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The Choice of Teaching and a Nation-Building Vocation

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When one decides on a career path he will venture in life, it is important that the choice be based on criteria that reflect his personal values, experiences and skills. My choice of teaching as a profession was not a mere coincidence; it was the result of a process of reflection about what I wanted to do with my life and my education. There are a few forms of motivations that played a role in my choice of teaching, a nation-building vocation.

Firstly, from my late teenage years I have been a Sunday school teacher at my local church. From the onset, I knew that I enjoyed working with children; I am drawn to their zeal to learn, their innocent nature, and their inquisitive minds. It has always been a joy for me to be around children especially for those who were willing to listen and follow instructions.

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Another prominent factor is an older sibling who was pursuing a career in Primary Education at The Mico Teachers’ College. Her vibrancy, creativity and passion for the classroom have greatly impacted my decision to venture into teaching. Additionally, she decoyed me into this pathway as I was taught the skills in making teaching resources and learnt the versatility in planning creative and engaging lessons. This was concurrent with my two and a half years of pre-trained teaching at the primary school in my community.

Other significant figures who have influenced my decision to become a teacher are two great teachers I have had throughout my education who were my role models. They are the principal of my primary school then and my Grade Six teacher respectively. The former has played an integral part in my life throughout high school and beyond as she would use every opportunity to motivate and encourage me to reach my goals. As a student I have also admired her leadership style, teaching styles and mannerism as one that is worthy of emulation. I had a tremendous encounter with my Grade Six teacher who was good at explaining content, were patient, yet firm with students and set high expectations for her class. She had a command of the subject-matter and she knew how to motivate us hence, for the first time two of us were successful in the Common Entrance Examination. Her tenure at the school was short but she left indelible marks upon the hearts of many, I wanted to be like her, to be able to do what she could do and to date I am still hoping to contact her. These major contributory factors have paved the way for the budding of my career which emerged gradually at first, then more intense and with increasing analysis and thoughts; then, I began to visualize myself as a teacher.

I have chosen education as a career because I believe that education is perhaps the most influential profession in our nation. I am fully aware that to be a teacher is truly a calling of one’s entire being as it embraces empathy, self-sacrifice and wholeheartedness. I believe that teachers individually and collectively have paved the way for the birth of all other professions and that we can not only change the world and improve it but make a difference in every life we have come in contact with. It is with great pride and dignity that I proudly stand a part of this noble profession and someday to be counted among those whom will be recognized as the greatest inspiration of all times. After a thorough self-assessment, I am passionate about teaching and employed with children which excites me to positively influence their lives and understand and how this can impact them. Additionally, I make a concerted effort to develop a strong rapport with students and establish trusting relationships.

One of my greatest undertakings is having the ability to use my class management skills by enforcing discipline and as a result promoting positive behaviours and change in the classroom. This has allowed students to develop good work ethics, stay on task and be more productive learners. I can confidently state that I focus specially on assisting students to learn new or complex concepts; hence, I ensure that I have thorough knowledge of the curriculum and content of subject ahead of class. The employment of new and varied strategies is important to me which I use across all subject areas. Subsequently, the teaching and learning process has become easier and students’ interests and participation have increased. Similarly, I create a stable and student friendly atmosphere where students are enthusiastic and passionate about learning. I always employ the use humour and light conversations throughout lessons that create and sustain a comfortable teaching learning environment. I will constantly reflect on my practices and looking for ways to improve through research and adopting best practices. I ensure that I have a deep familiarity with integrating technology into lessons to ensure a higher level of understanding on the students’ part which has proven to help the slower learners.

