Inclusion should be at the forefront of every teachers practice. Yes it would be easier and more streamline to devise one way of teaching and expect all children to learn from this. To classify those children that are able to learn in this way as “normal” and those that do not as different or with some sort of learning deficiency. This would be a mistake as each child has a unique way of learning that is formed both by their cognitive ability and their environment which should be the basis of a personalised method of teaching (Trussler, S & Robinson, D, p. 20).
As a society we seem to love categorising individuals, especially in binary systems: male & female, black & white, gay & straight, religious & atheist, rich & poor, smart & dumb, normal & deficient. These classifiers tend to create a power dynamic between said groups, as society seems to put more importance to one experience and perception over the other. This creates the us vs. them mentality that we see dominating discussions and debates in the media, politics and society. We seem to forget that everyone’s experience is valid and that just because someone has a different way of seeing a situation doesn’t make anyone’s way any less valid or wrong. We are all just an amalgamation of appropriations from our environment and experiences. I believe it is much more important to be aware of and question the dynamics of society that have created our unique perception and to not feel threatened by different perceptions that we may interact with. All insights are valid and can be understood from and expand other perceptions.
When working in the classroom with children from different families, backgrounds and beliefs, it is key for teachers to be open to different ways of understanding and perceiving. This can relate to everything from teaching students who cannot speak the classroom language to students who have SEND or in discussions with children about their views and beliefs of the world. Through my experience at the International school of Lausanne, politics seemed to be a hot topic for most classrooms where students represented a wide range of opinions and backgrounds. I realised the importance of listening to each student’s views and not judging them for it but rather trying to make connections through questioning and linking their different ideas to each other’s interpretations. Students felt heard and valued and stayed away from the us vs. them rhetoric. They started seeing the similarities and the multitude of layers that their opinions were actually formed of. Some students even started questioning their sources of information and seeing the limiting aspects that a set mind frame could have on their relationships and they way they interacted with the world.
For students with SEND or EAL I see this as very similar, just because a student has a slightly different way of processing information to the “norm” does not make their understanding any less valid. Through my involvement with SEND students and through my own experience of growing up with severe dyslexia, I have observed that when students with SEND are valorised, other students learning is expanded as well. By allowing and assisting children to figure out their unique way of learning, we can create a sense of pride and respect for each other’s methods and perceptions. Key to this, is to coordinate all the possible scaffolding that a child may need by providing different resources that the students are able to choose from and decide whether they need them or not. By allowing children to take control of their own learning and to create an environment of questioning and the respectful sharing of ideas, teachers can empower children in their learning not only of the curriculum but how they interact with each other and the world.
‘Understanding special educational needs, disability and inclusive education’. Chapter 1 in Trussler, S & Robinson, D (2015) Inclusive Practice in the Primary School: a guide for teachers. London: Sage.
In our modern times, it is easy to get a little too focused on our recent technologies, to believe that the future of learning will solely be through a computer screen, making the role of the teacher obsolete. Goswami concludes in her report, Children’s cognitive development and learning, that ‘learning in young children is socially mediated’ explaining that even in the most basic of mechanical processes children require a certain amount of ‘direct social interaction’ for their learning to be successful (Goswami 2015, p. 24). In this same report, Goswami concludes that the main difference between the way children and adults ‘think and reason’ is the amount of experience that adults are able to tap into to self-regulate and reflect on (Goswami 2015, p. 25). Goswami highlights the importance of proper modelling from the teacher in a multitude of situations and social interactions, for children to develop a good knowledge base for different circumstances. Through discussion with peers and adults alike young children are able to slowly build a map that enables them to navigate the social constructs that govern most of our day-to-day interactions (Goswami, 2015, p. 25).
