Who I am as a Teacher

Answering the question of ‘who am I as a teacher’ is an incredibly difficult task as an MA2 student who has only experienced teaching one P5/6 class so far in her career. However, it is a question that has been at the back of my mind ever since I did my first work experience in a primary school in S6.

Over the course of my experience of primary school, I have been fortunate enough to witness many great examples of outstanding teachers. These experiences were so positive, I know that they will remain with me for the rest of my life, not just career. Although I am inspired by my experiences, it is important to remember that I need to have my own philosophy of teaching – what qualities will embody me as a primary teacher in my own right.

To understand my own values in my profession, I first look at the GTC Standards that provide a good start for each qualified teacher in Scotland. Among other characteristics, teachers should uphold the professional values of Social Justice, Integrity, Trust and Respect and Professional Commitment (GTC Scotland, 2012). I believe in the importance of these professional values, with particular emphasis on creating an inclusive and respecting classroom environment and continually striving to improve my own professional practice as I face new challenges in my career.

An inclusive and respecting classroom environment means that all views and beliefs are heard and that children learn that respecting doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with, but rather it means you allow the individual to follow their own beliefs as is their human right. Not spreading a message of animosity, but respect regardless of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation, as humanity is equal.

This is why I resonate so much with the beliefs that the International Baccalaureate (IB) Learner Profile strives to instil in each pupil under their programme. For me, it is key that pupils are taught to be Open-Minded (International Baccalaureate Organization, 2013), which refers to creating their own informed beliefs. This means that quality discussions about world issues and differing views is an important aspect of more informal learning in the classroom, an activity which I strongly believe is valuable.

I further agree with the concept of creating Inquirers (International Baccalaureate Organization, 2013) as I fondly remember my own love of learning when I was of school age, so I am passionate about motivating pupils to pursue learning rather than see it as a chore. I think that to achieve this, Reflection is required (International Baccalaureate Organization, 2013), so I am inspired by how the IB Learner Profile links all of these qualities with the aim to create autonomous and successful learners.

Finally, to create my philosophy of the kind of teacher I want to be, I look to my own qualities that I can bring to the job, the ones I believe made me ideal for the profession in the first place. I think this is particularly important to consider as well as relating to the GTC Standards and IB Learner Profile because the teaching job is easier if you are allowed to be yourself in the classroom. I think I work well and enjoy working with children because I am empathetic, which allows me to understand how others feel and show kindness to all. I am also knowledgeable in many areas as I have always liked speaking to people to improve my own understanding, which means that I am happy to teach every subject and ensure pupils possess knowledge from a diverse curriculum also. I believe that primary school should be about preparing pupils for the path they choose to pursue in later life, so covering all subject areas caters to each pupil’s passion.

Most of all, I want my pupils to be happy. I want to emphasise the importance of physical, social and mental wellbeing in a world where you judge yourself over how many likes your selfie got or whether you participated in the Fortnite tournament last night. I want my teaching to inspire pupils to want to come to school and go home to find out more about what they learned today. I want to nurture a love of reading books and to help my pupils aim high, and be the best they can be.

This is my philosophy of teaching as I embark on becoming a successful Primary teacher.

 

References

The Standards For Registration. GTC Scotland (2012). Available at: http://www.gtcs.org.uk/web/FILES/the-standards/standards-for-registration-1212.pdf (Accessed 29/9/19).

The IB Learner Profile. International Baccalaureate Organization (2013). Available at: https://www.ibo.org/contentassets/fd82f70643ef4086b7d3f292cc214962/learner-profile-en.pdf (Accessed 29/9/19).

Concept-based Learning

This interesting approach to learning has intrigued me because of its emphasis on ensuring all learning has a purpose and highlighting how the world is interconnected in many ways. A curriculum that can teach pupils this awareness from a young age deserves to be explored in greater depth.

The idea of learning a ‘concept’ rather than facts and statistics has advantages because it means that pupils can understand key elements of the world across a variety of disciplines, as ‘concepts’ can be learned through transdisciplinary learning or in stand-alone topics. Regardless of the topic, the idea of a concept allows pupils to consider wider themes and ideas that appear in the world around us – for example, learning about evolution theory and migration in the 21st Century can be linked through exploring the concept of change. This allows pupils to see how learning about the past affects their future.

In PYP, 7 main concepts are highlighted in the curriculum. These are:

  • Form
  • Function
  • Causation
  • Change
  • Connection
  • Perspective
  • Responsibility

This lists accentuates concepts that should be explored in the curriculum, but the list is not exhaustive.

Concept-based learning is an intriguing idea, however at this stage in my professional development I am wondering how to ensure pupils understand the significance of what they are learning. There is a difference between topics, facts and concepts and as teachers we need to include all in the curriculum, but convey that concepts are key to deeper understanding of the world around them.

“90% of what we teach in school is a waste of time…” – is this true?

It is saddening as a future primary teacher to see this statement and to imagine a classroom full of young students who are disengaged, unmotivated and fully supporting this statement. This is fundamentally not the purpose of education – for children to believe learning is pointless, and for this detachment from learning to only grow as they progress through life.

Before the pressures of placement took over and I had the task of creating my own worthwhile lessons, I really enjoyed taking a backseat in my MA1 placement class and watching how the pupils learned. I liked trying to read each pupil’s mind and particularly focused on everything I had learned about body language – it was interesting to notice the little details now that might escape me while I was standing in front of the class preoccupied with teaching. I was lucky to have a really good example set to me on my first placement, to be able to see smiles, good work and also positive relationships exhibited. If I could emulate such a positive learning environment in my own practice, I knew for sure I was on the right path.

I believe that learning should be relevant to modern life – helping children unmuddle the complex world they live in, and begin to form opinions of their own from an informed background. This is one of my main aspirations as a teacher, to ensure children see the purpose they have and difference they can make in the world. In the IB PYP, this is also a key concept.

When a pupil says to me, “Miss, I don’t see the point in learning this, I’m not going to bother”, I want to always have an answer ready.

 

 

IB TDT 1 – Inquiry

Since starting on the IB Pathway, I have been interested in learning more about the concept of learning using an inquiry-based approach. To me, inquiry is about having a focused and switched-on mindset, meaning you are always willing to accept new information and actively pursue it. It is interesting to me to think of an education system centred around learners being constantly open to absorbing more. Inquiry means that students are not just passively learning, but are actively involved in the process and make decisions for themselves about what will help them on their learning journey.

I believe that creating inquiring learners is one of the aims of CfE, but I am sure that it is an even more relevant and applied concept in the IB PYP curriculum. In my experience of CfE, I was able to see good examples of inquiring pupils who had autonomy over their own learning because they were offered Personalisation and Choice. This is because Personalisation and Choice is one of the principles of Curricular Design that is highlighted in CfE. A broad element of choice was great to see as I think that it aided pupil’s concentration and motivation, because instead of being parroted learning, they were able to have independence and it meant that they were doing the work they wanted to do. A particular example of this approach in action is a Homework Grid, which was made of up ten optional tasks of which six had to be completed over six weeks, but the order and selection was purely down to the pupils. Instead of dreading homework, it was clear to see that pupils enjoyed having to make the choice and completing the activity that they preferred.

I am intrigued to learn more about inquiry-based learning’s prominence in the IB PYP curriculum and I am wondering how I can apply this approach to my own classroom, regardless of the curriculum I teach. I feel optimistic that I can create a learning environment in my classroom where pupils feel inspired to learn and are excited about school.