I love this term! I like the analogy with the construction of a building because it makes pretty clear what is scaffolding to education.
For me there is a process before, during and after the scaffolding.
Before setting up the scaffolding, a person needs to make sure the ground is clear so the scaffolding is stable. When teaching, we need to make sure distractions are null, we need to make sure the conditions are appropriate to start a new lesson. We also need to make sure that if we need to go to the next step, the first one is strong enough and will serve as a support, otherwise the second step will be so weak and most likely ephemeral.
While working on the scaffolding, we either make sure we have everything we need, or there is somebody close by that can help providing what we need. It´s impossible for a teacher to have all the answers, and it would be ideal if we are smart enough to ask for help and bring to the building somebody with the experience on the subjects that we are not experts. The students will learn that they are not alone and that learning is a social activity.
At one point we need to remove the scaffolding to present the amazing construction we have accomplishesd. When learning, little by little I need the reference points less because I have master a concept. I relate this a lot to language learning. We usually relate a new word to some particular situation and those references are with us for a long time until we take the risk to use the word in a different context, without those old references, then we have learnt the word and we are able to build a new sentence and communicate better.
The importance of being a role model when it comes to inclusion and reducing the physical and emotional violence is huge. Probably physical violence is no longer a problem in schools -although sometimes we see on the news terrible situations- the emotional violence unfortunately is not out of the classrooms. I try to be aware when working with kids that they are learning not just from the activities, but from my personality, my attitudes, everything, and in consequence, even when sometimes is really hard, I try not the be impatient and find ways to catch their attention when being disruptive so I don´t have to raise my voice. I avoid the use of nicknames and I encourage all the teachers to avoid them. I have more than 12 years of experience teaching and I can honestly say I have faced very few situations of unnecessary conflict inside of my classroom. What have I done, maybe listen to the students, set an example of tolerance and patience, being supportive.
This is easy for me when working with teachers because far from being a teacher, I relate to them as a colleague and I try to share my passion for our work and my respect for their daily activity. I have had the opportunity to work with pre service teachers and something I really enjoy and I feel they are very receptive to, is talking about their future. They usually find this kind of conversation very stimulating and it fills me with satisfaction when in the middle of a lesson I ask them to think about them teaching, how does it feel and what is the impact they want to have on their future students. I think this close relationship we can establish with our students is going to be more productive at the long term.
Rules, procedures and routines help me to have an organized classroom so the students can feel comfortable and there is no place to doubts about how to behave. I was amazed every time I would start a new school year teaching preschool, to see how after one week of following a routine the kids would gain confidence and be less anxious about the new experience. More than once the kids themselves would say something like “The bell rang, we need to go wash our hands, then we will be listening to music“. The fact they had everything under control would reduce the disruptive behavior and they would be more receptive to the lesson.
Lesson Plan: Getting to know each other.
This is an activity I have applied in order for the participants in a workshop to get to know each other.
I start by asking the participants to use a piece of paper to put together a mind map about how can they bring to the training and what do they expect to get from it. I let them use as many pieces of paper as they need and when they are done, I ask them to write their names at the top of the paper and ask somebody for help to paste the diagrams on their backs. With this I´m reaching the intrapersonal intelligence and the spatial intelligence. This also allows me to find out who are the “spatial smarts“ from the group and I later on use this in order to review concepts with the group through mind maps.
The second part of the activity is to divide the group in two, form an inner and an outer circle so the students in the inner circle can read the post its on the outer circle people´s backs. The inner circle will move clockwise until they read everybody´s post its.
To finish the activity the participants in the inner circle will introduce two or more participants who they found share the same strengths or the same expectations so they can interact and get to know each other. This way I address the Interpersonal intelligence.
How to evaluate the activity... This would be more for my evaluation of the group. Through an exercise like this I can identify the people that feels confident participating or the ones that are more shy. I can tell who enjoys mingling or who rather stays passive and listens.
More constructivist classrooms and scaffolding...
Constructivism is the fashion term in education in Mexico, every private school´s marketing mentions constructivism in an attempt to show modernity, vanguardism, etc, even when the classrooms are full with traditional ways of teaching, evaluation, interaction with students. Some people say their kids attend to a constructivist school and when you ask, really? and what do they do there that is different to other schools? there is no answer. The worse part is when we as teachers claim to be “constructivist“ and what we do is to promote old practices. And I´m not saying here old practices are wrong, we have examples of very valuable ones, but my concern is that we use the term just as a tag without really bringing it to life.
