Ever the Learner: Being a Teacher in the ISMILE Family of Schools

01 March 2019


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One of the greatest advantages of being a teacher is that our vocation offers the inherent chance for continuous growth and learning. By virtue of being in a learning environment, we cannot help but “grow with the flow” of our students. The way I see it, the teacher’s learning and growth in the classroom may come in three ways. Although each way offers a great possibility for personal improvement, it can also be argued that the depth of growth varies in each way.

Learning for our students

Developmentally appropriate practice… reflects what we know about how children develop and learn… – Sue Bredekamp, as quoted by Scott Willis in “Teaching Young Children” (ASCD, November 1993)

As a teacher, we learn what and how to teach our children. Of course, it goes without saying that teachers have to have a mastery of the content that they have to teach. In our case, we need a firm grasp on the fundamentals of literacy, numeracy, social and sensory learning. We also base our pedagogical practices on the theories of learning and child development. We continue to grow by following new researches and developments on concepts, theories, approaches, strategies and practices; and then applying the most relevant in our own classrooms. In this way, we may ensure our growth as teachers.

Learning from our students

Today, research and experience in increasingly global classrooms are revealing the complex interplay of factors that influence a student's learning. Educators understand that the business of coming to know our students as learners is simply too important to leave to chance — and that the peril of not undertaking this inquiry is not reaching a learner at all. – William Powell and Ochan Kusuma-Powell in “How to Teach Now”

In Applying the Reggio Emilia Inspired Approach (REIA), the teachers of the ISMILE Family of Schools have been mindfully making the child the main constructor and stakeholder of his/her own learning. With this comes the acknowledgement that each child not only learns differently, but also expresses his/her learning in his/her own “language” (be it by using words, visual arts, technology, group discussions, etc.).

Constant and deliberate observations of the children and their interaction with the environment as well as with each other allow us to grow more as reflective teachers, giving way to a spirit of continued growth and improvement. With this mindset, we get to ask ourselves: “Is this strategy effective?” or “How can I improve on this set-up?” or “What am I learning from how the students are engaging with their environment and peers?” By continuously learning from our students, we ensure that we become more and more effective in teaching the students we have now.

Learning as students

Teacher education and mentoring must be viewed as an on-going process, continuing throughout a teacher’s career and helping teachers to understand and apply different pedagogical principles. – Kay Livingston, Michele Schweisfurth, Gary Brace and Moira Nash in “Why Pedagogy Matters: The Role of Pedagogy in Education 2030, UNESCO policy advice paper, May 2017

In being reflective teachers, we can stop at merely observing our students and learning from them; but to make this endeavor even richer (and the learning deeper), we can intentionally put ourselves in our own classroom setting in order to learn from our own peers. In casting aside our “teacher” in favor of our “student” hat, we can have our own “class discussion” to create a wider pool of insights and learning. After all, as has been proven time and again, two (and even more) heads are better than one. From personal experience, this exercise is empowering for all concerned – as it does not only give us a chance to learn from each other, but also the satisfaction of knowing that we are active partners in our colleagues’ growth in their vocation.

Learning in ISMILE

It is a blessing that in the ISMILE Family of Schools, we get to grow in all these different ways. As an institution, the belief that the more teachers learn and grow, the better equipped we become in effectively nurturing young learners does not end there. It is backed by practice, fortified by the support of the management and the eager participation of each and every teacher. It is in this rich learning environment that a family of lifelong learners is formed.

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