Northern Ireland

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.

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