Reflective Piece: 1
A dialogue is defined as a two-way exchange of knowledge and subsequent sharing of opinions and experiences. The effectiveness of exchange of information via the use of dialogues cannot be overlooked under any professional circumstances especially global changes that have occurred during this past decade. One of the global change include increase in the number of the culturally and linguistically diverse students in teaching programs in countries like New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom and United States (Fleer, 2003). Form my personal experience of working collaboratively from a community of learning perspective I want to highlight my initial journey from being an outsider of the community in the professional of primary school teacher. I am taking reflective approach to narrative my experience because, according to Broadley and Fagan (2010), reflecting on practice is regarded as an integral part of being an early childhood teacher.
I first started working as a primary teacher in the school. I am form the culturally and the linguistically diverse community. Though English was my second langue and I am mainly well-versed in Urdu. This language gap and my different culture made me the victim of marginalization. Due to this marginalization, during my initial days, I used to experience communication gaps. This gap in communication widen further as I started having an negative feeling that my English was not as good as their English and stumbled on basic communication and used to become self-conscious while approaching to communicate with my peers. I struggled to approach to my colleagues for discussing various aspects of our professional performance at school. This gap in the communication prevented the flow of the dialogues and this restricted the two-way exchange of the information and thereby limiting my knowledge. According to Iyer and Reese (2013) this gap in the effective communication is the main reason why the pre-service teachers who are from CALD backgrounds experience the sense of underachievement and this in turn progress towards the loss of identity and decrease in the level of self-esteem. My personal experience was no different. I was suffered from depression and poor self-esteem and loss hope in the future progress of pre-service teacher. I was a peripheral observer initially and lack of welcoming approach from my seniors prevented me from taking active steps to integrate more deeply into the community of practice and thus I was gradually becoming marginalised. In relation to this, Lave and Wenger's theory of Communities of Practice highlighted that Socratic-type dialogue can be employed in order to critically ascertain and simultaneous reflect upon some of the principal concepts of situated learning and their application in real-life. This concept challenges the implied assumptions of legitimate peripheral participants. According to this concept, legitimate peripheral participants provide minimal learning for an established community of practice and that the learning is occurring in unidirectional form. However, effective learning is bi-direction. So in order to promote bi-directional learning, the new-comers must come forward from the wider community and provide valuable inputs of knowledge and learning which will benefit the communities of practice they join (Weston, 2009).
Thus, in order to move from peripheral to the central participation I started comprehending learning to the social world. This promoted the concept of the bi-directional learning. In order to over-come the challenges as a new comer, I gradually started working on my sense of social anxiety and poor self-esteem and tried to increase my interaction with my peers, and my supervisors. While interacting with my collaborators I realised that they are always ready to help you but the only thing is you are require to take the first step ahead. Their collaboration and equity helped to slowly indulge into a friendly relationship with them, this increase my level of comfort and decrease in the level of anxiety along with increase the flow of the information. According to Weston (2009), quality of legitimate participation evokes a sense of belonging and this type of legitimacy of participation is important for effective learning. Weston (2009) further opined that in order to affiliate one’s self within a new community and to take effective participation as an active member, it is the duty of the new-comer to work in accordance to and in defiance of traditions, which organise every community of practice. My initial interaction was followed by regular interaction with my seniors, peers and my supervisors. In the professional community for ECE teaching in NZ, my seniors took active initiatives to include someone novice like me into interactive approach while addressing the complexity and uncertainty under the real life contexts. This engagement as a joint enterprise was extremely crucial for me as it helped me participate and practice. I gradually started experiencing the flow of the knowledge and experienced diversity and difference as a constructive to learn in a more culturally diverse situation. My collaboration with my seniors paved the way towards innovative ideas leading to a refined pedagogical approaches which otherwise would have never been taken place. My active approach in interacting with my fellow colleagues also increased their sense of cultural competence and this further decreased the marginalization. We worked together towards framing new educational plans and new ventures for the students to increase their overall learning experience. We mainly stressed over the activity based learning where prime importance is given towards effective interaction.
While summing up reflection, I want to highlight that in order to move ahead of the restrictive and narrow boundaries of race and ethnicity, it is important to take into account the type of effective communities of practice. Under this effective community of practice, it is the duty of the new-comer to re-construct and renegotiate his or her social and cultural identities rather than getting restricted into academic knowledge and knowledge of skills. In the light of above experience and considering the diverse and multicultural environment of the New Zealand, I also came up with an understanding that it is important for the Early Childhood Teacher (ECT) to understand the socio-cultural aspects of the Te Whariki in Aotearoa while establishing association between effective theories of teachings and community of practices.
