Thursday, September 30, 2004

Session 2 reading: comments

I wouldn't want September to slip away without making a couple of comments on last week's readings.

Developmental Pathways (p. 32) gives us a very clear and simple overview of 7 different ways to develop, the variations within, how they influence each other, and how they are influenced by social and cultural contexts. Wow! Just think of all the things a teacher must reflect on and think into account in class concerning 20 some students. It's time to ask: How does a teacher find time to teach what she "has to" teach?

No wonder a teacher currently faces a much bigger task! We are everything: psychologists, social workers, judges, doctors, friends, "parents"... and finally, teachers! Doesn't this make teaching much more challenging and fascinating? Though often at the risk of not really knowing how to re/act due to lack of preparation? I feel this quite often. I've had to teach a class of students with a mild degree of learning disabilities together with smart kids but up to their heads in behavioral problems. Most of the school year, my colleagues and I just felt like banging our heads on the wall for not knowing "how to" cope, because we had never been prepared for these sort of contexts!

These developmental stages and pathways, closely related to our multiple intelligences, demand much more of both the teacher and the student, because both parties are faced with a much bigger load. On the one hand, the teacher has to deal with an evergrowing variety of strategies, and then choose the most appropriate one/s for each teaching situation. On the other hand, the student has to quickly grasp the strategy and adapt as best as she can to it, even if it doesn't match her predominant intelligence.

If you don't agree regarding the teacher, go back and read the first paragraph under Developmentally Appropriate Teaching (p. 34). We must be superpeople!!!

Someone in a message mentioned liking Vygotsky's theory (p. 34-35) of social learning and zone of proximal development (ZPD): "the diference between what a child can do on his own and what he can do with some assistance". Or socially-mediated learning! I love it and more so since joining the Webheads in Action, because that's where I have "really" felt the truth of his theory, as well as proof that it is so. What so many of us achieved in a short time. Daf was teaching a course online in 3-4 months. Doris is another great example of ZPD: what she's achieved with a "lending hand"/assistance from BaW in a matter of months!

"Teachers can assist students in advancing within the ZPD by setting tasks that build on and go slightly beyond what they know..." (p. 35, par. 2). I do this all the time and believe that we all should. Many students appreciate it and take advantage of it. They like to be pushed that extra bit (or mile!) and not be treated as "mentally disabled" (an expression I use when trying to convince colleagues to go beyond what is in the books).

I also liked the references to the importance of the environment surrounding students. I firmly believe that most of the behavioral problems we've had at school for quite some time have their roots in the family. Kids are more and more on their own for most of the day with little or no support from the family. When hearing about some of their backgrounds and family history, I often wonder why they aren't even worse! And I don't know what would happen to many of them if it weren't for the often fabulous support they get at school.

The week 2 reading tied in with what I said in my previous post: As knowledge evolves, teaching is becoming an evermore demanding and challenging job.

I'll stop here. BTW, I still haven't watched the video! Shame on me! :-(


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