Monday, May 12, 2008

Why is Reflecting on Teaching So Important?

In Score One for Mom, Meg tells about how her young son was doing really great in school and all of a sudden is having difficulties. She was deeply concerned and contacted the preschool director to find out what is happening. After much discussion, she found out the problem was that they stopped providing the necessary support system he needed to find success. She states “With kids like George, it's like they built a really cool playhouse on top of a bridge. A playhouse where he felt very comfortable and knew how to maneuver safely. Then they demolished the bridge.” Once they were back in place, George, his mom, and the teachers seem much happier.

This really brought home how much teachers needed to be reminded just like students to stay with the program if a student is successful, to look for ways to help a student become successful, and to look for ways to help a student become more successful. We shouldn’t get complacent because things are going smoothly. We should constantly reflect on what is going on that is making things go smoothly. Sometimes we are happy that nothing “wrong” is going on that we fail to try to make things better or we forget the things we are doing that makes the situation so wonderful. Just like George needs to be challenged in a way that he is not bored, teachers need to be challenged so that they don’t become bored teaching or take what they are doing for granted. It also made me think of people with mental illness who tend to stop taking their medication because they feel better and once the medicine is stopped, they stop being better.

As professionals we need to monitor our own teaching behaviors to watch that this doesn’t happen. I feel one way to do this is to reflect regularly about our teaching practices whether it is through blogging, videotaping or whatever form that works best for the individual teacher. I think that is what I found most valuable about working for my National Board certification was learning how to reflect about my teaching. Everyone says to reflect, but no one really explains how to reflect on your teaching practices. Teachers need ask:
· why they are doing a certain lesson,
· what do they hope the students will gain from it,
· is there research that backs up what you are doing,
· what were the results,
· and what could you have done differently.
By asking these questions, I feel I have become a better teacher. I don’t take what I do for granted anymore and I am more conscious of my actions and how they affect my students.

We can learn a lot from George and his mom because communication is a major key. Once the doors for communication were opened, someone had to ask the right questions to find the solution to the problem. I didn’t hear a lot of finger pointing or blaming in Meg’s post so both sides didn’t get defensive. It was important to look objectively at what the problem was, what was going on each day, and realizing what the cause of the problem was. Once realizing the problem, the solution was discussed and put in place. Once again George is being successful!

As teachers we need to communicate closely with parents because they may know the key to something that works with their child. Some parents may feel intimidated by the teacher and be afraid of sharing this information unless they are asked. Some teachers are offended when a parent offers suggestions that they know has worked with their child in the past. I know in the ideal world this shouldn’t happen but I have seen it happen. In fact, I had a child have a seizure and when notified, the parent mentions that the child had epilepsy but was afraid to say anything to the school about it. I feel it is imperative to develop a rapport with the parents in order to work as a team in helping the student be successful.

My husband and I were discussing this in the car as we traveled and he thought it was good that George had this happen at a young age so his parents know how to handle this as he gets older and experiences situations like this. At least his parents will have this as a point of reference to use to begin dialogue with other teachers. My husband asked me if professionals didn’t hope to wean children off the support systems like this and I feel that we should, when it is a conscious decision and we are monitoring the results. This way if the support is not working, we can make adjustments and look at why this didn’t work. If the student no longer needs the support, we know under what circumstances this should happen in case the need ever arises again. Just like some people may need their medicine adjusted at different times in their lives, support systems need to be evaluated and adjusted as needed in order for students to be successful.
Photo credit: The Thinker by notanyron

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