Reflective Piece: 2
According to Rogoff (1994), the idea of community learners is based on the premise that the process of learning occurs as the people take part in shared endeavors with each other. Under this shared endeavors both mature members of the community (the teachers) and the less mature members (the students) are conceived as active. Rogoff (1994) are of the opinion no role has all the sole responsibility of directing and knowing and no role both the mature and less mature members has definite passive function. Under active endeavors, the adults are responsible for guiding the process and the children are required to participate in the management of the learning. Nimmo (1998) believes that teachers are required to be open about the truths and new perspective of the child and his or her capability. This is because, the children are the new protagonist in order to stimulate the process of change.
I come from middle class family and I grew up with models of learning where experts are transmitting pieces of knowledge. Under this model, the aspect of participation of the perspective learner’s or the student is often neglected. However, as I grew up, I understood that this adult-run instructional approach served little to the natural ability of the students and the same has been highlighted by the concepts of Nimmo (1998). In my early childhood, I remember sitting in the classroom and listening to the speech or knowledge delivered by my teacher. Out of these lectures, I understood some and some I did not. I found it difficult to engage myself with the concepts taught in the class. However, I faced difficulty in engaging myself or expressing my concerns in relation to the subject taught in my class. This inability of express or fear of expressing the difficulty is can be defined under the concept of non-participation and marginalization (Hodges, 1998; Iyer & Reese, 2013). I was unable to communicate freely my concerns and opinions and this increased marginalization further. Thus my learning experience as a child does not match with the learning principle of Nimmo (1998) or Rogoff (1994). This is because, learning process during my childhood was uni-directional which is firmly opposed by Nimmo (1998). Under this unidirectional approach, I was intimidated by my peers and with my very own ego to admit this disengagement and to confront the teachers for help. I think an ideal learning environment must be bi-directly where the teachers will encourage students to come up with active ideas or share their concerns in the process of learning. In this way the teachers can bring modulation in the learning plans and make in more engaging for the students. As highlighted by Rogoff (1994), schools should be structure as a community of learners which is in sharp contrast with traditional adult run environment which was my case when I was student. The community learner environment help to structure activities for the children in which the student participate with interest upon understanding the purpose of the activity (Rogoff, 1994).
As a part of the community of learners I have grown up with some conventional models of learning which mainly lacked the perception of the students. The traditional instructional approaches are mainly 'teacher -run", the lecture based approach adopted by the conventional teacher provided very little room for the exchange of the ideas and never actually served the purpose.
My future aspirations of becoming a child educator is based upon Rogoff's ides of the communities of the learners, where emphasis has been given to the child driven learning other than the teacher driven learning. It has been found that the pendulum to swing between the one sided models (adult run and the Children run models). Again Nimmo (1998) had reflected on the practices that challenge the traditional way of learning. I believe that the teaching models should be somewhere between "student run" and the "teacher's run” model. Both autonomy and control is necessary in a classroom for establishing a learning environment. Especially in chaotic classrooms, it is necessary to have some control over the students to facilitate a disciplined learning without hindering their creative skills or their inquisitiveness (Bradley, 2004).
Rogoff, (1994), have stated that finding the correct balance between “teacher centered learning” and student centered learning” is difficult. One group is concerned with individual growth and the other group concerned with the transmission of the specific skills. The community of learner’s model is the appropriate model for my future aspirations of becoming a teacher. The community model of the learners is entirely based upon a different philosophy. In a community of learners, bot the mature members and the less mature members of the community will be perceived as active. Children and the adults should actively engage in shared endeavors, facilitating exchange of ideas (Claxton & Carr, 2004). In this process, the adults or the teachers would be engaged to guide the overall process of learning, whereas the students learning to manage their own involvement and learning. As per the community concept of learners, education can be thought as an essential social process and the quality of education is entirely based on the degree in which the individuals of the learning community form the group- that is the educators (as the most mature members of the group) and Students (less matured members if the group) (Beauchamp & Thomas, 2009). It has to be mentioned that schools structured as the community of learners allow to grow interest in the children and the also allows them to participate with an understanding of the purpose of the activity. I believe that the instructional approach among the community of the learners should be conversational rather than the traditional approach. The teachers’ role are to provide with the leadership, rather than controlling all the activities in a classroom. I want my students to engage in a cooperative learning within the classroom environment, which will ultimately help them to work in larger environment and in multicultural environment. Children should be given with full autonomy to explore their creative skills.
