By Abbey Mikha
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all who read at Assyrian Voice! I want to share with you an essay I wrote a while back for school. What kind of teachers inspired you in your life? Do you remember your teachers? Did you have a teacher who never paid any attention to you? Did you also have some great teachers that you will never forget? Have you ever had an Assyrian teacher? What kind of teachers made an impact on your education and your life? The following is my Teaching Philosophy if I was to become a teacher.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your comments. Let me know what you think about this article. Best wishes. Hope life is treating you all kindly.
Becoming a teacher has always been my dream. I have been working diligently towards this dream that some said I would not be able to accomplish. The main reason I want to be a teacher is that I always wanted to positively influence the next generation. When thinking about where I could do the most good in the world I always knew teaching would be the right path. My teaching philosophy is that teachers are there to help students improve their abilities and to inspire their spirits to love education. Students will always do better when a teacher is there to guide them through the obstacles. When a student has difficulty with schoolwork whether it involves numbers, letters, or eventually the more complicated things, the wise teacher will help them work through these struggles. She knows that helping all her students not fall behind will increase their confidence for the entire grade and into the next grade. This will be a stepping-stone towards the rest of their educational careers. In this teaching philosophy Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development theory will be defined, my opinion in regards to it being a good model for learning will be developed through various examples from the past, present, and future. A teacher is one of our first adult friends in life. If I was to become a teacher I would want to encourage my students from a young age creating for them a creative and pleasant environment whereby friendships can be built.
Supporting our Children
The zone of proximal development is important part of my teaching philosophy. It has been defined as, “The distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotsky, 1978, p86). Vygotsky especially believed that a child’s early understanding came from the support that they were given by interacting with knowledgeable adults. Such support allows a child to function outside regular independent abilities. When a child is given such support they are then able to make further development. This approach suggests that teaching should emphasize activities within this zone, since it is here that learning growth is occurring (Martyn, 2000, p. 35).
The Model of Proximal Development a Good one for Learning
I believe that the model of proximal development is a good one for learning and must be part of my teaching philosophy because it is fundamental to my beliefs of what it means to be a good teacher. Students have natural ability, but do better when a teacher guides them through a task that they find difficult. A child is lead by the teacher and eventually develops the ability to complete certain tasks without help. What children can accomplish independently and what they can complete with adult assistance is this zone of proximal development. Young children cannot complete tasks without guidance. Over time children may be able to complete complex tasks with just a bit of help. Concentrating on education, zone of proximal development is a very useful reminder to educators that through their help students can expand their knowledge to reach many more educational goals.
Teaching Styles and Foreign Students
My ideas about teaching styles is that various people have different approaches, but as long as teachers are sensitive to their students, are always encouraging them, and willing to help, then all will be well. I attended school in Lebanon, Germany, and Canada. I was lucky to be able to witness different teaching styles and philosophies from various countries and I experienced how the zone of proximal development works.
In Lebanon even in kindergarten the nuns began seriously teaching us and it was a strict environment. The nuns spoke to us and taught us in Arabic and French. This experience showed me that children could be taught from a young age to pay attention and to follow instructions. The nuns were very supportive and they made sure to help all of the students who were having difficulties with learning the alphabet and numbers. If a child was behind one nun was assigned to work with that child until they caught up. This is exactly what the zone of proximal development proposes because through guidance most children will develop in their learning. It may take some children longer than others but they can all eventually reach similar levels of understanding if a knowledgeable teacher helps them.
In Germany I had the same teacher from grade one to four in the small town of Hostenbach. She was kind and also had her own style. She taught us on all subject matters but she took special time for encouraging our creativity through Music and Art. She organized a choir for us and taught us songs like “Shalom Chaverim” which is a Hebrew melody that has historical meaning for the Jewish people. Although I am Assyrian this song stayed in my mind for the rest of my life, especially when learning about its significance. I always felt good singing this song because I felt like the Hebrew language was close to my Assyrian language, which I could understand pretty well at that time.
Also in Germany, at Christmas time we used to make various types of paper angels and paint pictures of Santa Clause. My German teacher also created an area in the classroom with a really comfortable sectional sofa and it was designated just for reading. This really made the students feel comfortable and at home and I liked that about our classroom. What I learned from the experiences from this class was that music and art are very memorable for children and can influence their feelings in regards to school a great deal. This teacher also made sure that her students were always caught up. I remember being in her class and when learning to subtract in grade one I continued to do addition. I guess I did not want to subtract. She explained to me the difference and I was subtracting fine after. This all has to do with zone of proximal development because it was through her help and through her taking time to explain to me about subtraction that I learned and progressed.
