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Personal Frame of Reference

The most significant and I can genuinely say, dominant influence on me as a teacher is my

recent experience of travelling, living and working in other countries. When I set out to be an

English language teacher I had some vague expectations of what it meant to be a teacher.

What I found was that even though you are expected to teach English, the expectations of

your role differ. This is because every country I have lived and worked in has had different

social expectations; perceptions of teaching change as social expectations change. Living

and working in other countries has taught me the need to constantly reassess what ‘reality’

actually is, and how to quickly but effectively adapt to different situations. A big part of this

adaptation process is being organised (read:prepared to teach). Students know when a

teacher is disorganised and perceiving this has a serious impact on learning in the

classroom. Being prepared and organised has been a key influence on who I am as a


Another large part of the adaptation experience is getting to know the students.

Achievement is measured on a student by student basis and so I have found it vital to get to

know my students as soon as possible. Significantly as I have gained more experience I

found that it is best to go into a classroom with an open mind. This was because that I was

learning as much as the students in many ways. It is a useful insight to understand that my

own learning processes were as both nerve wracking and anxious as the students were. Of

course this insight was being negotiated whilst living in a country where I spoke little or none

of the native language. I also had to learn what is socially acceptable and how to interact.

From my practicum experiences, I have undergone another period of self-learning. I was

teaching students whose language is the same as my own, so I experienced a different set

of dynamics that I had to negotiate.

Although I have both been teaching English as a Foreign language and grade 8

Humanities now for nearly four and a half years, I am still working out exactly who I am as a

teacher. This is a process that I expect to continue throughout my teaching career. Despite

all the difficulties and challenges in my teaching, my key strengths have consistently been

my rapport and sincere interest in helping the student to achieve their best. One of the most

effective ways in which I have established a teaching identity is to identify with a learning

theory.The learning theory with I clearly identify with is social constructivism. I am a strong

believer that personal development is most effective when operating from a strong basis.

This basis is composed of understanding language through implicit and consistent

connections with culture. From this basis, a sense of collectivity is established from which

the individual can develop. In society, it is the absolute imperative of the teaching

professional to help individuals understand themselves in the context of a language that is

both meaningful and relevant. Establishing a collective sense of stability can only benefit

society as a whole.

Both the program outcomes and the TRB standards are great examples of what I expect to

both learning and what a teacher should be. I already recognise that they are both integral

documents I will continue to refer to throughout my teaching career. At the time of writing, I

am in the process of compiling as much relevant and strong evidence as is needed for my

e-portfolio in anticipation of closing interview at the completion of the course.

Both my knowledge and application of First Peoples Principles of Learning has

dramatically improved over the course of the last year. I was not born and raised in Canada,

but after living in a small Canadian community it is absolutely vital that connections to First

Nations are made explicit. I believe that an inclusive approach that seeks to integrate First

Nations Principles of Learning within a student’s knowledge system would have significant

benefits. These would include less misunderstandings which would open up, for example,

more viable economic opportunities.

As for the Earth Charter, the idealist in me believes these are universal values that should

be adhered to, but the realist accepts that it is unlikely to be adopted widely. However

whatever teaching context, I think epousing the values of the Charter varies on a

circumstantial basis. A Western teacher epousing democratic values in China would be

subject to sometimes severe procedures. As a teacher, I must be careful to recognise that

my role is a facilitator for personal development, not to dictate what a student should be

thinking or not thinking. My practicum experiences have shown me that I have no problem

with remaining neutral.

In the right hands and this meaning to a large extent, not ideologically driven, the purpose

of education is on a power for positive development that can help people reach their

potential. It has the ability to improve not just individuals, but that of communities and entire

nations. My vision for my own students’ learning is that they come out of school

understanding in their own way their official schooling has made them want to continue to be

learners for life. For each student I teach, the way in which I envision their learning will be

different. I don’t expect every student to achieve the same level and achievement will be

measured from a student to student basis.

My experiences of social justice within my practicums have been related to bullying and

how the institution responded effectively to the situation. It is key that within any learning

environment, a student does not feel threatened or vulnerable. In a multicultural society such

as Canada it important not to let vertical hierarchies based on ethnic or cultural differences

become established. This is a key mandate of being a teacher as this process begins and

continues in the education system. My own position within the social discourses is that I

have always understood that everybody should be treated equally regardless of ethnic or

cultural background. This understanding will remain consistent and will not be compromised

throughout my teaching career.

Students learn best in a combination of three main concepts. In no particular order, this

would include engagement, consistency and clear defined outcomes. Engagement means

that the subject matter is relatable to their lives. Students can see something that feel they

can invest in. Consistency refers to the structures within the school (disciplinary, assistance

etc) that should be fair and applied to all. Time and time again, stable and transparent

institutional practices have shown to be integral in achieving success. A sense of order and

predictable outcomes creates a familiarity that allows the student to be relaxed within a

learning environment. Finally, defined outcomes will help a student understand what they

working towards. I think all the above can be equally applied to how teachers work

effectively with students. What is key however, is how effectively the teacher communicates

these three concepts. An ineffective teacher is to a large degree a result of ineffective, or at

the very least inconsistent, communication. The guidelines I will use to provide focus in my

communication with my students will be taken from the BC Education website. My own

experience and subsequent development will help me to understand and how to use the

guidelines. This will be a key part of my own learning experience as a teacher. Guidelines

are not just limited to online resources but with regular contact with my peers, fellow

teachers and instructors from VIU. Fundamental to being an effective teacher is

communication both with colleagues and parents. It is my goal to establish an open and

transparent communication networks through a number of mediums ranging from email to

text messaging. Giving both parents and colleagues multiple options when it comes to

communicating is beneficial in two ways. Firstly, having multiple options transcends a

potential reluctance to communicate given fewer options, and secondly multiple choices of

a communication mediums can potentially result in a particular issue being brought to

attention much quicker. Crucial to this is is the element of transparency without which

undermines the integrity of the process.

From my own experience, I believe that building a good rapport with students will help

them to learn. This is achieved by encouragement and positive reinforcement. Simple things

such as being polite and respectful even though the student might be wrong go a long way in

making a student feel comfortable in the learning environment. A student who does not feel

comfortable will be less accommodating when it comes to day to day issues such as

classroom management for example. At the moment in time in our lectures, there is a

consistency about the way we are being taught how to teach. Before we actually enter a

classroom different techniques will only exist as abstractions. So far I have experienced that

very little, if any, of my EFL teaching experiences have been transferable to native speaking

classrooms where expectations have been fundamentally different.

As for how assessment looks in my classroom, I use a combination of diagnostic and

formative assessment techniques to assist my students as much as possible in them

achieving their both summative piece and their learning outcomes. Again, at the time of

writing my assessment epistemology is undergoing negotiation as there a lot of informal and

contingent factors which come into play on a daily basis. That said, I am not feeling

overwhelmed and am embracing the challenges to my preconceptions.