Element 2 - Teachers know their students and how they learn:
I think I have also begun to develop a greater understanding and knowledge base regarding the typical stages of student social, intellectual and physical development. For instance, one practicum involved me teaching a 5/4 composite class, so it was necessary to recognise and teach at several levels. To do so, I created a guide to support struggling students (see Appendix C – explanation-writing frame) and encouraged self-assessment through a student checklist for stronger students (see Appendix D – checklist). I also featured several learning styles in one lesson (see Appendixes E and F – lesson plan and student work sample), to encourage the development of alternate learning styles (McInerney & McInerney, 2006, p.72). By initially manipulating 3D shapes for tactile learners, and ending with students making artworks from shapes (visual learners), I helped deepen understanding of the content being taught. However, every child brings different schemas, perspectives and styles to each classroom (McInerney & McInerney, 2006, p.38). To help speed my understanding and application of appropriate teaching strategies accordingly, I can read more related articles, and acquire more effective teaching methods.
Another area I feel I have developed in is creating engaging lessons designed around student interests and skills. For example, I linked an English lesson on procedure writing to Halloween and potion-making (see Appendix A – lesson plan), where students could be as creative (or disgusting) as desired. By linking learning with everyday concepts with which students are familiar (John-Steiner & Holbrook, 1996, p.192), the students remained enthusiastic throughout the experience – another quality teaching outcome – and effectively retained the knowledge. I held this lesson half-way through my prac, by which time I knew the skills and interests of my students well. As a teacher, this is a step I will need to take advantage of from the earliest point. To do this, I need to explicitly discover student interests immediately, for example by using ice-breakers instead of beginning teaching directly.
I definitely need further experience in working with students of different social, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. This has been hard for me in previous pracs, as the area in which I live is predominantly Anglo-Saxon. To overcome this, I began visiting inner-city schools. In the future, I can apply to schools in the western suburbs or more multicultural or rural areas to greater improve this knowledge base. This would subsequently help me create some sound strategies to teach students of Aboriginal or Torres Straight Islander descent and multilingual students, with which I have very little experience.
Finally, I will strengthen my behaviour-management system. Initially, I employed the strategies of the supervising teacher, but eventually made my own (see Appendix G – Y-frame). At first I was reluctant to follow-through with consequences when students significantly misbehaved (see Appendix H – lesson evaluation), but when I began doing so, I realised how much more practice at it I needed and how much respect I was losing by avoiding it. This was important to me, as I believe that one of the central standards by which “successful” teaching is measured, is the level of respect awarded to me by colleagues and students. From students, this respect would present itself through genuine engagement in my lessons, and adherence to behavioural standards and expectations. Such respect is not one sided, as I believe it is important to know each student, and take the time to discover their interests, developmental pace and style, background and history. By adhering in this way to multiple professional standards, and maintaining high expectations of my students, I believe my experience as a teacher will vastly improve.