As part of the Working Together module delivered in Semester 1, we focused on the collaborative practice of teachers with other professionals from a variety of disciplines, in particular, their close knit relationship with Social Workers and CLD Workers. One particularly defining moment for me, professionally, was our visit to Partners in Advocacy in Dundee. Before the visit, I was rather uninformed about the role of an advocate and how much our two professions overlapped. As I recall the visit, I remember my fascination at just how much work they do with children in all different, and rather difficult, situations, which you may say I was slightly naive to.
All I could think of was, “Will I have children in my class who need that extra bit of support in making their voice heard?” Certainly, in a child’s education, I could emulate an advocate to ensure their views and opinions as learners are being recognised. This sort of advocacy on by teachers on behalf of the pupils learning responds directly to one of the key design principles of CfE, “personalisation and choice”, where children are given the opportunity to have views on their learning and I am merely acting as a vessel for them to voice those views.
It has been suggested that “teachers have been an underutilized voice on how to improve schools” (Flom, 2010). As a result, both their views and the views of their pupils have been forgotten, even undervalued. My now newfound knowledge regarding advocacy and it’s role can ensure that as a professional, my opinions are listened to and that I will pay extra attention to guarantee others’ views are treated with the same respect. The visit provided me with a sense of empowerment and I was able to evaluate the injustices I had heard of.
Of course the work of the trained advocates must not be undermined by teachers, in fact it should respected and engaged with. As a teacher, I would feel as though I could only go so far in advocation whether I wanted to or not, but the independent nature of the advocates must be appreciated by teachers. Teachers have a particularly strong bond with their pupils that it may be impossible for them to adhere to the impartiality needed in advocacy. Therefore, teachers must rely on outside assistance from independent parties to achieve this and ensure true advocacy is taken place.
Thinking back to the visit, I almost felt ashamed that I had never heard of advocacy before when it is such an integral part of the holistic approach to a child’s health and wellbeing. I feel as though prior to university, I was perhaps in my own little teaching bubble, where I hardly considered the work I would do outside the four walls of my classroom. Semester 1 has really opened my eyes to the collaborative nature of our work as teachers to provide the best possible level of care for every child, particularly in reference to the GIRFEC approach (Getting It Right For Every Child)(Children and Young People (Scotland) Act, 2014).
Not only has collaboration been emphasised to me but also the reliance on continual reflection has become apparent. I particularly like Schon’s (1983) concept of reflection-on and -in-action, with both of these theories playing equally parts in a teacher’s career. I consider being able to reflect on a current situation, in the moment, as a valuable skill for any teacher. The classroom can be very fast paced and a teacher must be prepared to adapt their lessons for any number of reasons in order to keep up the focus of the children. Equally, a teacher must be able to look back on their work in more depth with a critical eye, to either learn from their mistakes or develop their successes.
Flom, J. (2010). Emerging trends: Teachers as advocates. Cooperative Catalyst. Retrieved from: http://coopcatalyst.wordpress .com/2010/06/11/emerging-trend-teachers-as-advocates/
Schon, D.A. (1983) The reflective practitioner. New York: Basic Books.
The Scottish Executive. (2008). Building the Curriculum 3 – A Framework for Learning and Teaching. Retrieved from: https://www.education.gov.scot/Documents/btc3.pdf