In grade four my teacher also organized our communion. This was always a very good memory for me. I was the only foreigner amongst my German friends. My teacher had me standing at the front center bench in the church. I always wondered why she did that since I was one of the more taller girls. I guess she wanted me to feel like I was also a special part of the ceremony. I thank her still for that special feeling she gave me. It is a day I will never forget. It must have been 1989. The following picture is from that day in Hostenbach.
In Canada I had the bulk of my education. My grade five teacher gave me the nickname Abbey because she could not pronounce my real name 3abeer. I liked that she did that because my name is difficult to pronounce in English and it would have given me a difficult time in school. It is nice of teachers to help foreign students like me who are Assyrian and new to the country especially when they are really young. Some students come from poor troubled countries; others have never attended a formal school. I would also keep all of this in mind and heart if I were to become a teacher. Making such students feel included and like they belong is very important, since many times these students have come from foreign countries, which were in very difficult situations like war.
My Canadian teacher taught us various subjects like English, Math, and Science, but we also had special classes in French and Italian. She also tried to help us learn by playing leader games. She would tell us a story and in groups of three we had to continue it and try to collaboratively develop it unto a final conclusion to show which one of us was the most flexible person and leader in the game. This was another approach to learning and also had to do with zone of proximal development since she helped us in the beginning by introducing the story but let us continue the main part and then conclude it.
Inclusion in the Classroom
I believe that zone of proximal development can also be used to teach students with disabilities, and if I was given the choice I would prefer an inclusive environment in my classroom if I were to become a teacher, whereby children who are called disabled, gifted, down syndrome, learning disabled, and average could all learn together. Inclusive education believes that students can all discover together in a supportive community. The individuals may have various learning needs and rates of learning but they will still be appreciated, acknowledged, and inspired to be the best that they can be. Within an inclusive environment children will learn that other children may be different but they are still special and deserve respect. Although zone of proximal development may be reduced for students with disabilities depending on their abilities there is still always that room for improvement and growth no matter how minute.
Poetry, Songs, and Creating Books
If I were to teach I would read poetry and sing songs with my students. I would encourage them to care about the environment by introducing them to books about the earth. I would also introduce them to subjects like Ancient History and Astronomy. I would concentrate on important subjects but also make time for creative subjects like Art and Music. I would also create books for my students. Doing projects like a book with each class a year would be very fun and educational. It will make students feel like they accomplished something as a group and create a good memory for them that they could keep forever. This has to do with zone of proximal development because through this collaborative effort the children and I will have created a story collectively, which reflects what we learned and found meaningful that year in class.
Teachers have the ability to influence their students and can help tremendously by working patiently on tasks that the students find challenging. A teacher must give their students confidence that they will be able to complete more difficult tasks by being persistent. By giving them these tools to complete such tasks they give them the key to the future and the door to their learned self-masterpieces.
Learning about the zone of proximal development can help all teachers and this should be encouraged since it is such an effective theory. Inclusion is important to me and if I had the choice I would allow for an inclusive classroom whereby children with various abilities would be allowed to participate in regular classes.
Support is always beneficial for students. All students can develop their abilities and talents with some guidance on their teachers part and effort on their part. If I were to become a teacher I would also try to acquire parents help and involvement in the education of their children especially for those of children who are struggling. This would make a big difference.
Vygotsky was correct in that there is a level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers. What a wonderful thing it is to know that science agrees with the fact that teachers can help students and will improve their abilities more than what was ever possible for that individual on their own. We should never leave any student behind because this can affect their confidence for the rest of their life. Every child deserves to be educated and helped as much as any other child.
I remember the names and teaching approaches of all the teachers who have influenced my learning positively. I hope that even if I were to become a grade one teacher I would be the kind of teacher that my students remember as always helping them through their educational struggles and never leaving them behind.* If I got the chance to be a teacher my goal would be to have the kind of class environment that my students reminisce about in the future. It would be a joy for me if they wrote letters to let me know how they are doing in their life, what career paths they have chosen, and how being in the classroom of an Assyrian teacher inspired their spirit to love education.
Long, Martyn. (2000). Psychology of Education, The. Taylor & Francis. Retrieved 12 October 2012, from <http://lib.myilibrary.com?ID=40425>
McLeod, Saul (2012), Zone of Proximal Development. Retrieved 15 November 2012, from <http://www.simplypsychology.org/Zone-of-Proximal-Development.html>