and believed that education was the key to creating somebody. As the saying goes “A teacher can make or break a person”, and that was exactly what happened to me. I had wonderful teachers who fostered my love to learn and to grow, helping me become who I am! Academic learning (cognitive development) helps dispel ignorance that causes intolerance in society. Morally stunted people are more likely to be found among the ignorant than the intellectually able (Smith: 1974) This means that if we provide our students with a whole education, including good morals and life skills, and prepare them for the world in which we live in, we can reduce the number of intolerant people in our society, and create a smoother running system. Our students need to learn to live in a ‘multi-cultural, multinational, multi-faith world’ (Hickling-Hudson & Ferreira: 2004). Primary education provides students with the framework of fundamental knowledge that they will need, to function in society (Boyd, Pudsey & Wadham: 2007), as life is a neverending journey of lessons. In order to appreciate the present, intellectual skills must be developed to understand the past, helping us to gain knowledge for the future. This is why the teaching of world history is so important, because without a record of our past mistakes we would inevitable walk down the path of destruction again! (Crabtree: 1993) Therefore education needs to prepare the child, for the future. As spoken by the wise former Holroyd mayor Dr J. Brody “A world where society doesn’t remember their mistakes, a world where our citizens couldn’t make the right decisions, because they didn’t get a sufficient education, a world where the law is disregarded… can you imagine this? Complete anarchy!” (personal communication, October 31, 2008). This is why the aim primary school education is to provide all these skills, because without any of them, we risk our future! Evidently my position on the aim of primary school education is a progressive one, as I truly believe we as individual are born with a role to play. As well as living for ourselves, we live for others, to better our society and prosper as a race. For education is the basic process by which society maintains, and improves itself! (Lawson & Petersen: 1972)
THE ROLE OF THE TEACHER
I believe the role of the teacher is to be everything! A teacher should be a hero to those children, a role model they look up to, but a teacher should also be a parent, a friend, and a life coach. This means being a disciplinarian when needed, but it also means being caring, and someone the students can turn to for help. Similar to my belief on the aim of primary school education, I believe it’s a teacher’s role to provide that education. To nurture and watch their students grow! I developed this belief due to various factors; firstly my mother is a teacher and growing up with a mother who is a teacher was hard, but in the end very rewarding. While at first she might have seemed annoying always asking if I had any assignments or if I needed help, she was always there when I did need someone. She always provided support! Secondly my schooling experience was very supportive to, all my teachers helped me to grow. Teaching me important skills in life like reading and writing, although I struggled to read and I was a shocking writer, being a left handed male. But they never gave up! Lastly witnessing my practicum teacher, has further led to cementing my belief. She is a wonderful young woman, who knows each of her individual students’ circumstances. Whether they have family problems, learning difficulties or have immense potential but are just not motivated. She knows all this because she cares about her students, and wants to prepare them for life just like she was prepared in her schooling days!
I believe humans are social individuals, and that society is an organic union of individuals (Dewey: 1897), therefore the role of the teacher is to provide a well rounded education to
individuals to support our society. Schools are a place where certain information is to be given, where certain lessons are to be learnt, and where certain habits/morals are to be formed (Dewey: 1897). Therefore the teachers who are employed by these institutions should be teaching their students the skills and knowledge necessary to survive in, and improve the society we live in. Additionally regardless of the character of any class, a teacher should adapt their approach to suit the needs of the students’ i.e being direct, and strict if the class needs to be pulled into line, as learning is the business of the classroom life, and that should be the ultimate goal (Barry & King: 1988). Evidently teachers need to be adaptive and play various roles, so that they can achieve their underlying universal goal of educating. What we educate our students about is the question? Fenstermacher & Soltis (1992, p. 22) say the executive approach improves student achievement “not because it has been shown to be a particularly good way to educate human beings, but because it works well in rooms of 600 square feet that are filled with twenty-five young people, more than two-thirds of whom, if given a choice, are likely to choose to be somewhere else.”. I beg to differ, how can Fenstermacher & Soltis (1992) say the executive approach improves student achievement, if it’s not a “particularly good way to educate human beings”? Achievement is the action of accomplishing something of worth, by getting students to rope learn and perform for exams, you have achieved nothing! True achievement is a test of time, like the survival and progression of a race! Clearly my belief towards the role of the teacher is a progressive one, as I feel the teacher has a duty to provide and structure an education that will allow students to grow and develop into successful members of our society.
