A teacher does not finish their educational journey after graduating from university. After graduation, it is essential that teachers continue to strive to broaden their knowledge, skills and practice as a teacher. Building on knowledge and constantly identifying ways to improve my professional practice will play an important part of my journey as a teacher.
During my practicum’s, I was offered the opportunity to attend professional development days, staff meetings and sub-school meetings. Outside of my practicum days, I continued to strengthen my teacher education by attending professional development programs provided by the university, volunteering at my own children’s school and working at an out of school hours care (OSHC) centre.
Before I began my final year practicum, the school I attended ran a full day session on the ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. This program offers an approach to being effective in attaining one’s goals and caring for the things that help you achieve these goals (6.2).
During my 3rd year practicum, my school had a student free day which was used by the teachers to attend a professional development day called ‘The 7 Steps of Writing Success’. This program guided the teachers to build a vibrant classroom setting where all students could be engaged and contributing their ideas. It allowed students to write without hesitation or resistance and then have students share their excitement with the rest of the class.
Weekly staff meetings whilst on all my practicums was a required and an essential tool to continue my professional development. By attending staff meetings, it created the opportunity for me to build knowledge, meet with other teachers from the school, mix with my fellow university students and build relationships with leadership.
Sub-school meetings were held on a weekly basis at 2 of my practicums. These meetings were with a small group of teachers and was used to discuss way to develop teacher skills, ways to assist students, discuss collaborative work and allowed the bouncing of ideas off each other. These short, small cluster meetings were valuable as the teachers highlighted tools, ideas and skills that have worked in their classroom and ideas which have failed.
To build my skills, at the end of each day my mentors and I meet and discuss the outcomes of my teachings. These would either be in a written format or as a verbal discussion and informed ways to improve practice, knowledge and build skills. Of all the development opportunities offered to me, the 1 on 1 meetings at the end of the day were most valuable as the immediate feedback helped to change my teachings.
One area of practice that I have had minimal experience with is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, history or having students from this background in my classroom. I have tried to improve this side of my education by attending indigenous exhibitions during Fringe, visits to the museum, reading history and additional training. ReconciliationSA offered a seminar which assisted with methods, considerations and tools to improve my lessons which included indigenous culture, history and traditions.
Daily feedback proved to be most valuable. I would always adjust my lessons, mannerisms, skills, language and knowledge and implement them on the next school day.
Participating in the professional development days, staff meetings and sub-school meetings, I was able to use new information to implement new skills into my teachings. Staff meetings and sub-school were of particular importance as they offered me the opportunity to build on my professional ethics, code of conduct and responsibilities (7.1).
Professional development days also allowed me to build new relationships with other teachers at my schools. The new relationships I formed provided me the confidence to seek an opportunity to attend other classrooms and learn a new set of skills from different teachers.
My professionalism in the classroom and rapport building skills provided my mentor teachers with the confidence to allow me to introduce myself to parents and begin to build relationships with them during my practicum. During my first practicum (mainstream) and third practicum (special education), parent and caregivers of students would always come into the classroom and made the growth of relationships to develop quickly (3.7, 7.3). Listening to parent/caregiver concern about their student in a special education setting assisted in my development. One parent advised that her daughter, who has seizures throughout the day, had one in the morning which left her feeling tired and lethargic. However, her daughter was till keen to attend school that day. Using this information, I was able to change my lesson structure for the day which would allow for a quieter day for all students. My second practicum was in a 5/6 classroom and I found this harder to build relationships with parents/caregivers as most did not enter the school when dropping or collecting their children. To build relationships with these parents/caregivers I would send letters home with students, write emails and complete see-saw activities.
An additional area that I used to build on my own skill sets was the students. During my practicums I asked students to complete an anonymous survey on my work as their teacher. Students would give honest (and brutal) opinions on how I was managing class behaviour (4.2) and my personality, and I asked for ways on which I could improve.
Over the course of my practicums, I used professional development days, feedback from mentors and staff meetings to build on my professional development. Professional development days and feedback from teachers and parents are important in becoming a better teacher. Whilst university offers education and direction on some of the legislative and administration requirements of being a teacher (7.2), there is still more for me to learn. One area of the standards that I have not been able to complete during my school practicums is working with indigenous students. It was important for me to seek outside assistance to meet this standard as I wanted to be fully prepared when I finish my degree (6.1, 6.2). ReconciliationSA offered a course for graduate teachers to attend in order to assist teachers important aspects of indigenous culture and working with indigenous people to achieve a reconciliation between us (1.4, 2.4). The benefits of these days and the feedback will assist in building skills and knowledge throughout my career. By involving myself during these development opportunities, it enabled me to deepen my understanding of school policies, legal requirements, culture and practices to ensure I operated at the highest level for the school, staff and students.
1.4 - Strategies for teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
2.4 - Understand and respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to promote reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
3.7 - Engage parents / carers in the educative process.
6.1 - Identify and plan professional learning needs.
6.2 - Engage in professional learning and improve practice.
7.1 - Meet professional ethics and responsibilities.
7.2 - Comply with legislative, administrative and organisational requirements.