Sunday, February 04, 2007

How do I understand myself as a teacher?

Brookfield, S. D. (1995). Surprised by the familiar. IN S. D. Brookfield. Becoming a critically reflective teacher, (pp71-91). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Brookfield, S.D. (1990). Developing a personal vision of teaching. In The Skillful Teacher, (pp 15-28). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Loughran, J. (Ed). (1999). Researching teaching: Methodologies and practices for understanding pedagogy. London: Falmer Press. Chapter 8

The article by Russell and Bullock in Loughran (1999) was a real eye opener. Something I lamented in my previous entry was that finding a critical friend is difficult of perceived hierarchical structures within schools. This article showed that you can reflect on your practice in a way that does not reduce your professional standing. In this article a student and a lecturer each reflect on their teaching practice and what I see coming of this is not that one person is taking a superior position over another, but that they are listening to each other as they find their own path. Suggestions can be made, may not be taken, but it is the process of putting your reflections in a manner that can be understood by someone else that is the difference between half thoughts and full thoughts. Knowing that someone is interested in your journey helps make that journey less lonely. I liked the statements, ‘How we teach is the message’ and ‘How we research teaching is the message.’ (pg 151)

I was also inspired by the title of the Brookfield article (1999) “Surprised by the familiar”. It made me think of Freud and his idea of the ‘uncanny’, the situation in which something familiar becomes strange. This to me is the point of reflection. When we take a good look at our practice, there are many things we take for granted, that are familiar. These things may be just what we need to reflect on!

Reflection helps you to understand just how much you are learning and how much you are changing. It may not be evident until you take a good look. I was talking to a colleague this week. Lamenting that the longer I teach the more difficult the job seems to be getting. She gave me a pearl of wisdom. She stated that when we first started teaching we were unaware of a lot of the needs that our students had and we had a limited repertoire of teaching strategies. This meant that teaching was relatively easy. Now we know there are many ways to teach a subject and we can identify the myriad of needs of students in our classes, many of which we will never get the time to address. Being the diligent committed teachers that we are, we run ourselves ragged trying to do what we can. Now that I have identified the reason behind my difficulties, will I take steps to change?

Karl and Kopf make the observation that teachers often do not take the steps they need for change. “There is no support that the more people know about their behaviour, the more they will improve it.” (1993:309 in Brookfield 1999:82). This demonstrates why it is important to have a critical friend to help you stay on track.

I found the article by Brookfield (1990) quite depressing. It seemed to state that you need to find and articulate a personal philosophy of teaching to defend yourself and convince your students that you know what you’re doing. This was my take on the article. I do agree with the underlying theme though - ‘without a vision the people perish’. You have to know where you’re going or how will you know when you’ve got there?

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