Aspire to Inspire
Me as A Dream Teacher
A dream teacher is someone who is successful in their profession. This raises the question in which ways can a teacher be successful? Is the most important part of being a successful teacher ensuring students are happy? Some believe this statement is untrue, as it is not the role of the teacher to ensure the happiness of their students. Instead, the role of a successful teacher is to create a positive and encouraging environment in which students can develop all aspects of their lives and be themselves. Happiness should not be the focus of being a successful teacher.
This can be examined through Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, which explores the impact role models have in children’s lives. Secondly, it is important to be aware of cultural misunderstanding and to be able to make the student feel understood. Lastly, being successful includes taking care of the well-being of a student as a whole according to the perspective of Holistic Education which is also part of my personal philosophy. In all these different aspects, it is not about the happiness of the students, but it is about creating a positive and safe environment for them in the classroom to be themselves.
2. Me as a Child
2.1. Social Learning Theory
Most people have that one person in their life that has encouraged and inspired them. This might be, for example, a parent, a sports coach or a church member but often people mention a teacher. One explanation for this is that teachers, in most cases, spend more time with the students than parents do (Cremin & Burnett, 2018). It might also be a quality that they exhibit, an action that the student can relate to or just the environment they provide for the students.
The Social Learning Theory, from psychologist Albert Bandura, states that children learn through observing those around them and learning from the behaviour and consequences. If children decide to imitate their role model’s behaviour it can have an enormous impact on their development, whether positively or negatively (Keenan, Evans, & Crowley, 2016).
On the other hand, “children do not imitate everyone around them; they are more selective, being drawn towards models who are warm and powerful and possess desirable objects and characteristics” (Keenan, Evans, & Crowley, 2016). Children could be looking to their student-teachers and teachers as someone they trust, look up to and want to imitate. Consequently, teachers should be setting good examples through their verbal and non-verbal language while teaching. If they are teaching about global citizenship and democracy, they should be demonstrating the qualities of a global citizen, like cultural understanding, and should demonstrate democracy in the classroom as well through involving students in the decision making, to a certain degree.
Personally, many teachers have made an impact on my life while I was a student. Looking back on the last four years of high school, Miss Medeiros and Misses Berry stand out for me. These teachers demonstrated admirable qualities like kindness, passion and understanding. They had those qualities as a person while also delivering the course content in an interesting manner as a teacher. They listened to students’ feedback and furthermore always provided extra support for those who wanted it. They helped me develop into a global citizen as both have had global experiences as a person and teacher which helped me embrace the challenge yet joy of being a Third Culture Kid, a child who has been brought up in two cultures and is a combination of the two. Their teaching and knowledge of Third Culture Kids makes me want to provide the same guidance to Third Culture Kids at International Schools.
As a student and future teacher, I want to be able to portray the same qualities they had to the students I will teach. I want to be able to provide an environment for the students that encourages them to discover who they are and embrace that.
At the same time, it is important to be mentored at all stages of life, including when one is a student-teacher. Doing a teaching practice gives the opportunity to be coached by teachers who have a broad understanding about the international community and are able to demonstrate qualities of a global citizen. It is an opportunity for student-teachers to discover techniques of teaching that are useful and impractical in their own classrooms. As a student-teacher it is important to realize that one is at the beginning of their knowledge of the classroom of an international school and being a teacher at one. This should be an inspiration for student-teachers to allow themselves to be mentored by those who have more experience while also sharing their own experiences with the students in the classroom.
For these reasons, the statement that the most important part of being a successful teacher is ensuring students are happy is not entirely accurate as it is more important as a teacher to be a good role model for the student, someone who exhibits qualities of being a global citizen. In order to be this role model, teachers need to have a basic understanding of the students in their classroom.
