Self-Assessment of Teacher Education Core Competencies
The aspect of the “Exploring and Enhancing Pedagogy” Competency that I am exploring is to “Engage Critically and Creatively with Ideas”.
A motivation for me to become a teacher is so I can be a change agent in society, especially in regard to equity and justice. When I completed my Political Science degree I worked for 2 non-profits and then two jobs in government (one with the Ministry of Children and Families, the other writing policy in the Ministry of Mental Health). These roles did provide social change high up, but the change is slow and too abstract for me to feel motivated.
Additionally, I wanted a role in which I was more hands on and working with people every day. And I’ve always loved working with children, so teaching is a great fit for me. I want my students to care about and be connected to their natural environment. I want my students to feel accepted by and engaged in their community. I want my students to be confident and proud of themselves. I’ve learned a lot this semester in terms of the ideas presented to our cohort through my Link to Practice and our courses.
A key takeaway from my favorite teacher this semester, Pam Quigg, is that:
The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book
This may seem like a cheesy quote but coming from Pam it rings true because she is such an amazing teacher and human. I feel like she genuinely teaches from the heart and loves people – especially children. For me in the context teaching and engaging critically and creatively with ideas, I think the most important part of teaching in Elementary schools is teaching students how to make sense of their world and how to develop confidence in themselves and their abilities. Being an effective teacher is about setting the foundation (or scaffolding) to get students excited about learning in order to foster a growth mindset and become lifelong learners. I have a lot to learn in terms of showing students how to become confident in their abilities and motivating them to take risks in a learning environment. One thing I learned in my Link 2 Practice (L2P) is that the way you set up your classroom (class culture, routines and procedures, physical layout, etc.) really affects whether students feel like the class is a safe space to learn or not. Learning is inherently risky where one makes mistakes. No one likes to feel like a fool, so it is crucial to teach kids that making mistakes is part of the learning process and expected. I loved the way my L2P teacher laid out her classroom; we met on the carpet every morning and checked in on how we were feeling, she told us what we were doing in our way, and she really integrated Inquiry Based teaching in her practice. She really focused on classroom culture and giving each student attention and encouragement.
My belief towards education has changed since starting this program in terms of realizing the importance of not just getting kids to regurgitate information through memorization but to really learn to learn. Before starting this program, I thought University (undergrad) was where you learn to learn, but I see now that learning to learn should start in Elementary years. Reflecting on my own Elementary school education I think there was too much emphasis placed on how to: line up in a straight line, sit in a desk with hands folded and eyes towards the front of the class. I wished there was more inquiry-based learning where I could have explored what I was interested in as a learner.
I am still grappling with my own personal vision as a teacher but some of the questions I have are:
- What do I really care about as an educator?
- What do learners really care about?
- How can I embrace the complexity of teaching?
- How do I perform good classroom management?
- How do I get students to like me but also to respect me and follow my instruction?
Another thing that I’ve learned is the importance of integrating technology into lessons. It is vital to know why you are using it and how it meets student needs. I learned that there is never too much “time in front of screens.” The problem lies in what sort of thing you are taking in from screens. I learned that videogames kids love to play like Minecraft are incredibly useful and effective as a learning tool if used effectively. I realized that kids know more about certain aspects of technology than I do, and this is not something to be scared of. I learned that as a teacher I cannot be afraid of using technology in a classroom because our world is exponentially changing, and we must equip our students with the technological tools and skills in order to be effective and contributing global citizens.
I have learned how teachers lean on teachers and that I am not alone in a classroom all day. Through my Link to Practice I learned the benefits of putting older grades with younger grades from other classes in “big buddy/little buddy” pairs in order for students to collaborate and teach and learn from each other. This arrangement gives the big buddy confidence in their knowledge and the little buddy someone to look up to and feel inspired by and motivated to learn from.
I learned about some ways to be innovative in a classroom; from learning about outdoor education and all the ways kids can learn in an outdoor environment, to the challenges of a portable classroom (and the ways you can innovatively make this a great learning space). I do not know where I will land a teaching job or where I will be for my practicums, but I do recognize the importance of innovation in order to make learning authentic and motivational for students.
I can navigate the BC Teaching Curriculum online and see what Big Ideas and Core Competencies are required for each grade and subject area. I am able to integrate several Core Competencies from different subject areas into 1 lesson plan. I was able to see this in practice and participate in teaching through my L2P day where we taught a STEM lesson to the students. We began by reading Iggy Peck the Architect. Then, students drew a blueprint of a structure they wanted to build. Students built their structure and adjusted or redesigned if it collapsed under the weights we put on top. We, the teachers encouraged students not to give up and keep persisting through with their design like Iggy Peck did. This lesson incorporated elements of Art, Math and Science. I will continue to grow in this competency by continuing to explore how to structure lesson plans in an Inquiry based learning format. Exploring different STEM exercises will help me. I know that Inquiry based teaching gets easier as you become more adept in your teaching practice.
I am able to see the benefits in “The Daily 5” lessons where students have choice and personalized learning goals where they know their task. The teacher can work one on one with students and they don’t feel as drained by the end of the day.
I learned a great deal about Inquiry based learning and why it is seen throughout the new BC Curriculum. One of the reasons why it is so vital is that it places students in the centre of the learning experience which gets them to buy in to learning because they have choice, can pursue their interest(s), and learn to “wonder” and generate questions that interest them. I learned about the importance of the physical learning environment (class layout), the importance of teaching students to “think like an artist/scientist/engineer/writer” in order to make learning activities authentic and meaningful. I am still learning how not to view and treat children as “immature/little humans.” Children in Elementary school have wonderful perspectives and great ideas! We need to recognize this and allow students the freedom to wonder and experiment with learning.
Currently, I have a lot of ideas and by spring when I start my Practicum I will have even more ideas. In Practicum I will have the chance to try out these ideas in a critical and creative manner by adjusting and changing them as needed in order for them to be effective for my group of learners.