It is clear to anyone working in education that there is no universal formula that applies to every teacher and every child because, if something is safe today, it is that we live in a world of diversity and that it is rare to find a sustainable working philosophy that will bring the necessary balance to the work of one teacher and his fragile micro-world in which miracles, more often than not, you still say, sometimes by intent, sometimes by chance, still happen ...
5 elements philosophy
The first element: a teacher who is continuously professionally improving. For years, I have attended seminars and exchanged experiences with colleagues there. However, real seminars are as rare as they are expensive, and perfecting is something that is the responsibility of every teacher. With the introduction of new technologies, I have become a member of several online communities and platforms where I exchange experiences with colleagues from all over the world, follow presentations, innovations, webinars, conferences, debates, etc. In this way, in the past 2 years alone, I have gathered over 500 hours of various professional development, mostly through the eTwinning portal, which offers many opportunities for cooperation and professional development. I participated in over 30 two-week events and collaborated with colleagues from all over Europe, once as a TED lecturer on the topic of working with parents. The knowledge I gained that way surpassed everything I had secretly hoped for. I learned about many methods and approaches in teaching, useful applications, educational software, didactic tools… I tried my best to apply every innovation in teaching and I can say that it is an unreal experience, very valuable to me because it comes from colleagues from developed countries who have a lot of experience and which we strive to learn from.
The second element: a student who is empowered by his teacher to use ICT freely and safely for educational purposes. One of the newest world methods that I liked was self-regulated learning or teaching tailored to the child. Learning is increasingly treated as an active, constructive, self-regulating process. Through the process of education, students should become aware of their own thought process, trained for strategic behavior and for directing their motivation towards the desired goals. In order for students to gradually become independent of the teacher, as a subject of external regulation, it is necessary to be motivated to actively participate in the teaching process. Therefore, research in the educational process is increasingly focused on enabling students to self-regulate the learning process. Taking responsibility for learning requires active participation of students in initiating and managing their own learning process, with the application of appropriate learning strategies. One of the basic strategies of this method is resource management. There is the catch! This is exactly the new path of further development in teaching that I have been looking for for years. That's when I started thinking out of the box and to finally see the bigger picture and the further course of action. Most teachers make the basic mistake when they consider a textbook and a program a sacred thing that has no alternative. Here, I only found out a couple of years ago that textbooks are not obligatory at all - it is the teacher who determines whether he will use a textbook at all or he will create the material himself in order to follow the material that is according to the plan and program. That newly acquired freedom gave me wings and opened my horizons. New opportunities began to open up for me when I realized that the new resources I was looking for were already there, in their pockets - smartphones! I already had a classroom with a smart board and tablets, and now nothing was stopping me from starting a modern way of working with children. I decided that the class of 2015/16 will not use textbooks and notebooks, but that all classes will take place online, both at school and from home. First, I created my own site with resources that will help me and the children in their work. Then I created an account on Edmodo and enrolled my students - now we have our own virtual space to work even when we are not at school! Each department had its own group and before each class I posted materials that we will use when processing or determining the material - tests, dictations, presentations, surveys, quizzes, useful links, even educational games for learning English and touch typing. In that way, I gave the children enough time to get familiar with the new material on their own, from home, and to do entrance surveys and exercises in order to see the initial situation. In class, each through their own tablet, we processed the new material individually, in pairs, groups