3. Me as a Student-Teacher
3.1. Cultural Misunderstanding
Knowing a student requires understanding of who they are, their personality and background. Students at international schools can be from all over the world, some have experienced the culture of many different nations before turning the age of ten. This happens frequently nowadays due to globalization. Big multinational companies have headquarters all over the world and require their employees to frequently move from one nation to another. This causes the children of these parents to move frequently as well and attend different international schools to have some stability in their constantly changing world. This means that teachers at international schools are working with students who have different cultural understanding in regard to values and norms (de Mooij, 2019). These students have unconsciously started the process of “hybridization – the process of mixing different cultural elements and styles” (Steger, 2017, p. 8). They combine different aspects of the cultures they have experienced and are living in a world that combines them together, they are also known as Third Culture Kids. They have the ability to shift their cultural lens to communicate and integrate into the culture they are now living in although it takes time to adapt to it (Morales, 2017). For teachers it is important to try and understand where these students came from and what their morals and values are to avoid cultural misunderstanding which can happen when the teacher is not aware of the culture differences, like what happened when I attended a school in a new country.
I attended a local public school when I first moved from the Netherlands to Canada and I felt misunderstood since most staff and students had very little knowledge of Dutch norms. In that school year, as a ten-year-old who barely spoke a word of English, a teacher thought that the Hagelslag (Dutch for Chocolate Sprinkles) I had on my sandwich contained peanuts which were forbidden at the school due to allergies. The teacher threw out my sandwich and made me clean my hands and desk. I had no way of communicating to her that the sandwich did not contain peanuts and I was left very confused, misunderstood, hurt and hungry as I did know at the time that she was just following school protocol. I was misunderstood because the teacher had never seen Hagelslag on bread before and did know what it was, and she was misunderstood as I did not understand her perspective since in the Netherlands peanuts are not forbidden at schools. We both had trouble communicating our perspectives to each other.
Some of the possible areas of cultural misunderstanding in communication is explained in the book Intercultural Sensitivity where the authors identify five of them, one of them being tongue (Nunez, Nunez Mahdi, & Popma, 2017). The fact that I was not verbally able to communicate with the teachers was part of the reason why there was a misunderstanding. Another was the fact that the teacher’s non-verbal language of throwing out my sandwich came across as a negative action to me and made me feel like she was disrespecting my culture. Nunez suggest that looking at the intention and influence of the person can give insight to the situation. Questions like “What is the aim of the conversation? What are the intentions, needs and motives of the participants in the communication? What drives each one of them to do their best?” can help answer why a person might be acting a certain way (Nunez, Nunez Mahdi, & Popma, 2017, p. 23).
As a student-teacher and a future teacher, it is important to realize that because of different cultures, a student might have trouble expressing themselves or may feel misunderstood in a new culture. Rather than jumping to conclusions, it is important as a teacher to dive deeper and gain some new understanding of that culture. Nunez identifies three key rhetorical questions to ask for feedback and clarity: “1. What is my share in the misunderstanding? 2. What is the other person’s share? 3. What is the influence of the social environment – the norms, values and general beliefs?” (Nunez, Nunez Mahdi, & Popma, 2017, p. 21). As a student-teacher, I would want to handle the situation differently, do some research on Hagelslag, have the student eat in a different room or contact the parents. In other words, try and make the student feel understood.
Ensuring students are happy is therefore not the most important part of being a successful teacher but rather it is important for students to feel understood. If, as an international teacher, one can make a child feel welcomed into the new culture and feel that their previous cultural experiences matter to them, a child can and will feel more understood. It is also beneficial if the teacher has some prior knowledge of the culture so that the student does not feel completely left in the dark. When a teacher can do this, they are not just teaching a student but also taking care of their needs that go beyond the set standard of most curriculums.
4. Me as a Future Teacher
4.1. Holistic Education
All international schools follow a curriculum, whether this be a national or international one, and each of them have specific aims, goals, and focuses. The focus of the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program and the International Primary Curriculum, in particular, is holistic education. The vision of this type of education is to look at the whole well-being of children. In the English as an International Language lecture during week 1.3, it was discussed that as a teacher in the holistic education program, they are to take care of the physical, intellectual, aesthetic, emotional and spiritual well-being of the child (de Mooij, 2019). Consequently, stating that the most important part of being a successful teacher is ensuring students are happy is incorrect. Taking care of the student as a whole, as stated in holistic education, requires more than just ensuring their happiness, it requires being able to help them with all the experiences they bring into the classroom.