Reflective piece three
The paper by Barron (2007), have described the experiences of the minority ethnic children while seeking the early childhood education. The paper was written in context of a starting nursing school where the majority of the staffs were white people. In the lens of this paper I would be reflecting on my own experience in relation to the issues of power and agency, how the ambience affected my teaching experience and hindered my active participation. This piece will also provide information about how teachers promote a learning environment for the students. Based upon the findings of the ethnographic researches, the researchers have raised questions regarding the conventional practice that takes place in the westernized schools that seemed to marginalize the children belonging to the ethnic minorities (Barron, 2009).
While studying in a school where majority of my peers and the educators are white people, I really had a hard time to cope up in the beginning due to the different culture and practice which was so very different from our culture. I was really hurt to find out that the ambience and the curriculum of the school was mostly based as per the white people. Although diversity has been found to promote positive outcome in case of for the children as it promotes cognitive growth.
Some of the main differences that has been found is regarding the ambience of the school. Firstly, the main differences is in the classrooms. Children of Pakistani heritage would entirely live on houses, with large extracts of Quran being framed in the wall. Whereas in schools containing diverse group of children coming from different culture and religion might contains only few quotes from Bible (Barron, 2009). It might be refreshing and at the same time important to understand other religions, but such approaches might bring out question in the child’s mind. These are some of the disparities that I have experienced in my childhood. Furthermore, another disparity that I have noticed in my organization about the different prayer time. Muslims have different prayer times other than the other religions. Since westernized model schools are mainly based on western culture, hence the school staffs were not allowed time for the prayer (Benner & Yan, 2015).
According to Barron, (2007), language had been a barrier very rarely. But there had been instances where the nursery staffs when called “teacher” have refused and instructed the children to call “Mrs or Mr or Ms”. It should be understood that a child coming from a Pakistani Muslim background might have been accustomed or might have been instructed of calling the educators as “teachers”. In fact the games and the activities meant for the early years children were a bit different and were more unfamiliar to the children belonging to the Pakistani background. Hence it was clear that all the activities were based on a particular model of the early childhood education. In a westernized model of education, hand painting, sand play and getting dirty is considered as an act of creativity and experimentation (Benner & Yan, 2015). However, the children belonging to different cultural background might not understand this, hence it was found that their experience and participation was found to be different than that of the children of white indigenous heritage. I have often noticed that children belonging from different cultural background getting alienated during such activities. While in school the way of eating etiquettes were found to be different from my own culture. Being born and brought up in a Muslim family, we are not very much accustomed to eating with a spoon and mostly used hand during the eating. Initially I had a difficult time, although I developed the habit but I remember to be scolded by one of my educator for using my hand while eating. We were also asked not to use Urdu or Hindi while conversing with the peers. Conversing in a totally different language can be difficult of some one of one age. I also wished that the English used in teaching us might have been simpler. As I have often faced difficulty in understanding the educator’s instructions due to their different accent whereas, my other peers of my age with English indigenous background were quite comfortable with the dialect used. I often felt alienated in many classroom activities due the difference in mentality with the others children and felt shy to interact with them. Furthermore the classroom environment was also totally different that we have encountered with in my culture, the room architecture, the way of interacting from the teachers were totally different what we used to do at home. Other macro level influences were that the story groups were organized in terms of the competence in the English language. Christmas celebration was considered as an important part of the English schools and was planned in a grand way in comparison to the Eid celebrations. Hence the children coming from a Pakistani background often felt marginalized (Messiou, 2012).
A good educational institution and a good teacher helps to bridge the gap between what the students know and what they need to learn. Yet the teaching embracing the cultural background of children has largely been left out. The pedagogy of the school has to be culturally responsive, where all the child will be valued (Chikovore, Makusha, Muzvidziwa & Richter, 2012). The teaching staff’s needs to be less biased and should work deeply for understanding the students. Learning about the cultural background of a child is an ongoing process in the career of a teacher that should begin all over again with each new sets of students. It should be mentioned that being culturally responsive does not necessarily means lowering of the standard but involves- adopting curriculum or child activities in which each and every child is comfortable with, or respecting the way in which a child and his family speaks at home (Claxton & Carr, 2004). Different gaming activities in multicultural classroom can be a beneficial way to foster inclusivity and encourage the student to share their heritage. Ethnicity exercises in the class and allowing the students belonging to different culture discuss their ethnic background can help in empowering the students from different cultural background. Rather than a passive one flow learning from educator to the child, stories, ideas help to encourage active connectedness in a formal classroom.
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