or online groups that we shared with peers from other countries. For example, if we were to cover the second conditional in class, the homework would be to share our thoughts on the topic: "If I were a millionaire" in a group at Edmodo with peers from America, Egypt, Turkey, India, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, etc. and similarly. I would follow their discussions from my home and reward active students. There are special groups that I created to support talented students, as well as for those who need additional help - additional and supplementary classes. It is completely normal for me to turn on Skype and give additional lectures from my armchair while I prepare the students for the competition. We would often have Skype classes with peers from around the world and work together on related topics such as Christmas celebrations, school, food, geography, history… Since I am a member of the Microsoft educational community, I have a lot of contacts among teachers and lecturers from all over the world, but also curators of important world institutions. Thanks to these connections, my students have the opportunity to go on a virtual trip wherever they want - Yellowstone Park, Seychelles, Aquarium Underwater Research Station in Florida, Science Park in India, Thomas Edison Museum, Abraham Lincoln Museum, Coral Reef, dinosaur museum and many other places. I want them to know how small the world is and that everything is available to them today, in an era of the possible. I realized that I empower them best in this way and prepare them for further life. What most teachers are wrong about is trying to go back in time and to a time that no longer exists - these are children who grew up on technology and I don't see the point in tying their hands when we can use that same technology and make it work for us. I never dreamed that my children would return my hard work with their work, which was very great only at the beginning, until we got used to it. Later, I reaped the fruits of my labor and enjoyed watching the students who were more motivated than ever, doing homework in a percentage that was higher than ever, had better grades and acquired all possible competencies in my class. Their ideas and proactivity have brought, and still bring, numerous projects to the school. I finally experienced the students to create and lead classes, to use all resources meaningfully and purposefully in order to acquire knowledge, anytime and anywhere. My part of the job is less and less visible, and that's the point, isn't it? All my former students remain members of the group "GRADUATES" at Edmodo, where they follow my work and consult with me when they need any kind of help.
The third element:a parent who is involved in their child's achievements and school activities. My philosophy is beginning to take shape with this essential element. I learned a lot about pedagogy and methodology at the faculty, but I didn't see a place for a parent in the famous pedagogical triangle, and that is very important. Implementing my quiet reform in recent years, I felt a strong need to educate parents in addition to the students. I felt that they were a very important link in my projected chain and the only way to win them over was complete transparency in all fields. I stripped my work in front of them and stood before their court because that was the only way they could understand what I was trying to make of their children. It was not easy to explain to the parents who were educated in the old system all the advantages of my idea, but I knew that with my work and enthusiasm, mostly with the positive change in children, I would win them over. How did I achieve that? I opened the door of my classroom to them and gave them the opportunity to participate in everything and follow everything. There are parent codes that allow parents to follow their children's work in a virtual classroom on Edmodo - so parents were with us on the same task every hour. They saw what we learn, how we learn, how we evaluate… Somewhere in the middle of all that I came across a great application called Class Dojo, which is in the form of an electronic diary - students by class, absences, delays, praise and objections, messages and chats with parents, pictures and videos from class and each child's digital portfolio, all in one place! It took me only 5 minutes after each class to fill in all these categories and with one click the parents received a notification on their phones about the newest achievements of their children in my class. They had accurate information about everything first hand, and I provided myself with a great way of keeping pedagogical documentation, constant communication with parents and motivated students who knew that their every move was valued and monitored. I was already on a horse now!
