TEFL teaching

Reflective Essay: Skills for Life

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Skills for Life, through embedded learning, have been seen to be vital these days. These skills, literacy, numeracy, and ICT are skills that are fundamental for any students to have as a minimum requirement. This fact was exacerbated many years ago by the Moser report ‘A Fresh Start’ (DfEE 1999) that highlighted 7 million adults literacy skills were below those expected of an 11-year-old.  This worrying figure emphasized the need for teachers to take use any opportunity to embed these key skills in their lessons. I would like in this essay to reflect on my experiences of embedding which asserts “learn by doing”. Moreover, research has suggested if the skills are embedded the students actually feel more motivated (Roberts et al. 2005). I faced this with a research project I did involving Howard Gardeners Multiple Intelligences (1983). I studied students’ learning characteristics in an ESOL class and reflected on them using various techniques to aid their learning.

To begin, multiple intelligence suggests that students learn in different ways, so, for example, one learns more by being active (body kinesthetic) while another learns more from pictures (visual spatial). Of course, in an ESOL class language and literacy are paramount, but this had to be done in ways that were learner-centred with active learning which kept the students focused on the task, so they still used their English language. For instance, I gave each of them a picture of a famous person with some text about that person. I gave them the grammatically formed questions and answers to ask each other about their famous person (verbal linguistic). Incidentally, I had a higher level class get their information from the internet. So, they first had to read the text and write down the answers to the questions. They would then get to ask and answer each other who the famous person was, where they were from, how old, and an interesting fact.  I collected the faces, got the students into groups (interpersonal) and each group had to ask questions (logical mathematical) to find out who it was I was thinking about. It was like a game show. The winner was the one who guessed right first. Language was guided by myself, the teacher, to use complete answers and questions and the discussion in the groups was prompted by me also. The embedding here involved having a fun activity while pressing home language proficiency which is similarly shown in LLUK standard BS1, of ‘maintaining an inclusive equitable and motivating learning environment’. This class had competition, interest and a challenge which was valued as much as with English and literacy.

Still staying with learning languages, but this time related to numeracy, I had been teaching a class about nouns. I had had them in groups outside (naturalistic approach) describing objects. It was a kind of treasure hunt. They then had to write about what they found and present it. The presentation involved the characteristics of the object. The progression from objects was onto using nouns involved with shopping. I also felt for this subject the students should get used to prices. I found some newspapers, magazines, and door-to-door fliers that were filled with adverts for shops, filled with writing and numbers. So, I proposed that the students go through the newspapers, magazines, and door-to-door flyers. The students needed to read them, cut out eight objects and stick them on a large sheet of paper (Bodily/Kinesthetic). However, the pictures had the prices missing. Then, they had to write about their object, ready for selling.  A few times, I actually did this part of the lesson with the computers and had the students make up a catalogue for their objects. There was certainly less clearing up. Once they were finished sticking, the challenge for the exercise was for each group to get the other groups to guess the answer to the price of the object. The students had to work in their group to guess the price. This meant they had to work in their group to come up with answers using their English. It ended up as ‘Price is Right’ competition with myself telling them they could not go over the real price. The nearest won, so, they had to work out the prices higher or lower which as an embedded numeracy skills worked well.

To sum up, in this reflective essay I have shown that through my work and reflection with multiple intelligences, which was actually part of my ongoing continual professional development (CPD), that as a teacher I try to embed key skills into my lesson. This I feel goes a long way to ‘discovering, respecting, and meeting individual needs’ (FENTO, 1999). My ESOL classes are full of opportunities to use not only to use literacy coherently in reading and writing but also in numeracy where for example we talk about the telling the time and buying goods. Not forgetting, the use of ICT to allow the students to work on projects in groups or an individual basis.

(829 Words)

References

Further Education National Training Organisation  (FENTO, 1999)

Moser, C. (1999), A Fresh Start. London: DfEE. Retrieved on 15 June 2008 from http://www.lifelonglearning.co.uk/mosergroup/

Roberts, C., Baynham, M., Shrubshall, P., Brittan, J., Cooper, B., Gidley, N., Windsor,

V., Eldred, J., Grief, S., Castillino, C. and Walsh, M. (2005), Embedded teaching and learning of adult literacy, numeracy and ESOL: Seven case studies. London: National Research and Development Centre for adult literacy and numeracy.

