Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

On Becoming a Good Teacher: Reflective Practice with Regard to Children's Voices

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

On Becoming a Good Teacher: Reflective Practice with Regard to Children's Voices

Article excerpt

This is the story of my beginning as a responsible, reflective education professor--one who practices critical reflection in my teaching and learning and encourages reflective practice in university students as well. Pat, a preservice student, was my teacher as she brought me along on her exploration of the children's perceptions about good teaching. Pat helped me to learn the real power of critical reflection and the construction of knowledge.

Gore's (1987) work suggests that the ideas of reflective teaching methodology in teacher preparation go back to Dewey (1904, 1933). Gore lists others (Archmuty, 1980; Cruickshank, 1985; Schafer, 1967; Zeichner, 1981-1982) who have acknowledged the importance of reflection to prepare teachers for continuing growth although they have varying interpretations of Dewey's work. Schon (1983) considers that we discover reflective understanding in action.

My experience with Pat begins with such a call to action. Pat brought me a question she thought I should answer. Pat, an unusual teacher education student, was questioning the system of teacher education. A nontraditional student who began her undergraduate elementary teacher education degree over 20 years ago, Pat returned to complete her degree. A mother and a grandmother, Pat brings a high level of intensity to this learning opportunity. Not simply turning in assignments to fulfill university requirements, Pat often questions the course assignments, finding many of them simple or contrived.

Pat's Beginning as a Reflective Practitioner

One afternoon as I stood in line at the grocery store, I struck up a conversation with the two children behind me. I told them that I was a college student studying to be a teacher. As we talked, I asked them, `What are the best and worst things a teacher can do?' Sarah said, `The best thing is when the teacher plays music while we work--you know, the kind without words.' She went on to explain, `The worst thing is when she yells at us.' James quickly joined in saying, 'The best thing is when you finish your work and the teacher lets you go outside--you know, when you can just hang out and be free. The worst thing is when she throws things.'

Interesting experience, I thought as I walked out of the store. Another child, who had overheard our conversation, stopped me at the door and said, `You know that stuff about yelling, you know what--it hurts my soul.' What an astonishing expression from one so young, I thought as I neared the street. As I looked for traffic, I noticed Sarah and James running toward me and yelling, `Wait, wait!' Out of breath, and smiling from ear to ear, they asked me if I would come be their teacher next year. `Thank you,' I said, `but you don't even know me. Why would you want me to be your teacher?' They explained, `Because nobody ever asked us for our opinion.'

Could it be true, I wondered? Is it possible that nobody asks children what they think about

   good teaching? As I tried to process this information, I thought about the
   people who tell us what children need: parents, teachers, principals,
   administrators, school boards, university professors, legislators and other
   politicians, even the President of the United States. I thought, surely, in
   the midst of all of this, someone, somewhere is asking the children. Is it
   possible that my new friends at the grocery store spoke for all children?
   These nagging questions brought me to the office of Dr. Thomas, one of my
   education professors. I told her about my experience. Do you think we could
   talk to children--to seek their ideas and thoughts about teaching and
   teachers through interviews? Her enthusiastic answer was, `Of course. Let's
   do it!'

I distinctly remember Pat's visit to my office. She was like a child herself and really intended to gift me with this question. I remember saying, `This is your question. If you want to answer it, I will be glad to help you. …

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