I think we can promote constructivism when we take into account student´s previous knowledge, when we promote peer work in order for the more advanced students to help the ones with less experience; when we question the students about the way they drew a conclusion or got to an understanding and how this new concept will benefit and relate to their daily life. When we let the kids talk about their experiences with the new content. When we guide a students from working very close to us, to a more independent stage.
Obviously there is more than this, but I think is a good start. As a teacher, I should question myself about how this activity takes advantage of what the students learnt last week, how this particular task is going to connect with a new, more challenge one later on. How does this content looks in real life and if the students are going to have enough opportunities to make sense of it and be able to apply it outside of the classroom.
Scaffolding is a term I really fall in love with, when I first heard about it. The analogy with building a house and how the scaffolding is sometimes more important than the construction material (content) is amazing. Through a good scaffolding, you make sure you have access to the materials you need. Is not like you will have to get down and bring the nails, then go back to bring the wood, then go back for the hammer. With appropriate scaffolding you have everything right there, before you start your task. In teaching, we need to make sure we have the elements to “teach“ or the elements our students might need, handy. What do they need, they need to start from the beginning, with a reachable task, something that looks doable. they need a good attitude from the teacher, they need motivation, they need attention to M.I. and learning styles.
At the same time we “grow up“ our scaffolding, we need to make it stronger. We cannot reach a higher level, until we make sure is strong enough to support it. When teaching, we cannot move on to a more challenging task if our students haven´t master yet the easy one.
With a good support, the skills our students develop will be stronger, more meaningful and they will have a long lasting effect in their lives.
I would share here my experience trying to promote ICT integration in professional development, and how, some of the elements of good teaching of TWB, are present, or at least I try, to make them present in my practice.
Right now I´m working with a group of teachers on an online professional development program and the first problem we faced was the fear and the lack of interest to use the computer and the internet. They would think there is no need to use a computer, other than to keep track of attendance or by using a spreadsheet to keep track of their notes. By showing them real examples of how technology can be used and showing them practical ideas to use technology tools in a real classroom context, -making it human- they were more interested on giving it a try and starting by using ICT in a P.D. program.
The fact that every session I ask them to create products or view the contents keeping in mind their own students, makes me think I´m focusing on the participants, and not on me as a teacher. I have always established that because I´m a community facilitator, doesn´t mean I´m there to teach anything, but to discover together how their daily practice can be improved.(Tell the truth) In fact, most of the time is them having an opportunity to teach, and me guiding them to share the analysis they have done of the contents.
Working with adults there are way more barriers to communicate effectively than working with kids, so, through a fun attitude I try to get everybody involved and make them feel safe, in a safe environment to share and take risks. In my classroom nobody is wrong, sometimes we take a different approach to view things, which is valid, but nobody is wrong, nobody but me sometimes, I have no problems admitting it if it´s me the one who missed some important elements of a text, and I think that puts me really far from your traditional “expert“ who comes to teach the other because they don´t know anything.
My area of opportunity here is the less is more, because as some of you know, I like to talk, and I can talk forever. So, I need to implement this part by reducing to the minimum the TTT and increasing as much as possible the STT.
Talking about my region, I would say the hardest elements to bring to the classroom are the focus on your students, because we are so used to be the experts, although, little by little this is changing, but there is still much to do, and also we need to focus on who they are. Fist we need to get to know the students, respect their individualities and stop teaching them all the same way and pretending to get good results. As TWB says, the difference between knowing and not knowing your students is the difference between excellence and mediocrity.
The DR.CROSS acrostic is the answer to the question of ¿How do I ensure an Effective Learning Environment? Which is one of the focus of the Educational Reform in Basic Education in Mexico. The term of Learning Environments is becoming common on teacher´s vocabulary, which not necessarily mean it is present in every classroom in the country. The term involves also the implementation of ICT in the daily practice, but my opinion is there can be very effective L.E. without the use of technology. Let´s see how the seven elements of Dr. Cross could help me as a teacher trainer.