Another strength I identified is my constant quest to build and maintain relationships with parents by having open communication on issues relating to their children learning and wellbeing. Being cognisant of the fact that students need to optimally rounded individuals, I have become highly skilled in creating an engaging environment for students to aid their physical, emotional, social and educational development. Ultimately, my primary goal is to motivate students to work towards achieving their educational goals and to make the best use of the opportunities afforded to them. As with identifying the strengths I possess as a teacher, it is essential to carry out an introspection in order to honestly evaluate myself and to bring my weaknesses to light. Subsequently, attempts should be made to alleviate and or transform these weaknesses into strengths in order to develop as an individual and to enhance the education system. Frequently, I have failed to use assessment to drive instruction whereas tests are not marked promptly which does not allow for time to review areas of weaknesses so that students can develop on the content identified.

Use data to plan upcoming lessons and make plans dealing with each individual student. This will include cooperative groups and differentiation in instruction. I will make an effort to set targets and time frames within which to mark, record and examine shortcomings on tests. In addition, I usually encounter pitfalls in being consistent with marking of activities which is necessary for on-going feedback on students’ during instruction. Consistency and determination will be used to combat this problem and to improve in my performance as an educator. Having learnt about different learning styles and multiple intelligences, I have discovered that I need to incorporate varied and differentiated instructions for the mixture of students I encounter. At the new school year, I will use anecdotal notes, administer short questionnaires, observations and gather data from previous teacher to be used to determine and plan instructions. This process is gradually being used but not at its utmost so I will endeavour to bear in mind that each child is unique and as such he should be treated differently during the planning and implementation of lessons.

Another weakness I have identified is being unwilling to conduct investigations on individual students in order to obtain background information on possible causes of unacceptable behaviours and or low performance in school. Being introduced to the Respectful Model has given me a new perspective of the students I encounter in the classroom. I have now taken a conscious decision to play a more integral part in their lives by seeking to better understand students based on their development stages as each has a different upbringing and unique situation. Additionally, I will strive to identify their needs and develop and enhance the students’ improvements in all aspects of their lives. Hence, I will have small talks with the Guidance Counsellor about each child’s temperament and any behaviour I have noticed and host individual meetings with parents. In relation to the previous weakness, I can say that ability to connect with some children on a personal level may be pinpointed as a disadvantage for me. This refers to those students who may have underlying issues which need to be brought into view and dealt with as to assist students’ individual needs.

Another area of weaknesses that I experience personally and professionally includes punctuality. As a result, my performance as a classroom teacher has been hampered and I have become less productive in my endeavours. This is stemmed from heavy workload as a single mother with three young children and being a full time teacher. I will keep a desk organizer and make preparations overnight as well as solicit the assistance of family members and friends to lessen my responsibilities. A weakness that I have experienced for a prolonged period of time is the inability to keep up with current events. In order to combat this problem, I will download applications on my cell phone and have scheduled periods of times to become more readily informed on a daily basis. There is no one single system of education that is flawless and has all the constituents intact but within each system there are some features that are practical and allows for the holistic development of the learner. Some systems are more facilitative in nature than others. Some are more student/ learner centred while others are operated in the opposite. I have been exposed to several theorists and philosophies; however, Constructivism has the greatest influence on me as a professional.

John Dewey who has pioneered the Pragmatic approach as described by David, (2015) as a paradigm or worldview posits that learning is an active, constructive process. Constructivists believe that the learner is an information constructor and that new information is linked to prior knowledge. I can associate with this thought as it is employed in lesson planning and delivery where I usually examine the experiences of the learner before and during the introduction and delivery of a particular lesson. For example, in teaching percentage, students would be aware of fractions so that would be used as the premise to build the new concept. Personally, it is my view that because of our innate nature of self-gratification, students often gravitate to learning activities that they can relate to whereas most may be withdrawn because it is not in their schema. Additionally, the view of Constructivists that children are active learners in that they learn best by doing. Their main focus was on the child as a holistic being who should not be educated in academic topics but should learn how to think and adapt to a world outside school.

