Category Archives: 1 Prof. Values & Personal Commitment

Looking Back, Looking Forward

One learning experience I particularly remember from school was from our topic in Primary 7. Like many in our final year at primary school we studied World War 2, and I remember very little of the worksheets or textbooks we read from about the subject. The activities I remember are the ones where we were actively involved and excited about the learning experiences – an idea I believe would still be true in a classroom today.

2 activities from this topic stand out in my mind, both centred around learning about Anderson Shelters.

Within the class, we created a somewhat lifesize model of an anderson shelter use wire, tarpaulin etc. As much as we could we were allowed to help construct the model, and seeing the finished product allowed us to appreciate the cramped conditions families would be subject to during an air raid. We also transformed a cupboard into what the inside may look like, complete with books and an old style radio. No technology was allowed in there, and in pairs we would each take turns to spend time in the “shelter”. This particularly stands out to me as you were living as people would have lived during that period in history. Getting children consumed in the learning and feeling like they are truly within the era is usually an idea reserved for Early Years classes, as their imagination is still wild and they are more inclined to believe the imaginary context the teacher has set up for them. In the upper stages, this imagination is almost taken out of the classroom, as the pupils are much less inclined to believe in a fairy leaving notes in the class or an alien visiting the school. Using the learning context in a mature way – allowing the pupils to discover the experiences and understand the emotions of someone living in the era/place they are studying – can reignite a love for learning in a creative way, which seems to get abandoned somewhere in the middle years of primary.

The other activity I remember was a homework task we were set to build our own model of an Anderson Shelter. I fairly standard task, I know, however, I remember working on the project with my grandad. I remember putting loads of effort and commitment into the project – using real soil for the garden etc – and I remember the pride I had in showing it off in class. Getting the family involved in the children’s learning, I believe, can be so rewarding and highlights to children the importance of learning and can motivate them to want to do work. However, I do understand the practical implications of tasks such as these. I am extremely lucky to have a hugely supportive family network who value my education very highly, however, some children will not have this luxury. While I would love to see a bigger focus on learning with the family – where I mean fun activities, not taking textbook work home – I understand that this would be dependent on the children in my class, and the knowledge I have of their backgrounds and family situations.

Even from simply analysing these two memorable learning activities from my schooling, I can see how my education and background will influence the teacher I will become. The fact that I remember the more active, involving activities is testimony to the benefits of active learning. Children who are engaged in their learning are more likely to tell parents when they get, and they are more likely to remember these fun activities. The influence of my family in my education and my life in general will also influence how I teach and how I see the role of the family in the classroom. While I understand that family life will vary hugely between children in my class, it is important to try to include them as much as is possible to show the children the intrinsic value of education.

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My Not-So-Secret Identity

In my opinion, personal values and morals make a person, and while others could argue that a career changes those values, I believe that it is the values themselves that change a career.

To explain what I mean, if someone has a generally calm, confident and caring personality, as I hope I show, my opinion is that they will be a better teacher. There are obvious exceptions to this rule, however, I think that the mindset you go in with will effect the outcome, not vice versa.

A teacher who genuinely goes into school in the morning with a passion to motivate their children, allows the children to “get more” out of the lesson. Without the key role model of a motivated teacher, children lack enthusiasm to learn.

While there are some personal matters which should be left out of the classroom, I do not think that it should be a “Jekyll and Hyde” situation.

I’m not sure how many of you are fans of Downton Abbey, but in the final episode, one of the footmen becomes a teacher in the local school. He has lots of motivation preparing lesson plans, however, the children do not engage with him. However, the next day when he explained that he was in service, they related to that as many of their parents were in the same position. This, while only a TV drama, emphasized the importance of having a rapport with your class and the benefits that can have on learning.

I’m a professional, and you’re under arrest!

The police force are in a career which would, I believe, undoubtedly be seen as a profession, and having watched “24 hours in Police Custody”, that has been proven to me even more.

These were the words that I have previously used to describe a professional. When looking back on these after observing the police unit, I believe that these are truly, but not exclusively, the qualities needed to be a professional. However, on reflection, there are a few more I would add. Linking to caring, I would add that professionals must be concerned about and considerate to the people they are working with. This was shown particularly by the police force in that they understood that they had a “duty of care” to the individuals they worked with. They were always asking if the suspects, and the families had any questions, and in one instance worried for the health of a suspect as he looked “pale”. This shows genuine care that I believe not everyone could show to these individuals. Another instance of this was where the officers did not want to go to the home “mob handed” as there was a child living there, and they did not want to frighten them. Again this shows a duty of care, not just for the suspect but for their families. For the second suspect, this was evident where the officer sat down with the wife, and explained what was happening. This would make her feel included and could lead to better cooperation with the police.