While working at a summer camp for children aged four to nine, it was described that children wear a metaphorical backpack with them in which they carry positive and negative memories. Like family vacations, good school experiences but also an argument with a friend, witnessing parents fighting constantly or even violence. It was not the goal for the camp counsellors to take away these negativities from the children’s lives but rather to demonstrate coping strategies and show them that if they did not get their way it was not appropriate to be violent or yell but rather to be respectful to everyone in the environment. Our task was not to make the children happy but to create a positive environment where children can be themselves, get away from the negativity surrounding them and felt welcome. I believe this to be something to focus on as a future teacher as well. Teachers cannot take away the negative experiences of the children in the classroom, but they can provide a safe place for students to explore who they are. This is a big part of my personal philosophy of education.
4.2. Personal Philosophy of Education
When looking the responsibilities of a teacher, they have many. The most common belief of what teachers do is teaching a set of subjects that are standard to a curriculum. For example, the British National Curriculum has a set list of subjects to be taught at each age group. At Key Stage 1, ages five to seven, teachers are responsible for teaching English, mathematics, science, art and design, computing, design and technology, geography, history, music, physical education, and religious education (de Mooij, 2019). John Dewey believes that educating students is more than just teaching them these subjects. Society educates its children because schools encourage a democratic lifestyle that will prepare students for the democratic life as an adult (Haagsma, 2019). But how does one do that as a teacher? My personal philosophy of education believes it to be about being able to teach all the subjects and requirements set out by the specific curriculum and being able to teach the student as a whole, like holistic education.
This can be accomplished through developing relationships with the students. Knowing what type of students are in the classroom, their background and their struggles help the teachers be able to accommodate the specific subjects to the different students in the classroom. This is taught in the International Teacher Education for Primary Schools program at NHL Stenden as part of the design process. Students are challenged to empathize with the people they are designing for, including trying to understand their wants and needs and observe and watching as people are telling their stories (Denby, 2019).
Another aspect of holistic education is being caring, and emotional, physical, intellectual and moral growth. If a teacher can provide this for their student, they are well on their way to taking care of the student as a whole (De Mooij, 2019). Both these aspects of being a teacher are important and are connected together, in my personal philosophy of education, you cannot teach one without the other. Just like you cannot have a happy student without first providing a positive and encouraging environment for them, which is why a student’s happiness is not the most important part of being a successful teacher.
In conclusion, the statement “the most important part of being a successful teacher is ensuring students are happy” should be changed to “the most important part of being a successful teacher is ensuring the classroom is a positive and encouraging learning environment”. This will allow the students to look up to their teacher as their role model as that is important in the Social Learning Theory of Bandura. As well as gaining cultural understanding through getting to know the students.
Lastly, many international schools believe in holistic education, taking care of the student as a whole, which can only be done in an environment that encourages this and allows them to be themselves. As a dream/ future teacher, I do not want to be perfect but rather I want to create a safe space and environment for my students to be themselves, to explore the international community around them and to become global citizens.
- Cremin, T., & Burnett, C. (2018). Learning to Teach in the Primary School (4th ed.). New York: Routledge.
- Denby, J. (2019, September 12, 2019). Design Sprint [Powerpoint slides].
- De Mooij, M. (2019, September 16). The Political Economy of Globalization: describing the Issues [Powerpoint slides].
- De Mooij, M. (2019, September 19). Holistic Education: educating the whole child…. [Powerpoint slides].
- De Mooij, M. (2019, October 5). The Key International Curriculae Holistic Focus: National Curriculum in England [Powerpoint slides].
- Haagsma, M. (2019, September 3, 2019). Democratic Citizenship [Powerpoint slides].
- Keenan, T., Evans, S., & Crowley, E. (2016). An Introduction to Child Development (3rd ed.). London, Great Britain: SAGE.
- Morales, A. (2017, June). Intercultural Sensitivity, Gender, And Nationality of Third Culture Kids Attending An International High School. Journal of International Education Research, 13(1), 35-44.
- Nunez, C., Nunez Mahdi, R., & Popma, L. (2017). Intercultural Sensitivity: From Denial to Intercultural Competence (4th revised ed.). Assen: Royal van Gorcum.
- Steger, M. B. (2017). Globalization: A Very Short Introduction (4th ed.). Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.