The one thing I chose that time was a stethoscope, which meant I was going to study to become a doctor. As I grew older, many things changed and even my ideas became different from time to time. Now I find myself reading a four year course in teaching, and I would definately have never imagined myself as a teacher.
Discussion Our professional life is something, which I think, cannot be decided when we are still young and without any experience. It is often affected by factors which are out of our control, and shaped by different experiences we go through in our life.
Way back through my secondary years, I used to imagine myself as a pilot or becoming an air-hostess, following my father’s footsteps. I always loved planes and I remember telling my friends that once I finish school, I was going to work on a plane and start flying often. It all changed when I had to chose the subjects I wanted to broaden my studies on. We had a good variety of choices, amongst which sciences, maths, languages, and an option including physical education and home economics. This option was new to the school and it was introduced to the students of our year, so we were the first to experiment in this.
I was quite undecided on what to choose as sciences and maths were not my favourite, and I was left with languages and the other option of physical education. Obviously I seeked my parents’ advice, and they were not quite keen on me choosing physical education, so they encouraged me to take the option regarding languages. Despite this, I opted in choosing physical education.
At the beginning of the scholastic year, when I was in Form 2, the school employed a new physical education teacher, who was very young, fresh and enthusiastic on teaching new students. My life at school was very sedentary and I rarely used to attend to physical education lessons, because the teacher we had was very traditional. She used to give us a ball and let us experiment on our own each and every lesson. Otherwise, she also used to prepare lessons with about four (4) or five (5) different exercises and we had to spend the whole lesson practising the given skills.
This new teacher was different, I remember the very first lesson where I told her I was not going to take part because I did not want to, and she insisted on me helping her out throughout the lesson. The lesson was an introduction to football, something which I previously had never done. She literally caught my attention, as without even realising, I was taking part in the lesson with the whole class. It was so interesting and challenging, using games in order to make us think and experience the skill, rather than just giving it out. This teacher believed a lot in learning through experience, in order to help the students think and arrive to a conclusion. From that day onwards, my view on the physical education lessons totally changed, and there was not one lesson I did not fully participate in.
As Dewey (1897) claims “I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.”
Agreeing to what Dewey states, learning and education are social and interactive processes, where the school is the institution which helps the child interact with the curriculum and learn through real, guided experiences. He compares two (2) extremes, that are the traditional method against the progressive method of teaching. The first one (traditional) is more of an authoritarian and strict approach, where the teacher focuses on delivering the curriculum, with not enough understanding of the students’ experiences. The second method (progressive) is free, student-directed and uses the students’ experiences to enable them to learn.
Going back to my primary years, I remember how I used to hate physical education because the teacher was very traditional and used to gives us a ball and kind of dictate the skills that had to be practised, in order to stick to the syllabus content. This used to get annoying, with very minimal learning, and for this reason I always used to opt out in taking part and stay wandering around. This was only until the school employed the new teacher, and with her the lessons were so different. They were fun, progressive, and educational at the same time, introducing a variety of sports to us and teaching us numerous skills and games which we had never done in years.
Recalling these years made me understand how I wanted to become that teacher who makes the students love the subject and guide them to learn through their own experience, being able to understand the skills. I did not want to become the traditional teacher, as Dewey claims, who gives a ball to the students and it’s like sending a clear message I do not care in doing the lesson.
“The teacher is not in the school to impose certain ideas or to form certain habits in the child, but is there as a member of the community to select the influences which shall affect the child and to assist him in properly responding to these influences.” (Dewey, 1987).
In physical education, students tend to ask for playing games rather than having a lesson focused on drills and skill practise. A very good method I have been introduced to at University is the Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU), and our lecturers emphasize its use in schools. Throughout my teaching practice I realised it is very effective and endorses students in a thinking process, because rather than focusing on how to do it (main importance is given to the techniques practised), it addresses the why and the what if (students have to think of skils and strategies for better play). As Griffin and colleagues (1997) suggest, it helps in encouraging the students to respond with a range of creative actions, being able to critically think and make their own decisions. Students are thus able to develop a deeper meaning and understanding of what they are being taught, and be able to decide and use information in a variety of situations. Concording to Dewey:
“…the true centre of correlation of the school subjects is not science, nor literature, nor history, nor geography, but the child’s own social activities.” (Dewey, 1987).
Applying this method in my teaching practice, turned out very well and also made me realise that teaching is a drawing forth rather than a telling. Teaching does not have to be a dictatorship, or else giving only importance to what lies within the curriculum. If students prefer learning through games, than use games to deliver the content, but in a way that encourages students to learn and not push them away in disliking the subject.
For example, taking physical education again and focusing the lesson on basketball; if the aim of the lesson is introduce passing, I would start the lesson by a ball possession game, where the students have to make five (5) consecutive passes to be able to score a point. In this manner, students are playing a game, practising passing between each other, and also being able to think and understand that in order to score a point they need to move about and create open spaces. Obviously, in contrast to the “I want you to stay in pairs and pass the ball to each other” traditional method, this progressive approach allows the students to think and experience the skills.