In terms of the video itself, I would reiterate my thoughts on having to be calm but confident. The first suspect shown in the video was not particularly helpful in the interview, however, the officers stayed calm, and treated the suspect with respect, even though he was under arrest. The officers in the same interview also showed confidence that must come with being a professional. The officer was determined that she was going to ask a certain question, and was confident, even though the solicitor was not happy.

An example of professionalism can be described in the scene where the viewers were informed that the suspect would work with social services whilst on bail. This inter-agency working takes the strain from the police as they can allow the suspect out on bail knowing that he will be looked after and can no longer pose any threat to his family.

In spite of the overwhelming professionalism of the police officers, there were some points which struck me as rather unprofessional. For example, the officers did not have a dress code as such, apart from the police body warmer that they wore while out visiting houses. While I understand that this may have been to make the suspects feel more at ease, I believe that dress code is important when considering professionalism as the way you look can often be the first impression people get. To establish a sense of professionalism, and the qualities that go with it as listed above, can form an early trust or bond between the “service user” and the professional. In positions such as police officer or teacher I believe that this relationship is extremely important. From a police point of view, without trust from suspects, there is less chance of cooperation. From a teacher’s point of view, this trust may not only come from the children, but also from the parents who will look at the teacher and instantly make assumptions about them and the school they work in, which I believe can all come from dress code.

The impact of the police officers’ professionalism was evident in how the suspects acted. They were not disrespectful towards the officers, as they themselves had been shown respect, and they were cooperative, especially in the case of the second suspect.

My university degree:

Attending Lectures – 20%

  • Lectures give basic knowledge about topics

Background Reading – 20%

  • Background reading emphasizes what students have learned in lectures and can spark new ideas and interests
  • Develops commitment and time management skills

Role Play etc – 20%

  • Allows students to use the theories that they have been taught and that they have read about to develop practical skills which are useful in their profession, without as much pressure

Work Based Learning – 40%

  • Gives students a feel for what it is actually like to be a police officer, and will draw in all of the other elements that they have learned at university

From watching this programme I have learned that the term “professional” is really an umbrella term which includes connotations of many other skills and qualities. While each profession will interpret these differently, they will all be used to some extent whether in the medical, police or teaching profession.The programme has reiterated to me that a “professional” is much more than someone who goes to work in a suit and tie and carries a briefcase. A professional is a well rounded person with genuine good intentions and a desire to succeed in what they do for themselves and the people they work with.

Professionalism as a Teacher

Clip 1 – I agree with the fact that teaching is a caring profession, and I certainly know that for me it was a calling, however, I know that this is not the case for everyone. I personally know people who have only recently decided that the teaching profession is for them, and I do not think it is fair that they be any less of a teacher because of this.

I also wholeheartedly agree with the idea that teachers are in some part similar to doctors, in that they are improving people’s lives – just as doctors can save lives, so too can teachers, albeit not medically. Teachers develop children, not just academically but socially and I believe complete the child, nourishing their talents and capabilities to a point where the child becomes a confident, independent adolescent.

When watching the interviews with the South African teachers, I found myself agreeing with everything that was said. A teacher, or indeed a professional one, must be dedicated, willing to cooperate with other staff and willing to go that extra mile in order to give these children the best education, and the best attitude towards school. The most important message from that clip in my opinion is the male teacher who simply said “Love your work.” For me, that is crucial in being a well-rounded, professional teacher. A teacher who does not enjoy going to work, and who is not totally committed to their class should not be a teacher. This affects the education of the pupils, and can lead them to see school negatively, potentially causing more serious problems later in time.

Clip 2 – The point to be stressed about this clip is that teachers are role models for the children in the school. They are someone to be admired, which refers back to my earlier point about how your motivation can affect the children. If they cannot idolize their teacher because they are negative in class, or do not appear to be fully engaged, they will seek other role models, potentially effecting their view of education totally.

