Constructivism holds that meaningful learning occurs when people actively try to make sense of the world by filtering new ideas and experiences through existing knowledge structures (Snowman et al., 2009, p. 337). In agreement with Jerome Bruner, I confront students with problems and help them to seek solutions either independently or by engaging in collaborative group discussion (Snowman et al., 2009, p. 337). Fetherston (2007) calls this as social negotiation and adds that teachers operating according to constructivist principles would create an environment where students had ample opportunity for this social negotiation (p.160). Furthermore, teachers adopting a constructivist approach would scaffold their students’ learning by matching the task to the students so that it lies within their ‘zone’ and use real and authentic tasks (p.161). As a language teacher and a strong believer of the constructivist approach, I make sure the students see meaningful connections between content and skills and the real world by providing opportunities for them to use the tools in authentic, real-life activities to create common or shared understanding of some phenomenon (Snowman et al., 2009, p. 340). Therefore, I plan and implement learning experiences in classroom and outside classroom that supports students’ development and active engagement with the world.
During the summer of 2009, the students of the previous school I worked at, Mili and I had afor a language and cultural experience. For two and a half weeks I was with the students almost sixteen hours a day. It was a great experience and I had the chance to reconnect with my old the students. We had a great time and the students still talk about. (
My course work from GDE3001 and GDE4006 were helpful in building my skills in this area. I have been working as a teacher for several years, but both of these courses helped build some educational knowledge gaps that I had from not following a traditional career path; however, some of my course work in linguistics has also helped me develop a safe and supportive environment. Learning a foreign language in a country where the language is not used, can be challenging. Errors are a natural part of language learning (Lightbown & Spada, 1999, p167). Students make many mistakes throughout this journey and more importantly they learn from their own mistakes. Tomlinson & Kalbfleisch (1998) argue that in order for learning to take place, learning environments must feel emotionally safe. If students don't feel safe and supported in a language class, they don't participate in meaningful ways that develop their abilities in the target language. Lightbown and Spada (2003) add that if we can make our classrooms places where students enjoy coming because the content is interesting and relevant to their age and level of ability, where the learning goals are challenging yet manageable and clear, and where the atmosphere is supportive and non-threatening, we can make a positive contribution to students' motivation to learn (p. 57). Therefore it is my duty to make learning appealing, minimizing pressure and reducing responsibilities for failure or embarrassment (Snowman et al., 2009, p.445). In order to achieve this goal, I try very hard to have a positive teacher-student relationship in the classroom. As a humanist teacher, I care for my students' deficiency needs which are psychological, safety, social, and self esteem. I make sure the students are physically comfortable, feel safe and relaxed, have a sense of belonging, and experience self-esteem (Snowman et al., 2009, p.444). Later, I expect self actualization to happen in each student, which is the need for self fulfillment.
Other than building relationships with my students, I show , that the parents receive by mail. Thus, students not only take ownership of their learning, but also feel that they have been supported by the teacher and parents.by letting them know how much I am proud of their work. In order to do that, I put student work into our quarterly school publication,
This picture shows my 8th grade students and the poster they made for our class award ceremony. Each year the school has grade level assemblies where teachers are allow to give two awards to students of their classes. I didn't think that was enough recognition, so I had an in-class awards ceremony as well, where I handed out some small prizes and certificates that the hard work and success the students achieved throughout the year.
This may be one of the most difficult areas for me because I live overseas where the majority of the parents struggle with English. Of course, I want the families and community to engage with me, but it is difficult to do when many of the parents feel that they can not approach the teacher due to their lack of English or cultural differences.
According to Friend and Cook (2007) your personal commitment to collaboration as a tool for carrying out the responsibilities of your job, including your beliefs about the benefits of working closely with colleagues and parents/families and the added value of learning from others' perspectives ( p. 23). Working with parents has not been easy, but I feel successful in a couple of situations. Even though there are some barriers, I still feel the full support from the parents. Especially for the classes that I teach Spanish culture through Spanish cuisine. Parents are willing to help in many ways; some bring ingredients to cook; some come just to provide support; some make sure their kids don't forget to bring the ingredients.
There have been two great victories this year with regards to fostering relationships with families and the community. My first victory came with parent-teacher conferences, even though my course isn't one of the main core courses -- English, Math, Science, and Social Studies -- I still had many parents stop by my table to talk about their child's progress. And once we are able to get passed the grade, we had very positive discussions about language learning and how they could help their child improve and grow as a language learner. My second victory came this year when middle school language department, which consists of Chinese, Korean and Spanish, held our first International Festival for middle school and elementary students. It was a huge affair and took several weeks to prepare. Parents contributed by bringing food, offering help and/or simply joining the event to support their child. The result was rewarding and the students really enjoyed it.
Working at an exclusive, private, international school still involves working in teams, but not exactly like those that would exist in public schools in Australia. Some of the teams I have contributed to in the last year include: World Language department, middle school team, WASC accreditation team, Argentinian Restaurant field trip, and Destino Peru. According to Friend and Cook (2007) having a mutual goal is an essential element of every team definition across various disciplines (p. 63). In line with my constructive ideals, I enjoy collaborating with colleagues on shared goals.
Of my teamwork experiences from the year, two stand out in my mind as examples of contributing effectively. First was Destino Peru, I help arrange and manage a field trip to Peru with my former Spanish students from Saipan International School (SIS). The SIS sectary is a Peruvian and every other year she organizes a two and half week field trip for Spanish students. The event is an amazing experience for the teachers and students and provides a perfect opportunity to practice Spanish and explore a Spanish speaking country's culture. Although we were working as KIS, Mili contacted me about the trip and my husband and I decided to go. Working for four years with Mili at SIS made me very curious to visit Peru so I could learn more about Peruvian culture; plus, I felt a great deal of gratitude toward Mili, because she is the person who asked me to teach Spanish in SIS and helped me start my teaching career. This gave us a chance to work together very closely in her home country. All of the students loved the Destino Peru experience.
The second was the Argentinian Restaurant field trip. It was with one of the high school Spanish teachers. The students on the field trip were my former students from two years before, so we were both interacting with them at the restaurant. In the end we had a very enjoyable experience speaking in Spanish, dining on Argentinian food, and watching a Tango show; plus, we developed a better working relationship.