I believe that students should be able to have an input in their learning to a certain degree. Together the teacher and students should collectively negotiate what they learn in the classroom. I believe majority of the time the teacher should create the learning environment, e.g. when teaching Maths and English. However I feel that students should be able to choose specific areas they want to study in a particular class topic. For example when learning about reptiles in year 3, students should be able to decide for their own research assignment what reptile they want to research. I think the current NSW curriculum is of a satisfactory standard. Teachers have an idea of what students need to know by the end of the year, and they can teach what they feel is more appropriate and relevant to the class, to achieve those standards the students are meant to have met. For example in year 6, when learning about global historical events, collectively the teacher and each group of students can decide what particular event they want to learn, according to their interests with particular topics like Chernobyl or Minamata City (Mercury outbreak in Japanese waters 1956) . I feel this belief came about because of the schooling I received. Growing up in a public education system there were opportunities to have an input into what we learnt at school. All my teachers gave students active participation in their learning and allowed us some leeway to work at our own pace. This created high results in our year, because students were more interested and worked harder, feeling as if they were in control on their learning. As Edwards and Kelly (1998) say the implementation of the curriculum must involve professional freedom and scope, such that teachers can exercise their professional judgements, and provide the best and most relevant learning topics for their students, so that maximal understanding and results are achieved. Fenstermacher and Soltis (1992) further add that in teaching there are different conceptions of what knowledge is and how it is achieved, as well as different views on what the point and purpose of teaching is. Lastly individual schools, groups of schools, corporations and state education departments should be free to develop and market their curricula, and schools should be free to adopt whichever best suits the needs of their students (Farrelly: 2007). Therefore teachers need a flexible curriculum, so that they can all teach their unique and relevant ways to their individual students and achieve the most out of them. One set topic to learn will not appeal to all. This last point can additionally be seen through the observations made in a cross study of Parramatta Public School and Nundle Public School, where I collaboratively worked with a teacher in Nundle (a rural NSW school) and we taught our classes a lesson on ‘Safety in the holidays’. However for the purpose of this study, we decided to switch lesson plans and record observations of students’ engagement with the topic. The lesson consisted on teaching my students to be careful; around farming machinery, playing in the back paddocks, when killing snakes, and lastly when driving a quad bike on the farm. Just as I had predicted the students did not respond well as the context of the topic was not relevant. The differing geographical locations of the two schools, made it unrealistic to use a unit based on rural events in an urban city school. Evidently just like the scholars previous have said, a flexible curriculum is a must have, so that teachers can adapt and teach a curricula relevant and suitable for their students. As stated in my overall framework, my style of teaching is a progressive approach; I believe individual’s needs and contexts need to be taken into account as they are key elements in
learning. The curriculum should reflect the values and attitudes of the community the school is located in, promoting societal wellbeing and enhancing individual effectiveness in society. I also believe the curriculum, what ever activities the teachers may choose to teach, should still result in students acquiring specific knowledge and skills, so that they can perform well in tests and achieve government set standards. (Fenstermacher & Soltis: 1992)
RELATIONSHIPS WITH PARENTS AND/OR THE COMMUNITY
I believe parents and the community are a highly important part of the education system. Parents and local community members should be highly welcomed and encouraged to participate in schooling events and classroom activities. I also believe there is a two way bond between a school and its parents and the community members. The community should help and support the school by being on the P&C, School Council, helping with working bees and running coaching clinics within the school (i.e AFL Aus Kick). However the school should also support its community members by running their respective services (i.e a community resource centre). Together the two work in harmony and create a greater educational environment! This belief has developed due my own schooling experience, as I went to a highly community involved school which built a Community Resource Centre in 1997 to contribute back into the community. Community members would also regularly offer up their services including coach clinics within the school for sport (i.e AFL Aus Kick), as well as local community members sponsoring academic and community awards for the end of year award presentation. Additionally my parents were also an influence as they were highly involved in my school, being president of the P&C and School Council at one point or another. Furthermore I did my first practicum at a school where there was no P&C and little parent and community interaction at all, and although some of the teachers were fantastic there seemed to be a lack of enthusiasm within the school. “Parents have a right to play an active role in the education of their children and have a responsibility to exercise that right. Since child development takes place within both school and home environments it is essential that a close relationship exists between home and school to provide mutual reinforcement for this development. Communication between parents and teachers is crucial for the sound development of the child and is essential for the health of the school. Parent bodies and School Councils should aim to achieve the maximum co-operation between school and parents” (Federation of P&C NSW: n.d.). With the support of parents in the classroom, you have the power to make class activities as positive and productive as possible so that students can achieve their potential (Hennessy: 2003). “However it is also the responsibility of the school Principal and staff to initiate positive actions to encourage parental participation in educational decision-making… In order to ensure that school programs reflect community needs school policies, including aims, objectives and rules should be developed through consultation between Principal, parents, students and school staff” (Federation of P&C NSW: 2008). The Hilltop Road P&C Community Resource Centre is one initiative that has taken place, to support the social needs of the Holroyd community. Its establishment arose when collaboration between the P&C and the school executive body “identified the need to ensure that all families and their children were able to participate fully in school and community life” (Hilltop Rd P&C: 1996).
Clearly parents and the community play a vital role in the education system, and involvement from them further helps to provide a cohesive and educational community atmosphere. However as stated before there is a two way bond between a school and its parents and the community members, meaning the school must take responsibility to, to engage with its community and provide services to fulfil their needs. Evidently my belief towards the expected relationship between parents, the community and the school, coincides with my overall philosophy as a progressivist. As I believe the school, the parents and the community need to all work together for the benefit of society.
In conclusion I am a clearly a strong progressivist, but this doesn’t mean I will only approach teaching and learning in one way. No! It means that my actions as a teacher will help to mould students into the future of our society. I plan to help my students grow to understand themselves and others, but I also plan them to learn, coming out of my class with knowledge and skills to survive. I will support the community, so that the community will support me. I will have an integrated bond with my students’ parents, so that my students will grow both at school and at home. I will teach what my students what they need to know and create relevance to what they learn. I will do all this, because this is what I believe! As Dewey (n.d) and James (n.d) say “whatever works is right.”
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