Inform. Reform. Transform.

teaching-wordleKnowledge is a double edged sword. I feel a sense of gratification that I am now more equipped with knowledge than I was several weeks ago. However, there was also a feeling of shame as the knowledge I gained also exposed my malpractices, assumptions and misconceptions regarding the teaching process and the profession.

This course had challenged my belief system as a teacher. Now, every time I think about a concept, I also question if it’s a theoretical concept, if it’s based in research or just an assumption. I learned to hunt my own assumptions and to use lenses in understanding where those beliefs originated from.

I now firmly believe that the teaching process will be effective if reflective practice is being applied. I started using reflection as part of my daily routine after learning the module. I ask myself “why” even before I would teach a lesson. Why would I use this certain strategy or activity? What do I want my students to learn? Even when I’m in the middle of my teaching and talking, I reflect and observe how my learners respond to the lesson. Reflections in action and on action are two of the most powerful strategies I learned in this course.

Personally, I see the immense significance of learning these principles and concepts because 1) they reveal all of our epistemological assumptions that affect our teaching 2) they correct the wrong practices that we’ve been doing 3) they improve our teaching practices 4) they ensure that teachers will have a solid foundation entering an education field.

The school that I’m currently working at has curricula with embedded contemporary teaching and learning approaches. This alone had helped me become aware of the array of contemporary pedagogy. Yet, there were still so many concepts/principles that I didn’t know that this course had presented. The teaching perspectives such as being culturally responsive and creating an inclusive learning friendly environment were very impactful for me.

It is my goal as an educator, to provide a holistic approach to teaching. I believe in developing not only my students’ intellectual abilities, but also their social, physical, mental, spiritual dimensions. I want my students to act with social and intellectual maturity.  I want them to demonstrate flexibility and a creative approach to problem solving, develop and maintain relationships, reflective, strong and effective communicators.

The only way for me to achieve my goals is to continuously seek professional development and growth. I need to keep learning and participating in learning communities. Through these, I get to share what I know and learn new ideas from other members of the community and be a whole teacher.

Lastly, I need to change my perspective that my duty as a teacher is to not only INFORM but rather to REFORM and TRANSFORM lives and communities.

 

http://blogs.ibo.org/positionpapers/files/2010/09/Holistic-education_John-Hare.pdf

“The most violent element in society is ignorance.”

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I had strong negative feelings about our school having an open enrollment as our admission policy. I experienced and still am experiencing the challenge to teach students with behavioral problems and students with no knowledge of English. Although I kept things to myself, I have been negative and kept blaming the Admission Department for not doing their job right. I was frustrated and I wanted out.

But I was also ignorant. Culturally responsive pedagogy, inclusive-learning friendly environment… these are all new to me. It’s embarrassing to admit but I have committed mistakes that I wish I could undo. Was I culturally responsive towards my teaching and my students? No. Was I applying inclusion? No.

My autobiography as a learner helped me realize and understand why my beliefs were they were. In the Philippines, there are schools that are exclusive for certain groups. In the public school that I went to, students were groups by their academic abilities. There was a year that I didn’t do well and I was move down to a different section which really affected me. We’ve always sorted things and remove those that don’t belong in a group and we still do.

My ignorance of it blinded me and led me to teach insensitively. I may have hurt some of my students in the past because of my words, actions or teaching practices.  But because of this module, I was able to reflect on my practices and I’m now informed of how I could be inclusive and culturally responsive as a teacher. My belief has changed and now know that differences are a great resource for learning.

Being informed, I now understand why our admission policy is the way it is. But knowing now how to be culturally responsive and inclusive make me question the policy even more. We have an open enrollment and yet we lack the human resources for these students. Is my school really being inclusive or just want to gain more money from it? There’s 1 Special education Teacher for 65 students, no in-house Psychologist to diagnose these students either and 1 English Language Development Teacher for 180 students. We don’t have enough teaching materials to make our teaching effective or enough assessment kits.

To be culturally responsive and inclusive requires a huge change of beliefs from the leaders of the school all the way down to the teachers and parents. We have to review our school policies and procedures to ensure that they are sensitive to the diversity of our school population. There should also be an on-going professional development for teachers, staff and parents tackling these issues. We need the involvement of all, leaders, teachers, parents and students. It needs to be part of our daily life for it to become a belief.

Towards Improving Myself and My Learning Community

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I’m fortunate to be working in a school that recognizes the needs of teachers for Continuous Professional Development I have attended workshops and seminars in the past, and have always gone back to school feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the world. However, the feeling was fleeting. I would remember two strategies from the workshop and forgot the rest that I’ve learned. I also didn’t get the chance to share my learning with my colleagues because of the busy schedule that we have.

After reading the module, I learned that there are different elements of CPD. It’s embarrassing but I think that I was only experiencing the retooling and remodeling kind. I think that the success of this relies first on the leaders in creating an effective system that will make CPD beneficial to each and all. Although there are some teachers in my school who are interested to grow and learn more, there are some who just take advantage of the stipend being provided and go see a new place or country. I don’t think this is quite working well and through teachers’ reflective practice, this issue should come up.

We also have a professional learning community. Last year, our principals intentionally ensured that there are common planning and meeting times for teams. Because of this, we were able to achieve a lot. I noticed that we were more collaborative and engaged in the discussions. However, since there was a drastic change in schedule this year, we rarely met as a team. The collaboration became shallow to the point that the phrase was “This is what I will do” has been a norm. We used to talk about, what do the students need? What’s the best approach? How can we optimize the learning of a particular content? We were collectively reflecting and planning.

