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Prevailing culture

He argues that a class taught by an effective teacher ‘would be full of lively, interested and encouraging children who achieve high standards. There will be low stress and little tension. There will be a lot of group collaboration and tolerance. The children should live up to the teacher’s high expectations and perform accordingly…’ (1995:105). Role and function of the teacher Basically, the role and function of the teacher have become more and more diffuse in recent years and his or her close association with society at large means that changes and developments taking place in it directly affect him or her.

Two features particularly in contemporary Britain make the teacher’s role ever more demanding; these are the nature of society itself and progress in technology. As society becomes more compound and its values more pluralistic, so the resulting changes rebound on the teacher, thus broadening the area of his or her responsibilities. And in the eyes of the general public, though, the teacher’s job is still ‘to teach’ a generally agreed body of knowledge and skills and project a set of values that characterize the prevailing culture.

As Dean says in this regard: Society gives teachers the job of mediating the curriculum for each child. Only some parts of the curriculum are visibly defined, but the principle of a remit to teachers still obtains. Any school or teacher attempting something which differs broadly from the expectations of the community the school serves will be made aware of this very rapidly (Dean, 1988). Some of the features of the role and function of the teacher in the classroom can be itemized thus: Manager: he or she is there to manage the entire learning environment.

This involves the children as individuals and as a group, the learning program, the environment and resources. Observer: his or her ultimate efficiency depends on an ability to scrutinize the children directly, their actions, reactions and interactions. Diagnostician: as an essential part of observing this entails identifying the strengths and weaknesses of every child and devising programmes accordingly. Educator: this entails deciding on aims and objectives, the nature and content of the curriculum and the learning programme. Organizer: this entails organizing the learning programme once its nature has been specified.

Decision-maker: choosing suitable learning materials, deciding on topics and projects, and individual programmes. Presenter: this entails the teacher as expositor, narrator, questioner, explainer and instigator of discussions. Communicator: oblique in the role of presenter, it also entails talking to other members of staff. Facilitator: a significant aspect of the teacher’s work, acting as a mediator between the child or class and the predicament in hand. Motivator: another significant feature of the role entails affecting and sustaining interest.

Counselor: in this role the teacher advises on a complete range of problems and issues – educational, personal, social and emotional. Evaluator: a significantly professional aspect of the teacher’s job, this involves evaluating, assessing and recording children’s capability, attainment and progress. Dean and Pollard and Tann have identified the more vital of these as: 1 Self-knowledge: This entails an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. It is a mainly valuable kind of knowledge to possess while working in the primary school where teachers are estimated to teach many things.

2 Open-mindedness: This term is used by Pollard and Tann in the sense of ‘being willing to imitate upon ourselves and to challenge our postulations, prejudices and ideologies as well as those of others’. 3 A personal philosophy: This can take quite a realistic form. As Dean says, ‘What you require are thought-out aims and objectives which you can use for assessing your work and for make a decision on approach and materials. ’ Those who have a clear idea of their destination are more probable to arrive there. 4 Child developments: A good grounding in the theories of child development is necessary.

These will comprise theories on intellectual, physical, emotional and social development, as well as on individual differences. 5 How children learn: The key concepts and topics here are inspiration, theories of learning, the use of rewards as well as punishments, and the relation between language and experience. 6 Group behaviors: As teaching is concerned through handling groups, some awareness of group dynamics is obliging. Dean poses the following questions in this regard: What am I doing to teach children how to work together?

Have I got the balance between competition and cooperating about right? Do any of my children cheat in order to win? Is this because there is too much competition? Would rather more competition stimulate some of the most able in the class? 7 Subject knowledge: though a teacher needs to be on top of his or her material, this can sometimes be hard for the primary teacher who is estimated to know a great deal. Indeed, OFSTED found that a teacher’s subject knowledge was very stoutly associated with high standards of students’ achievements.

There can be some areas where his or her proficiency is slim and this can sometimes be made worse while an individual child undertakes a topic or project in an unusual area (Office for Standards in Education, 1994, 13-19). In such circumstances, where a teacher can feel vulnerable, Dean recommends (1) identifying areas in which he or she feels protected and working with them; (2) using other people’s proficiency – colleagues’, parents’, perhaps that of outsiders like the local policeman; and (3) making use of school broadcasting.

The matter of teachers’ subject knowledge is contemporary in the current primary debate and is coupled with the issues of curriculum leadership and teachers’ roles in the school. Throughout the 1980s a series of government documents had questioned whether recently qualified and experienced class teachers had enough subject knowledge to be capable to match work to different abilities, mainly at the upper end of the primary school (Department of Education and Science, 1988).

HMI had reported since the 1970s that there was a close relationship between a teacher’s subject knowledge and the excellence of his or her teaching. In the section of their report that is perhaps aptly titled ‘The Problem of Curricular Expertise’ Alexander et al. argue that ‘subject knowledge is a decisive factor at every point in the teaching process: in planning, appraising and diagnosing, task setting, questioning, explaining and giving response. The key question to be answered is whether the class-teacher system makes unattainable demands on the subject knowledge of the generalist primary teacher. ’ (1992)

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