Before starting this reflection, I asked a Grade 9 class a few questions to help me gather more information about their experience and thoughts about school. Their outlook of school is and was completely different to my current views and my views of school during my schooling years. This opportunity I had to ask them questions brought great ideas as to how be a teacher that they feel are “good teachers”. Allowing the students to state their opinions about learning helps us teachers become what they need to succeed in their education.
The Grade 8s and 9s provided me with a whole new way of looking at teaching. The Grade 8s still need a little nudge in order to get them to do their work. It was lovely when a student, or two, would come to tell me a joke before the lesson started. The Grade 9s were a difficult group. The pupils are still working on themselves, their respect and work ethic. It is important to see how easily this age group is easily influenced by one another and how it is vital to have teachers accepting them and working with rather than always trying to work against them.
These two age groups helped me grow as a teacher in a whole new way – I had to learn how to treat all learners differently. This is because I had to see each individual as they are; it was strange to ask questions in class and get varying answers that showed the vast maturity levels across the classes. Some students seem to have knowledge far beyond their age and other students acted a whole lot younger than their peers. This pushed me into new challenging moments, and I now had to phrase questions differently or ask a variety of questions to appeal to each maturity level, each mindset and each individual’s personal background.
When I start my teaching career, I will look back on this experience and reconsider my teaching ways when I encounter these grades. These students need reminders about due dates and how important it is to study, but they also need to understand that marks are not everything and that everyone is different. The pressure that some of them face because of marks is unnecessary. They have become highly anxious in certain situations because of pressure of any form – fitting in; getting good grades and even worrying about their parent’s finances.
Both grades love doing group work and one Grade 9 class has told me that they feel they learn more when working in groups rather than learning from a teacher who just reads off the boards. However, I have found that if they are working in groups, the teacher has to supervise very carefully as they do get distracted and find other things to talk about rather than the work they have to do.
Teaching these fourteen to fifteen year old learners provided a great opportunity to learn about the creative, yet still “childish” ways of thinking about problems, solutions and occurrences in the world. It was strange to stand in the class, ask questions and get answers that a matric would give and then get an answer that was more like a Grade 8 answer. Their unripenned ways of looking at problems can prove to be very creative and that creativity may need to be encouraged so that later in life they may apply their solutions in a more mature way and therefore creating a better world for themselves, their families and the broader society.
The Grade 8s seem to enjoy applying new knowledge to any story they know – stories of families, friends, their own or even movies. This may be a way I could teach in the future; inspiring pupils to apply the information just taught to a story so that the information is more relevant and more easily remembered. On the flip side, the Grade 9s are more able to take a fictional scenario and apply knowledge to that scenario or use a fictitious narrative to explain a concept.
Grade 9 pupils enjoy having debates and having the opportunity to state their various opinions about topics. This is a skill and characteristic I believe is important to nurture in adolescents so that they do not always just take global issues lying down and on a smaller scale, they can learn to stand up for themselves. This way, they also encouraged to be themselves, think for themselves and see that everyone is different and everyone is allowed to be different.
Teaching the FET Phase Reflections
I, unfortunately, did not get the opportunity to teach the matric students. Nevertheless, the Grade 10s and 11s were a delightful experience. There is a massive jump in knowledge, maturity, and overall behaviour from the Grade 9s to the Grade 10s. From the Grade 10s to 11s, there is only a slight difference in these factors.
Allowing the classes to have class discussions was a wonderful way in learning; many students brought unique views to all the different topics discussed in class. A lot more Grade 11 individuals were involved in discussions compared to the discussions held in the Grade 10 classes. Very much of the same Grade 10s used to answer the questions posed in the lessons. Both grade’s answers were very informed answers and sometimes the students would even correct me at times. They have a very good understanding of the world view and global problems.
One concern I do have, is that some gentlemen in Grade 10 still have a very olden-day, sexist view about gender roles. They are very set in their beliefs, despite being at a co-ed school since pre-school. They state that their beliefs come very much from their household situations and their parents. It is a concerning factor for the future – their own future and anyone’s future they may cross.
As with the younger grades, anxiety is another conundrum learners have to deal with. Putting into a teaching position and seeing the anxiety has opened my eyes and I must learn how to deal with and help the many learners who suffer from this. I learnt very quickly that some learners need to be encouraged to take a few breadths or have a few encouraging words said to them before tackling a test or tackling a class assignment. This will impact the way I treat learners when starting my career; I need to take note of the anxious children and help in any way I can before tests.
All the classes I had with the FET phases were based around class discussions. The majority of the time, the pupils were very respectful towards one another and their various opinions. They did start debates during the lesson about the topic, which I allowed, and my mentor teacher also encouraged as he believes that this encourages acceptance of other’s and their views and allows students to have their own opinions as long as they are respectful towards another. At times, the class would stray a little from the topic and delve into some small aspect of a case study or something someone else had said. In the future, I must attempt to keep the learners are on track with the lesson and its content.
I noticed that some learners may not partake by saying anything in the discussion but after the lesson they come and personally tell you a view or story. This shows that they were partaking but just in their own way. All students are encouraged to verbally partake in the discussion, but it is understandable that some of them are very shy or are afraid of any judgement that may come their way if they say something untoward. I must remember this and not push any student into an uncomfortable situation. The students that did come to me after the lesson proved that one does not have to be stating their opinions or answering questions to show that they are involved in learning and listening.
There are fewer students in these grades that need reminding about how important education is, yet, there will still be a handful that need a nudge in the right way and a lot of reinforcement when it comes to their work ethic in their school work.
Overall, I have come to the conclusion that this is my favourite phase to teach, I must just be mindful of all the anxiety that comes with their lives and the way family values, culture and religion play a massive role in the student’s beliefs about certain things.