Through my experience in different classrooms, I have seen several situations in which teachers deal with both of the aspects. E-learning has become a stable in most schools I have worked with. Instead of the children being left on their own though, teachers group students together with one device, usually an Ipad, asking children to work together and to compete against one another in games. When issues arose because of jealousy or misunderstanding the teachers were quick to intervene and open a discussion about the class rules and different behaviours that are considered acceptable and not. Though technology seemed to be of importance in the classroom, it was never the main focus and its use was usually for less than 15 minutes. This allowed children to familiarise themselves with the technologies that are prevalent without missing out on the benefits of social interactions. One tendency I noticed in one classroom though was a certain level of unease and misunderstanding of technology from the teacher. Through Goswami’s conclusion on modelling proper behaviours, we can reason that the students in this classroom would appropriate the teacher’s mistrust and misunderstandings of the functionality of certain technologies. Modeling was not solely around technology though. In one instance a teacher who was unable to get her classroom to calm down and listen placed herself in the quiet corner (which is where the children could go to calm down when they are feeling frustrated). Through modelling the behaviour being implemented by the students, the teacher was able to tap into the students’ empathy for her and her frustration. The students not only changed their behaviour because of this but also really understood the implications that their behaviour could have on their teacher and thus learning experience.
When working with my future learners, I will be sure to put into practice Goswami’s conclusions. I believe that it will be critical to have a varied amount of interactions and to not be afraid of incorporating parents, as well as other students and teachers, form the school. Goswami states that ‘Families, peers and teachers are all important’ creating as many different kinds of interactions that the students can learn from and build their knowledge base on (Goswami, 2015, p. 24). Though I still see the significance of e-learning and the use of technology, Goswami has converted me to understand that it should never be the focus, especially with young learners. I will be sure to generate an environment allowing children to interact and converse about their learning while moderating and modelling behaviours of intrigue, resilience, respect and camaraderie.
Goswami, U. (2015) Children’s cognitive development and learning; Report for the Cambridge Primary Review Trust [online].
[Accessed Oct 4th, 2017]
Behaviour management is a balancing act in many ways, much like walking a tightrope. You’re up in the air, daring to do the seemingly impossible, though through compliance to a few simple teachings you too can reach the other side of the wire in one piece. In one hand you carry the need and desire to motivate and capture your students’ attention while in the other hand you carry the necessity to have a calm and organised classroom. As a learning facilitator, it may feel at times that you are up at the highest of heights barely holding on to these two objectives and really just trying to make it to the other side in one piece. It may seem easier to let go of one of these objectives and to concentrate on only the one. This would be a mistake, as you would quickly realise that the one objective you have decided to hold on to, with all your might, would be putting you off balance, undermining your role as facilitator and motivator. This would not only put you but all your students who are watching from below, in harm’s way of your mistake.
At our Pivotal Education session on the “Five Pillars of Pivotal Education,” we learned the importance of “first attention to best conduct” (2nd Pillar, 2017). While helping with the management of an afterschool art club, this practice became key to the management of the class. The students had previously been given free range and as those who were disruptive seemed to be the ones always singled out by the teacher, there didn’t seem to be an end in sight where all students were being constructive to the lesson. By focusing on students who were active in the art process and celebrating those who dared to create and imagine, those who had been disrupting slowly started to seek attention by creating rather than troublemaking. I take issue with the use of the word best rather than good, for behaviour is much too multi-layered. I believe it is important to take notice and to praise all increments in good behaviour, not simply the best, As this will show students that you take notice of them and the effort you recognise they are taking, no matter the outcome.
Another of our learning’s from the Pivotal Education session is the significance of “consistent, calm adult behaviour”(1st Pillar, 2017). Not only is a calm adult a good role model for the kind of behaviour that is sought from the students, but will make sure that the students know that they can depend on you. Life for everyone wrought with ups and downs. To enable the best learning environment for our students, I return to what I mentioned in my safeguarding post, to leave our baggage at the door. It is easy to get stuck in our emotions and let them lead our behaviour and mood. If we act in an emotional way with our students, it will only confuse them and they won’t ever really know whether they can trust you, or what kind of behaviour you are modelling. Don’t let your ego get the better of you. Remove yourself from situations emotionally so that you can deal with them in a rational way. This will enable you to keep your integrity and the trust of the students.