Fourth element: support to colleagues. After the first three elements, everyone would be satisfied with what they had achieved, but not me. I knew that I was "sticking out" and that my work was stinging the eyes of my colleagues, and at no cost did I want to ever resent them because I respected them too much, even though they wouldn't believe me. I was simply driven insane by the inertia of obviously good people and teachers, which I could not change overnight. My greatest wish was to open their eyes to see what I saw now - I wanted to share my newly acquired "powers" with someone. The very feeling that you have some secret power is not so fulfilling if you don't share it with someone, and that was what I wanted - to pass the torch. I started inviting them to my demonstration classes, but the response was weak. I would throw something in the conversation sometime, but there was no feedback. Then I remembered collaborative teaching - the perfect way to introduce colleagues to new trends and infect them with your positivism. I started holding collaborative classes with colleagues from all subjects, I didn't choose, I didn't care. The only thing that interested me was to reach as many colleagues as possible, and that worked in the beginning. Enthusiasm was there, they realized the advantage of what I was talking about, but they were still afraid, mostly of not knowing how to work on a computer and not knowing the language. Then I moved on to phase two of my plan: take away every excuse! To do that, I had to give all of myself and all of my time. I stayed after class, came earlier, attended their classes to give them support in the digital classroom because they were afraid of new and expensive equipment, but I didn’t care. I was there for each of my colleagues whenever they needed help and I would always let them know that it is not difficult for me and that I enjoy it, trying not to be arrogant and thus drive them away from me. As for the language, I came up with that solution as well. I started giving free classes of English to all interested colleagues on Thursday evenings from half past seven to half past eight. About twenty of them showed up at the first class! My happiness was endless! And so it went on, little by little, I pushed with all my strength in all the fields, but it wasn’t hard for me when they came and asked something because it was a sure sign to me that I was progressing slowly. With the beginning of the new school year, they started dropping out of the English language course and now it is a far smaller number. I had to learn how to accept defeat sometimes, and it is very difficult for me. Those who are smarter than me say that it is a success to change even one person, but that is a small consolation for me. I simply realized that in a profession where constant changes are needed, change is the most difficult thing for most colleagues. I have not given up, I am still struggling, but I am sad that I still do not see that critical mass in our school system that can bring about real changes.
Fifth element: support to the school and the local community. We do not live in a rich and organized state. Allocations for culture and education are minimal. It is inevitable that every school needs the help of the local community. Fortunately, in smaller communities like mine, that support is easier to get because everyone is directed at each other. Where are we as teachers and why should it concern us? Most believe that they are not paid enough and that their job is not to create better working conditions for themselves and others at school, but that it is exclusively up to the state. I don't agree with that. I think that, as a nation in general, we lack a healthy dose of entrepreneurial spirit that Western countries have. For too long, everything has been served to us on a platter, and after college, the state was responsible to provide each individual with a future when they waved their diploma - a job, an apartment, a good standard. I have loved American films since I was a child, but I have not seen such a system of values in them. I was brought up to value every dinar and not be ashamed of honest work, even if I was not paid enough for it - work ethic and a healthy attitude towards material things is vital in educating children. And then why don't we seniors sometimes listen to our own advice and show those same children in action how much power there is in such thinking. What bothers me the most about children is the pessimism that comes from the parents - that it is impossible to change anything and that destiny is not in their hands, and the culprit is always someone else. In recent months, there has been a lot of talk about the introduction of entrepreneurship as a subject or through certain subjects, both in our country and in the world. I have personally participated in several European seminars where entrepreneurship appears as the most current topic in the time of the global financial crisis. What can we do then? My position is that progress is possible even in impossible conditions. If you change at least one small thing in your life every day, you are already on the path to healing in every sense. Also, if I changed something in my cabinet every day, wouldn't that cabinet, by definition, have to get better with a couple of flower pots, a patched curtain, a painted chair? I am fascinated by people who have been working in the same work environment for decades and it never occurred to them to change anything. We must understand that change is the responsibility of everyone, and that with that one external change, we gain change from within, both with us and with the students. The fact is that students do not care much about school inventory and that most classrooms in Serbia are in a very bad condition. Such was my classroom after 10 years without painting and renovation. I didn't want to wait any longer and I went into action, found sponsors, smoothed, sanded, painted for three weeks non-stop during the summer vacation. From a decrepit classroom, I made the most beautiful foreign language classroom in the country. I didn’t know how, but I knew I had to do it. It's been 3 years, and in the cabinet, everything is still the same as after painting. Why? Because the students played ball in the school yard every day while I was working non-stop and they saw what I was trying to do, and they knew that I was not doing it for personal gain but for them, for the school, for the whole local community. The children showed what I have always known - that they know how to appreciate work and labor and everything that is of public interest and for the common good. It's only up to us adults to understand that.
Dear reader, This is by no means a broad application, but the philosophy of a lone weirdo that makes sense to him. I hope that there are at least 5 of these elements that we will agree on. And then ... then we're on the trail for something, right?