Over the years field trips, nature walks and videos have been beneficial to the students and ultimately the teaching learning process. In these instances students get first hand exposure to unfamiliar content matter that is not in their immediate environs. As illustrated in the Multiple Intelligence Theory, each child learns differently each learning style will require different methods and techniques in order to facilitate learning. For instance, a kinaesthetic learner will benefit from hands on activities but these activities will reinforce the concepts for the auditory and visual learners. Dewey theorised that the education and life are not separate units but are directly related; hence, children should interact with their environment with emphasis on play being an essential part of their environment. Learners will ultimately become problem solvers; this is now an area of focus in the National Standard Curriculum where students are required to use the twenty first century skills.

Constructivists Education was truly child-centred-teachers were trained to observe children’s interests and help them follow through on those interests. Clubs and societies are prime examples of this approach as students would indicate their preferences or likings and we as educators will help to guide them in selecting the clubs and societies that will nurture their skills and talents. Similarly, whatever knowledge students possess is usually developed and used as the foundation for continuous learning. Throughout the entire process, teachers and children are “learners together.” Constructivism states that all children deserve to have a competent education regardless of socioeconomic background.

One’s status in life should not be a factor to determine the quality of education and training provided in the context of the classroom. Subsequently, it is my belief that we are all equals and should be given equal attention and opportunities and should not be penalized based on their unique situations. Constructivists postulated that continuity of experience is essential to growth. So, irrespective of our upbringing and family background, it should not define our future outcome. Malone (2014) opined that “lifelong learning is continuous education and training from cradle to grave involving formal and informal methods of learning – it aims to provide the best possible development and opportunity in personal, social, recreational, working and professional life.” He further proposed that to become a lifelong learner you must be totally committed, passionate and purposeful about the pursuit of learning, and believe that learning is a continuous journey and not an end in itself. I agree with Malone’s suggested steps for becoming a lifelong learner that one must identify your learning needs, set your learning goals, monitor your progress and modify your learning strategies as necessary. As a teacher I plan to follow a series of events on pursuing my journey as a life-long learner.

Firstly, I will do a self-evaluation to ascertain my areas of strengths and weaknesses, establish targets, identify the skills, expertise and available resources I possess and what are my requirements for learning. Subsequently, I will conduct thorough and continuous evaluation of my progress then make necessary modifications as I proceed along the path of learning. This will be done by compiling a list of the procedures I plan to undertake and keeping a journal with anecdotal notes on every phase of my journey. Additionally, I will make reading an integral part of my everyday life in keeping abreast with current knowledge as well as for my personal self-improvement.

Special focus will be on the required area of study as I will review, reflect and regurgitate any new and acquired knowledge. This will be achieved through short online courses and professional development workshops. This gained understanding will be applied where necessary in my field of work in order to develop on my skills and expertise as a teacher. I will endeavour to conduct a lot of research in order to facilitate new and creative strategies in critical thinking and problem solving. In addition, I will be engaged in learning circles where I will meet colleagues on a regular basis and adapt best practices to be used in the classroom. Ultimately, these efforts will help me to improve in the roles of mentor, coach, facilitator and supporter to the learning environment.

Another of my primary goals is to practise healthy lifestyles which include physical exercise, healthy eating habits, positive thinking and most importantly maintaining a firm relationship with my Creator. As cited by McKay B., & McKay, M., ( 2013), Edward Paxton Hood thoughts on lifelong learning as “Our whole life is an Education – we are ‘ever-learning,’ every moment of time, everywhere, under all circumstances something is being added to the stock of our previous attainments. I am in support of this view as I will continuously yearn to fulfil my deep desires as an educator to reach my utmost potential.

The sky is my ultimate goal, I will not settle among the clouds. There are many benefits of lifelong learning including the challenge of learning, the recognition it brings and the sheer thrill of discovery while learning new things – it also brings greater self-esteem and more self-confidence. This is to certify that this paper is my own work, which was completed solely by me. I declare that any inclusion of the work of others has been appropriately acknowledged in accordance with the APA style of referencing. I understand that if there is any evidence of plagiarism in this paper that there will be sanctions against me.

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