So while you are walking the tightrope of behaviour management remember to stay focused, calm and collected. Keep a clear focus and keen eye ahead of you of the types of behaviour you are looking for. Who knows with time you may even potentially be able to juggle more objectives while doing the splits, all while keeping your students motivated, safe and engaged. Remember though, to paraphrase Pivotal Education’s third pillar, practice makes perfect.
Pivotal Education (2017) University of Brighton – 21st September 2017 – Five Pillars of Pivotal Practice – Paul Woodward, [Online].
[Accessed Sept. 26th, 2017]
Developing a safe and constructive environment is the responsibility of all members of staff and professionals dealing with children. As outlined by the Department of Education (DfE) in Keeping Children Safe in Education teachers are one of many who hold the responsibility of keeping the wellbeing of all students at the forefront of their practice. This document puts emphasis on the collaborative effort that these professionals must take on to ensure an efficient and anticipatory approach to creating a safe space for students (2016). As the document Working Together to Safeguard Children, also from the DfE, mentions, Children seek out stability, respect, consistency, collaboration and a certain amount of individuality from the adults that they come in contact with (2015, p.9).
This brings me to the first potential obstacle that teachers face in promoting the safety and well-being of their students. We are all human and we all have our own personal story going on and potential baggage. We can get so caught up in our own personal dramas and problems that we can blind ourselves from seeing the potential threats and dangers the children in our care are facing. In a way, it is our job to leave our own personal baggage at the door and be completely present both within and out of the classroom when dealing with all students. I am not suggesting that teachers should have no personal life and cut all ties with everyone in their life, for fear that something could come up that would be distracting. Teachers need to develop techniques to be able to let go of things. Whether this is by discussing the issues with a colleague or professional, or meditating before the start of class, it is up to the individual. A clear frame of mind is key to being able to keep a ‘child-centered’ approach, which does not allow for the needs and desires of adults to come before those of the child, as stated in Working Together to Safeguard Children (2015, p.9).
Additionally communicating appropriately to the right professionals about concerns and practices revolving around child safety and wellbeing is paramount to an effective program. As mentioned in Working Together to Safeguard Children nobody has all of the information necessary to make a constructive or accurate prognosis of any situation (2015). It is easy to jump to conclusions and make rash decisions based off of very little information. It is also easy to fall into the category of being complacent, and believing that somebody else will notice and take charge. One must remember that it is not a professional individuals duty to take on full responsibility for wellbeing and safeguarding though still being a key factor. Any information, when it comes to keeping children safe is important. This can tie back to keeping your baggage at the door. When we let our emotions or personal histories get in the way we can potentially overact and lose sight of the needs and interests of the child in question.
When it comes to appropriate communication and having a proactive mindset in ones approach, early development of professional relationships with other staff members is incredibly beneficial. Asking questions about what other members of staff potentially know about a situation can also give a teacher a clearer picture of a situation. It is also vital to create a relationship built on trust and respect with all children to ensure that their desires and mindset are at the forefront of any decisions made on their behalf (Working Together to Safeguard Children, 2015). This is also key in keeping their trust to ensure that your relationship with the student is not hampered and you are able to keep safeguarding and teaching them in the future.
DfE (2015) Keeping children safe in education, [Online].
[Accessed Sept. 19th, 2017]
DfE (2015) Working together to safeguard children. [Online].
[Accessed Sept. 19th, 2017]
I am a 3rd culture kid, born to Canadian parents and grew up in Switzerland. I am an empathetic, responsible and caring person. I am passionate about the arts having been in multiple theatre groups and choirs, as well as working as an artist. I love being active and outdoors on hikes, skiing, swimming, or just taking a moment to meditate and take in a view. I love to read, a mixture of philosophy, religion and science fiction. I constantly strive to expand my view of the world around me and am always excited by a good debate or critique. Although I still have much to learn about pedagogy, I realise that teaching is something I am passionate about, and I look forward to sharing this enthusiasm and my love of learning with you and my future students.