I realized that supportive leaders are one of the keys to an effective professional learning community. If we have leaders who don’t understand the kind of work that we do, it’s easy for them to change the system that have been implemented to suit what they think is right. Without involving teachers in the decision-making, things could go down the drain. Teachers will feel unvalued and will not be willing to collaborate. This is what happened in my school.

It’s also important to have shared vision and values. If we are not working towards the same goal, then there will be a lot of misunderstanding and confusion. Apparently, our values were different from our leader and so our learning community disintegrated. Teachers have left because they didn’t feel that they’re still growing as before and I can’t blame them.

I really hope that the next set of leaders will see how important our learning community is. Next month is a new school year and I’m hopeful that we could get better. It starts in each one of us. We have to create a positive culture, a culture for learning and a sincere desire to improve student learning. After all, they’re the real reason why we do what we do. We should never forget that.

Ripple Effect

ripple effect

I grew up being taught traditionally. We are all seated on our chairs while the teacher did the lecturing in front. I’ve been scolded many times for not listening because it was difficult for me to be seated for an hour without doing anything. I thought I just needed to behave better but after learning about this module, I realized that it is really a natural tendency for students to lose their focus and be disengaged when we are being passive learners.

Even before learning this module, I also assumed that there’s only one approach to teaching and that is through lecturing. I realized that I have missed a lot of opportunities growing up to become a better learner because I went to a public school. However, even though we have access to free education, it should not mean providing us a poor quality of education. We, just like the rich people, have the right to a quality education. One that is mindful of us as learners and not computer processors. Is it not the goal of education to give equal opportunities for all?

But what I don’t understand is that why haven’t we changed this kind of system? Does the educational system of our country lack the awareness? The conventional education should not punish students by giving them a century old way of teaching just because they can’t afford it. The improvement of our education relies on the leaders of our country. Unfortunately, they are not directly affected by any of these issues because they can afford to send their kids and grandkids to international schools wherein contemporary teaching approaches are utilized. So, the sense of urgency is not there at all.

As an informed learner, it is my responsibility to be active in searching ways to transform our educational systems by maybe joining organizations that call for reforms or additional budget. It is also my responsibility to promote varied approaches to teaching so that it becomes a ripple effect.

Our actions have the ripple effect. If as teachers, we are smart and wise of carefully choosing the approaches and pedagogy to optimize student learning, then we are also creating a bigger and wider impact through our students. Hoping that when they become teachers and parents themselves, they will do it too .

My Epistemological Beliefs

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Based upon the readings of this topic I would say that people are born with the power to control their ability to learn. I believe everyone has a limit to how much they can learn and achieve, but we also have the ability to control our own education. The Albert Einstein’s and Steve Jobs of the world have a larger capacity to learn than most of us, but they would never have accomplished so much without putting forth a great deal of effort. Both Einstein and Jobs had many struggles along their path to success, but did they quit? Did they stop learning? Or did they overcome obstacles and learn from their failures? Obviously they had to struggle and they decided to not let difficulties stand in their way of success.

So, how does this relate to the speed at which people learn? We all have to put forth effort into our learning, but everyone learns at a different pace which means the ability to acquire knowledge is quicker for some. For example, when I am studying Math I need to read the material over and over and then I need to practice until it finally sinks in, which could take days sometimes. But I have a few friends that can read or understand something only once and instantly learn it. Granted they have to put forth the effort to read and try to learn it in the first place, but I have to put forth more effort and more time to learn the same material. On the other hand, English class came very natural to me and was easier to learn than most of my classmates. I believe each subject has a different effect on the learning process of individuals. Most people don’t just wake up one day and get straight A’s in every subject, it doesn’t exactly work like that.

Some individuals simply learn what they need to at the moment, ace the test and then move on. They can “do” things quite easily, but they don’t exactly “know” what they’ve learned later on. I believe it is a gradual process for most people to acquire knowledge, but some individuals can acquire knowledge instantly with very little effort. So that begs the question, how is knowledge organized? This is not a simple answer, some say knowledge is organized as simple, isolated facts and others think knowledge is a complex network of concepts. I believe it’s both; we have short term memory, which is the ability to remember simple facts and long term memory which helps us organize more complex items.

Knowledge is a tricky thing, because in some cases it’s clearly black and white, such as 1+1= 2. This has been and always will be the answer and there are other truths in this world that are absolute as well like the law of gravity. If a person is on top of a 100 story building and they drop a “penny” off of it the penny will fall down to the ground. These are absolutes truths, but not everything in this world is black and white, there is a large grey section in the middle. I believe knowledge is clear and certain for some things and relative for everything else. These are the same beliefs I hold towards my own learning and the learning of others.

Unfortunately, I had many teachers who held way too many “absolute” truths and graded us based on their beliefs without acknowledging or fostering our own beliefs. For example, an Atheist teacher can’t fail a student simply because that student believes in God. If the student has to write an essay explaining whether or not God exists, they should be graded on how well they write the paper, and not on their beliefs. Some of my teachers and professors over the years held the belief that their own knowledge was absolute and when I challenged them, some become defensive and held their power over me. This doesn’t promote learning, it discourages it and it only frustrates students when they should be inspired.

In order for true learning to occur, a teacher should be aware of her own epistemological beliefs and know that these affect her teaching. Teachers should also develop in students the ability for them to search their own epistemological beliefs and understand how these affect their learning. If our own beliefs inhibit us from learning and improving then we have to be willing to change or adjust them.