Discovery: It reflects the constructivist approach we try to adopt in Mexico. The role of the teacher is just to provide opportunities for the student to entry this process and make sure they are aware of their discoveries. I find very useful to question students on a regular basis about what we´ve just accomplished and how this new knowledge or understanding applies relates to previous or new content to come. We are moving, as the document says, from covering the content, to discover the content. This is quite challenging because we are so attached to old practices where teacher training means read a 5 pages document, highlighting the main ideas and read them again. I think for the total change to happen we need to reinforce more mental processes like analysis, comparison, contrasting ideas. Which send us back to skills we need to promote since early in life.
I see Risk one of the hardest elements to bring to the classroom, when the educational system is so focused on results from standard evaluations, teachers have no choice but go back to old practices of memorization, repetition, etc, in order to assure some sort of “good“ results on the national tests. When talking about teachers training, we need to risk in the sense of bringing new ideas, techniques, methodologies to the professional development programs. Use new media and connect with more people.
I think one of my strengths is the Collaboration part. If I´m teaching children or teachers, I always make sure they have an opportunity to talk to the group, to interact and take advantage of the expertise of somebody in one topic, or if somebody else is good speaking in front of the group, its who should be in charge, etc. I believe in collaborative work as a multiplier of knowledge. It won´t never be the same to listen to the professor than listen and share the content and exchange opinions with the peers.
When teaching teachers I absolutely need to make sure I´m relating the content to real tasks, because i value their time and I want to make sure they go back to school with something that they can put into practice right away. I always ask teacher to make sure when they are reading something, forget about everything else and focus on how this impact their students, the group they are teaching right now. And it´s really rich because sometimes teacher say thinks like, now i have some more ideas to deal with this particular student. It that´s all they can get from hours of training, I´m still happy, because through this collaboration somebody can try to solve a very specific issue.
Moving from outside the classroom is also another challenge when teaching teachers, in my country, the opportunities to be original are not a lot. Unfortunately, the model of traditional teacher training is so strong, that if it seems kind of “alternative“ might not be worth it. I have to admit things are starting to change though, and particularly the fact that teachers demand to move from a face to face model of interaction to an online one is very enouraging. At the same time they took a risk and this lets me be original in my model of delivery, although, I still have so much to work so I don´t replicate the traditional practices in a new environment.
The competence based education model that we are getting more familiar with every day is based on Skills. When talking about Teacher´s skills, in Mexico we have adopted 4 main ones as part of the educational reform and they are: To foster effective learning environments, to evaluate efficiently, to integrate ict in the classroom and in the professional development and be in charge of our own professional development. So, we are actually working a lot on promotion these skills and I think I should say we are advancing with a good pace.
Education is a Service, so whenever I have the opportunity to talk to teachers and supporting them to become better teachers, not just me, but them, are working on providing something that our community needs. So, Service is also one of our hits.
I´m a Teacher. After working for several years in other fields, i found out the only way for me to contribute to change things I wasn´t happy with, was by teaching, and teaching the younger people. So, I became a Preschool Educator. I do believe in the power that teachers have to be leaders of their communities and that nobody else like teachers have an opportunity to promote a better world.
When we talk about teaching improvement, I think is in our own hands, we cannot be waiting for a government initiative, or an order from the principal to do things better, inside our classroom we have the possibility -and responsibility- to make sure some kind of learning is happening. When a teacher becomes responsible of his/her own practice and development, nothing can keep him/her from guiding the students to amazing experiences that will produce learning.
Being a teacher means an opportunity to change the world!
My work focuses on Mexico, although, I have the opportunity to interact with Spanish speaking teachers from other countries and that makes my context very rich on experiences, background, ideas, etc. And i can tell the seed for a change in educational practices has been planted and teachers are connecting to make things happen. I wish I could say the same about teachers in my region, unfortunately things go slower in Mexico, nowadays we face so many challenges regarding education and the teachers´ role. It is expected that teachers take the responsibility for all our problems. Parents, government, media, and everybody else keeps asking what do we do in schools if we are facing problems like violence, corruption, poverty, inequity. So one of the challenges is to be prepared to do our job and show the rest of the community that we need to work together for a better future, which we can´t do if we are not competent on what we do.
At a personal level I want to interact with teachers from other places and share experiences, stories, challenges, etc. I think by sharing with teachers I would be able to know better our needs as a group and also I will get to know the content of the CTM in a wider context. This interaction will provide some light to future projects, I´m sure. And all I can offer is my humble opinion and my experience, that might be shorter than what the rest of the participants have, but always with a good intention and with the idea on mind to become together better teachers for a better world.