As a future educator, I also believe that students need to be guided in order to be able to discover new knowledge. Socrates established a very important notion of philosophy, that is arriving at truth through a series of questions. He used to question man in the street himself to arrive at political and ethical truths. He also questioned his students, as a means of instruction to engage them in thinking a problem and arriving at a critical conclusion. Nowadays, this so called ‘Socratic Method’, is very much used by teachers to stimulate learning in students. It focuses on the students’ knowledge to address a given problem, and learning is through a process of critical thinking and discovery, and not by having the teacher telling the student the proper answer.
It is through the use of questioning methods, that students are encouraged to think and analyse a given situation. In teaching this is what is known to be as the ‘guided-discovery’ method, where the process is triggered off by a series of stimuli. These can range from small statements to questions that elicit discovery. The questions might then proceed in small steps, until the student discovers the wanted target or concept through own knowledge and experience.
An example drawn from a particular lesson I had during my teaching practice last year, where a student was finding it difficult to hit the ball, as the lesson was about softball (very similar to the baseball game). Instead of just teling her she had to swing the bat earlier, I started to ask her a series of questions to make her think about what she was doing wrong. The first question First I asked her why wasn’t she able to hit the ball, and her answer was that she was swinging earlier than the ball. To this I then invited her to think why she was swinging early, and she came to a conclusion that it was happening because she was not timing the ball correctly. Thus, automatically she realised that she needed to wait a bit more before swinging the bat. After a couple of times practising the swing, she managed to hit the ball. I could have easily told her to wait for the ball before swinging, but in this manner the student managed to arrive to the conclusion through her own experience and by critically thinking and analysing the problem.
In a learning community, learners construct their own knowledge, and then share it with the whole society through:
“…collaboration as an act of shared creation/and or shared discovery.” (Schrage, 1990).
This is important, as in a world where technology is prevailing:
“…it is not possible for the individual to understand the complexities of this modern age without drawing on and accepting the contribution of others.” (Schrage, 1990).
A teacher is definately essential in helping the learner construct his or her own knowledge. Undoubtedly, a teacher also has great responsibility in preparing the students well for their careers and lives, and it is important to note that without the teacher, jobs such as those of a doctor, lawyer, auditor and so on, could not be taken as one needs to be taught before taking up a career.
Many people have been helpful and important in helping me become what I am today, but a person which has been an important role-model and inspired me to take this road, is my secondary physical education teacher. She is what I define a successful and efficient teacher, and one day I would like to be defined in that manner by my students.
Education of Disabled Children
Disability could be visible or invisible, temporary or permanent. The first major and systematic record of disabled persons in Pakistan is available from 1961 census. According to this record nearly 2 percent of the population suffered from all kinds of disabilities, particularly the children of age group 0-14 years after the initial crisis, many parents develop healthy and constructive attitude towards their handicapped children maximum population of Pakistan lives in rural areas so majority of the children are born and brought up there. The overall condition of our villages gives their life as start with multiple disadvantages. They suffer from illness caused by malnutrition and non-hygienic condition. The situation of handicapped children is far from satisfactory. The causes of this tragedy are poverty, ignorance, malnutrition, poor housing facilities, inadequate healthcare and environment act as a catalyst for infection. Good physical and mental growth can not be achieved in an environment where there is poverty and misery, food and shelter is inadequate and health services are either lacking or extremely inadequate. The adverse social, economic and environmental conditions can be considered responsible for the poor intellectual performance of many children, who in more favorable environment could develop abilities within a spectrum. (David, 1978)
Education of the disabled children was considered as useless exercise. The assumption was in past that a disable person could never become an integral member of the society. Persons with professional expertise to teach disabled children were not available and there was no infrastructure to support the education, training and rehabilitation of special children. The time has changed and the education of disable has started with a focus. A gradual realization has emerged that the education of a disable child is as important as the education of an able bodied main stream child. (Ali, 2003).
One-quarter of the teachers believed that they had sufficient classroom time for inclusion efforts, that they were currently prepared to teach students with disabilities, or that they would receive sufficient training for inclusion efforts. These findings were interpreted as support for the assumption that teachers viewed students with disabilities in the context of the reality of the general education classroom rather than as support for the prevailing attitudes about integration. General education teachers thus demonstrated certain reluctance about inclusion that must be addressed if such a policy change was to be successful (Welch, 1989).
The emphasis on special education as a place deflected attention away from the fact that special education was a more comprehensive process whose actual dynamics were major contributors to its success or failure A significant part of the special education process was represented in the beliefs and actions of general education. An integrated system means that special education cannot act independently as a separate system, but must formulate policy in response to the attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors of general education (Gallagher, 1994).