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A critical appraisal of an article –  Teaching: the Reflective Profession Incorporating the Northern Ireland Teacher Competences

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There are always areas of any profession people are in, to which they feel may need change and/or improvement. Teaching is no exception, I feel. Any teacher needs to be enthused to bring light to new areas of interest in their line of work. Having read many articles on professional teacher development, I came across a document that inspired me with some core beliefs. It made me read more, delve deeper and look at a specific area of the teaching profession that I hope empowers me. The document is ‘Teaching: the Reflective Profession’. It was published by ‘The General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI)’ to show competence for reflection and discussion. It was written to address the issues and recognise the complexities of teaching. In this appraisal, I will address how this document gave me an insight into an area I feel may be missed by teachers in their daily toil.

One true fact is that children need to develop not just as ‘rounded individuals able to prosper in the world but, as importantly, to live together in a culture characterised by tolerance and respect for diversity’.  These words speak volumes when I consider the position and the factors I face every day with my school. From observations of various teachers in my school, I feel, they do not, in reality, recognise their students’ true needs for the outside world they will be entering. The teacher is usually sat at a desk. A microphone is always used because the students are so loud. The students are there solely as listeners in nearly every subject. The situation reminds me of Charles Dickens ‘Hard Times’ where the students learnt facts and imagination was not on the syllabus. There seems to be no thought process involved. I see students turning off, then, just copying other people work to get a mark. I feel it is a culture of ‘It’s there if you want it’ mentality. The brighter kids are at the front and the ones that really need help are at the back where there left behind. This cannot help them to survive in the real world. The students are only worried about final marks not what went into getting that mark, be it copying or cheating.

The feeling I get is that every teacher has to have an ethical basis and moral purpose to their teaching work. This means involving all the students with challenging material and getting them interested in learning. In many ways, they need to learn about how to learn. The GTCNI document states teachers should be ‘prepared to experiment with the unfamiliar and learn from their experiences’. Varying the strategies in teaching highlights the adaptability of teaching and the student abilities. It is true that each student’s learning and abilities differ. I also feel that the teacher’s integrity relies on the fact that variation not only makes the classroom interesting place to be, but also the students feel a sense of worth and power their learning. This, in turn, develops the power of knowledge and creative minds. To be a true teacher your moral consciousness should tell you, am I just doing a mundane job or am I creating a learning experience that not only interest you but also the students?

Moreover, the GTCNI document also mentions ‘Day (2004)’ who reminds us that ‘Teachers, now, are potentially the single most important asset in the achievement of a democratically just learning society.’ He goes on to confirm that a central part of our mission is to develop and sustain within our pupils a sense of self-worth and to create for them an understanding as to present and future possibilities. The GTCNI emphasises the integrity of a teacher valuing each student’s needs and value of education that pushes and challenges them.  This enlightens me to my teaching not only as an educator but also a moral agent. A teacher as a moral agent opened my thinking because I have put so much work and study into my teaching. At the same time, I feel I have not given much of that time to recognise the moral and social purpose I hold within the school and community at large. I realise you have to be a responsible educator who wants to help shape young minds and impart moral values. My integrity, as a teacher, must also rely on the fact that I see an educational potential and development in every student. The Charter for Education states ‘education is the path to self-realization, personal fulfilment, civic well-being and economic prosperity’. This statement goes beyond what a teacher I think could be constrained with, within a curriculum.  A teacher’s moral commitment allows him or her to see any student as a person who is growing up in the world. This person needs to be taught to, not only learn and value learning but also him/herself as a person.  They need to see school not just as a place they are sent by their parents. The teacher as the educator has to apply a code that realises all aspects of life. This will get the students ready for the world far beyond life in school. The GTCNI document proposes ‘creative and innovative approaches’. They want pupils to ‘think creatively’. I strongly feel that a teacher as a moral agent must realise this purpose in education. This allows the students to feel as they are worth their place in the school and class and the world they live in.

In the appraisal, I feel I have shown how a deeper understanding is needed to push the teacher forward with moral purpose. This, I think, gives the teacher a greater role as an educator not just as a teacher. There is a reason student come to school and that is to better themselves. This means the whole person and it is the teacher/educator who as the wiser must adhere to the highest principles.

(996 words)