Fear of failure and the pursuit of perfection are undeniable aspects of humanity. We have the urge to hide our mistakes and only acknowledge success. We fear not only failure, but also the implications it holds within our various social environments. This is especially true when it comes to our educational experiences as children. Among elementary students, fear and social anxiety are more common than we often realize.
I can vividly remember my first grade classmates making fun of a child who did not understand one of our assignments. While the teacher responded graciously to this child, the classroom environment made him stand out like a sore thumb while asking for help. Experiences like these gave me a deep sense of anxiety about falling behind in class.
I felt that asking for help was a sign of failure and feared the loss of my friends as a result. I saw any need for further explanation as something to be ashamed of, and certainly not embraced. As a result, I avoided approaching my teachers all throughout junior high and high school, which consistently caused my grades to slip. This goes to show that children not only learn from the curriculum, but also from the social and emotional environment of their classrooms.
What education can accomplish
I think that the sole purpose of education is to develop confidence in individual students through holistic pedagogy related to specific subject matter. In addition to meeting state standards, preparing for further study, or attaining specific vocational goals, education is about supporting the positive development of the human spirit. It is a tool with which children become productive members of the home, the work place, and the world by gaining life experiences.
In order to truly learn, I believe that children must feel free to ask questions and acknowledge misunderstandings in class. This means that teachers must adopt a holistic approach to pedagogy, which encourages curiosity and embraces the practice of owning and learning from our mistakes. Educators must pay attention to whether or not their classroom environment develops confidence in their students.
One pedagogical technique that creates an open classroom environment is using group activities, rather than lectures. If a child is falling behind during an activity, they have the option of approaching a peer for help instead of being confined to approaching their teacher. This also allows for students who have firmly grasped the content to further solidify their understanding by teaching their peers. On the other hand, if students would rather approach their teachers for help, they can now do this without becoming the center of attention in the classroom and feeling embarrassed.
How TPACK can help
To give a practical example of this pedagogical technique in action, consider the use of iPads in a first grade classroom. In today's rapidly advancing technological culture, educators have adopted a framework called TPACK. This stands for Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge. It allows for the teacher to combine helpful forms of technology with personal pedagogy related to specific knowledge of content.
For a first grade math lesson, students might form small groups and practice simple addition problems using the "My Math Flashcards" app. Instead of sitting quietly through their teacher's instruction, they will receive directions on how to use the app and then encounter the content as a group. This activity creates an environment that encourages questions and exploration as opposed to perfect attention and performance.
The internet is also a vital resource for students as they approach different subjects. Instead of relying upon a specific curriculum to communicate content knowledge, I believe educators ought to take advantage of the vast information available to their students via the Internet. This opens up a world of possibilities. It allows students the freedom to process content on their own terms, in a way that makes sense to them individually.
Put it to practice
Most anyone can grasp a new concept or skill if they are given opportunities to interact with it themselves. Often times, the traditional practices of lectures, homework and testing create distance between the student and the subject matter that they are studying. They act as middle-men between the knowledge and the learner. TPACK-inspired activities allow children to personally encounter the content, while simultaneously developing confidence in their social and cognitive abilities.
As a future parent and an undergraduate student of education myself, I hope that teachers begin to embody these practices and ideals. Through holistic pedagogy, the encouragement of questions and clarification, and the provision of rich technological resources, education can help children overcome personal insecurities and embrace difficulty as an opportunity to move forward in life.
ttf.edu.au- Teaching Teachers For The Future