Consideration for the needs of students of special school is the most central aspect of special education. It not only help teachers to plan, devise and implement modified curriculum but also guide them to create congenial classroom environment, set individual educational plans, arrange suitable educational resources, adopt effective teaching strategies, and select appropriate evaluation methods to improve the learning out comes of special children. Parents themselves take their disable child to special school where the school staff access their needs without following any standardized method for assessing the level of child’s disability. Consequently, a very little detail about the special educational needs of the assessed child is available which is not sufficient for teachers to devise effective educational plans and arrange appropriate resources for such children (Coenen et al 2006).
The issues concerning education of handicapped children and sociological view are globally highlighted by social scientist. The complexity in the nature of problems has further demanded prudent efforts especially in traditional societies of developing countries. Dera Ghazi Khan remained remote and deprived district of Punjab in terms of resource allocation yet the existence and sustainability of special education centers will determine the socio economic status of handicapped children. The evaluation of centers will help in determining the needs and problems of these helpless population strata. In this regard the present study will be contributing a substantial part in improving the efficiency of services provided to handicapped children.
Mext (2002) explored that education system for children with special needs was shifting to special support education at the beginning of the 21st century. Ministry of education, culture, sports, science and technology mentioned that the special support education is a primary catalyst for the progress toward an equal opportunity society for all children including individuals with disabilities. The main principle of special support education is meeting individual needs of each child. A lifelong support system shall be developed through co-operation among every sector in society to promote children’s autonomy and participation in all societies.
Ali (2003) studied the maturity of special education system in historical perspective and the nature and put some measures for its improvement. In her study she designed various instruments and conducted interviews of the special educators, support professionals, parents of special children and special persons. She found that the parent involvement in the education of special children is at minimal. A part from this she also concluded that majority of parents of special children of all categories and special persons are not completely contented with the education being given to their children. She also concluded that the role of non-government organizations (NGOs) was very large in the improvement of special education in Pakistan.
Alam et al (2005) studied the behavior of parents towards physically handicapped children in Islamabad city by interviewing method. They found that a major proportion of the respondents had intermediate to graduation levels of education. About 30% of the respondent’s children suffered from deaf and dump and blind. Majority of the respondents said that their children were physical handicapped since birth.
Kitcher et al (2005) studied that behavioral disorders were not only very distressing to multiply handicapped patients and their families but also had a negative impact on their learning at school or other facility, peer relationships and social competence, so more attention should be paid to diagnose (detect and classify) and aggressively treat behavioral disorders by pharmacological, educational and environmental interventions.
Kazimi (2007) reported that in Pakistan, three systems of Education at present operate 1. Normal schools 2.Special Education Schools and 3. Inclusive Schools. In the last named special students of only the lower classes were accommodated. She argued that problems associated with working environment in Pakistan were wide ranging and have very severe effect on the personality of the person, especially when working with children in special setting or in inclusive settings with mental retardation or physical impairment. Further more, Teachers very often feel stress due to professional demands and ambiguous job description, parental pressure, non-supportive behavior and lack of student motivation. Similarly, Teachers working in mainstream inclusive education setting feel less stress.
Molnara et al (2008) reported the education of the forthcoming generation was always a difficult task and this was particularly true for those educational institutes where students requiring special treatment were educated. These students were often educationally challenged, mentally challenged or multi-challenged. They present an international co-operation lasting for three years whose prime goal was to construct non-language-dependent software for handicapped children. They introduce the institutions taking part in the development, the process of the program’s creation, the steps to apply the program and the possibilities and methods of improvement.
Rao (2008) studied the persons with disabilities enjoyed co-existence, though at special times, the behavior and attitudes were at variant. An intellectual disability poses greater challenges than the other types. The families of persons with intellectual disabilities did also have needs different from others, which cannot be segregated from the needs of children with intellectual disability. The National establishment for the Mentally Handicapped had developed many service models and contributed headed for human resource development and research. National Policy has also measured as vital progress of human resources for providing education to all children with disabilities in the common education stream. Many milestones have been left behind in the path, major achievements have been made and opportunities have been formed for the disabled.
Fletcher (2009) studied the students with a classmate with serious emotional problem incident reductions in first-grade test scores particularly students in low-income schools and within schools using school-level fixed effects condition was qualitatively parallel. The importance of the decline in mathematics achievement was approximately 30-60 percent of the size of the adjusted black-white achievement gap. Since nearly 10 percent of the student population has a classmate with a serious emotional problem, the total effect on test scores of the procedure of including these students is potentially quite large.
Nabeel (2009) stated that Department of special education Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) through distance learning system offers study/training at graduate, masters and Ph. D. levels. Teachers were equipped in 6 specialized areas of visual mutilation, physical disabilities, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, learning disability and inclusive education. Each student is assigned to a teacher who is a subject specialist. The special teacher training model through distance education method is highlighted.
Pasha (2009) assessed that no standardized method is being used for special education. In Pakistan International Classification of Functioning has emerged as a standardized method for measuring health and disability at both individual and population a level. He explored the scope of ICF in the field of special education and has established links between ICF categories and curriculum areas, classroom activities and learning objectives for improving the quality of education. Further research has been recommended to find solutions to overcome the initial problems in adapting ICF framework in the field of Special Education in Pakistan.