Clip 3 – While I agree with both people in this clip, I think Chris is closer to my definition of professionalism. This clip raises the question to me about the difference between a worker and a professional. Can you be a professional without being a worker, just as you can be a worker without being a professional? Is a worker simply someone who arrives at work? I believe a successful professional to be someone who fully engages with their work, and has a passion for what they do, rather than someone who simply “clocks in and out” as there is no element of care for the job included in that statement.

The Construction of a Professional

In order to be a professional, I believe that you must be well rounded as an individual, which involves possessing all of the mentioned qualities. As well as a sense of motivation and determination, the idea of honesty to oneself is particularly important. Without being honest to yourself, you will not accept your flaws, and therefore cannot improve, meaning that you are not the best professional that you can be.

Patience – As a teacher, you must be patient with your class. If they are not physically or mentally coping with the lesson content, then there is no point in telling them off, the plan simply needs amended. A lack of patience makes a bad teacher in my opinion, as the work will consistently be at the wrong level or the pupils will not fully engage with the class because the teacher is always “grumpy” and shouting.

Fairness – A teacher must also be fair. There should be no favoritism within a class, although often there is. All pupils should be treated equally, and the work they are given should be fair in terms of the level they are able to work at.

Empathy – I believe the teacher should not be stranger, and times have changed from the days where the teacher was the person standing at the board with a ruler ready to smack anyone daring to go out of line. I believe a modern, professional teacher should empathize with their children and, while not getting too emotionally attached, should wholeheartedly care for the emotional well-being of the children, as well as their academic well-being.

Respect – “Respect is earned not given” is a statement I have been brought up to believe in, and still do to this day. If a teacher is actively respectful of those around them, be they staff, pupil or parent, I think children are more likely to be respectful themselves towards others (with an element of parental influence as well).

Self Control – How you present yourself as a professional is extremely important. For example, if a doctor speaking to you before an operation walked in wearing jeans and a T shirt, confidence levels of their capability will drop, regardless of what they say to you. This is also true for a teacher. If a teacher has no self control in their presentation or performance, parents and other staff will make assumptions about that teacher. That is why professional appearance is so important in my opinion.


Professionalism Online

What challenges/opportunities you may be faced with when marrying the personal vs the professional presence on social media?

Having a profile that is a mix of personal and professional life is dangerous, however, I believe it can have great benefits. If you have a shared account, it can allow colleagues (or pupils in an older situation i.e. university) to see another side to you that may not have been shown in your professional self. It allows them to have a rapport with you as they know other things about your personality which may not be conveyed in other professional situations. Common interests can arise and often make partnership working and collaborative projects easier.

However, there is a flip side to these potential advantages. If you have a lifestyle where you are having nights out that you wouldn’t want employers to see, then this mixture of profiles can prove to be costly in terms of your professionalism and potentially your career. A lively night of drinking can lead to consequences of its own, however, this also gives your employer or future employers an indication of your commitment to work and your professional ethics. This can be true of many careers, but particularly in the teaching profession, I believe that you must have a certain degree of maturity to accept that you may have to conduct yourself responsibly in and out of the classroom.

I’m not saying that by having a shared personal and professional profile you cannot have a social life, but I strongly believe that if you are taking this route you must have serious considerations about what you do outwith work.

How are the challenges/opportunities afforded by social media framed? How will you frame things – positive or deficit viewpoint?

The media play a large part in how social media is perceived and how it affects the role of teachers and other professionals. It won’t take long to look through a newspaper, or watch the news to find many examples of hyperbole which are simply not necessary. The recent example of a Dundee teacher who clicked on the wrong video made the front pages, when it was a simple mistake on their part and was corrected in under 10 seconds. It is these examples which will make teachers wary of using technology in classrooms, and will affect the education of the next generation – the children who are living in a technological world and many of whom will be working in this world in the future. Studies have shown that the need for software developers in particular will increase by around 30% in upcoming years.

While I look on technology in the classroom in a positive manner, and believe that it is essential to develop skills which may have already been introduced at home, I also believe that there are some negative points to consider. For example, not all households will have a computer. While the vast majority do, it may isolate children if there are internet related homework tasks which they cannot complete. However, the teacher can easily gauge this by asking the children, or parents and can change lessons and homework to suit their class. While classroom interaction should not be taken away from the school system – as it develops their social skills and abilities to make friends which may stay with them through life – there is certainly a growing place for computers and other technology in the classroom. The days of 1 computer per classroom will soon be coming to an end.