School

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’s 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.

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That first TEFL class

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So, someone asked me what I thought about starting with a new school abroad and how would a new teacher prepare for such an adventure that would help them settle in smoothly. I thought I should share my ideas with you hopeful educators. Hopefully, it gets you thinking a bit more and helps you along.

…..I would say beforehand go into the school and meet everyone to show them you are willing to learn more about the school and to show that you are friendly. This may be a good chance to find out what books are being used (you could actually take the books home then) and what is the curriculum; also the ages of students, their backgrounds, and their levels. I worked for a school that had 15 levels from basic to advanced, so it is good to know what you will be teaching. I would also see what hours I am working and how long I have the students for. In a high school you may have them for a whole term but in a language school only 30 hours (4 – 6 weeks).

I think you should mention that you would set up a few observations beforehand (and in those first few weeks). With these observations, you may actually be observing the class(es) you will be teaching, the students will be glad to say hello, this may be beneficial when you have that first class. This could be good as you get to see the teachers in action and how they use the classroom (classroom management). It would also be good to get a mentor. He or she could help you with the school’s teaching approach and also observe you in those first classes just to help you along. I would also go out for a drink with the teachers beforehand or have lunch together. They may even have a teacher’s room where they can show you all their available materials and of course your desk.

There are many private schools out there where there are 15 to 20 in a class (high schools I had 60).  Above all, this kind of work has a very communicative approach because more than likely the students learn English but not with a native speaker. They usually have to sit and listen. Think about pair work, group work, students facing the board, and being able to come up and write at any time. Your classes need to be active and student-centered because in many ways you are the facilitator.

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