Being student teachers, we must constantly reflect upon the knowledge and skills we have gained in our everlasting learning process in becoming qualified teachers. As part of a TDT (tutor directed task) we are asked to reflect upon something that impacted us from our learning in semester 1 between the Values and Working Together modules. In particular, we must link this to the Standards established by the GTCS (General Teaching Council for Scotland). 3.4.2 tells us, as trainee teachers, we constantly need to “engage in reflective practice to develop and advance career-long professional learning and expertise” (GTCS, 2012, pg.12). This means that we can progress as life-long learners and gain further understanding through professional reflection.
A key aspect from last semester that has really stuck with me was Jill Shimi’s inputs for Values. As Jill was a primary school teacher herself, I could relate to her inputs on a personal level, as she brought her own experiences as a teacher and linked them with the social justice topics we were investigating.
One of her stories, which tied into the problem of social class structures within society and the rising awareness of the Getting It Right For Every Child approach, really impacted me.
When she was a teacher, she had a child in her class that would misbehave and lash out in an emotional way. However, they were not always an issue within her class and she knew that something must have happened in their life that had made them disconnect from their studies.
Jill decided that she needed to speak to the child on a one-to-one basis and discovered that something traumatic had happened at home. The child’s parent had been mistreating them and they were from an area that was deemed as being deprived. These two aspects put Jill’s student at a great disadvantage in life at such a young age and she knew that they would have a lot of problems that other more fortunate children would be less likely to have, which emphasised the point of the attainment gap hindering children due to their background.
“You just don’t know what issues each child faces once they go home. You really just don’t know.”
Jill’s words really resonated with me because it really hammers home that the school environment is never the same and it needs to adapt and change towards the needs of the children, which also vary from day-to-day.
What I loved about Jill’s ‘solution’ to the issue of the student being disruptive in the class was to have a genuine talk with the child. The GIRFEC approach did not exist when this case occurred and Jill’s hands were tied on how she could aid the child other than being open. She shared her own personal struggles with the student and she connected with them beyond just her duty of being an educator for them. This resulted in the behaviour improving.
Fortunately, there was a happy ending to the story as Jill saw the child a few years later doing well for themselves, going against society’s expectation of them.
Underpinning this personal story with reflection theory, Jill’s situation is a great example of a practitioner using Schön’s reflection-in-action concept as she had to use her own judgement, as a professional, in order to formulate a solution as the practice was unfolding in front of her eyes (Schön, 1987). She did not have any prior knowledge of the student facing these issues and she didn’t have any hindsight to work with. I, as a professional, will be thrown into similar situations where I will have to use my own judgement to tackle a problem within the classroom.
“The swampy lowlands, where situations are confusing messes incapable of technical solution and usually involve problems of greatest human concern” (Schön 1983, pg 42).
Schön explains, that real human problems cannot be fixed by legislation alone. He described professionals as being people in the ‘swampy lowlands’ meaning they are the people who are at the forefront of the problems faced in society.
I really commend Jill for her actions as a teacher and I am really glad she shared this story in the input because it allowed me to really delve into the Values and it emphasised their importance to me. She was a teacher who saw, firsthand, the injustices within society and that she had to find ways to tackle them.
GTCS (2012) The General Teaching Council for Scotland – The Standards for Registration. Available at: http://www.gtcs.org.uk/web/Files/the-standards/standards-for-registration-1212.pdf (Accessed 20 January 2017)
Schön, D.A. (1983). The reflective practioner: How professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.
Schön, D. A. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner: Toward a new design for teaching and learning in the professions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.