“A I learned what it is to be homeless

“A
teacher affects eternity, and can never tell where the influence stops.” (Henry
Brooks Adams, n.d., as cited in Aoki’s World, 2016).

The environment of the pupil
is deeply concerned with cognition and the conditions that influence them,
positively and negatively, and more pertinently, the role of the teacher
(pedagogue) in the formative years of the student.

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It is in this context that I see myself as pedagogue, but also,
and perhaps more importantly, as a mentor and facilitator where the student can
be inspired to achieve their optimal potential as student and later as an adult
in the wider community.  I believe that if a student has been taught to extend
themselves and to aim for what they feel is impossible they will develop
strategies to reach their set goals.  (Fraser, 2012) noted that it is very important to create a classroom
that will be deemed to be a student’s safe place.  In this safe feeling environment students will participate and freely share ideas as
they feel welcome, encouraged and stimulated. 
It is within this environment where a student will model sincerity and
thoughtfulness towards fellow students, mentor and the wider community. 

A role model who played a very important role in shaping and moulding me
into the individual I’m today was my primary school teacher. She was a single
mom who was a teacher during the day and ran a soup kitchen at night for the
homeless people in our community.   Once
a month a group of students would have the opportunity to go with her to help
at the soup kitchen.  It was here where I
was introduced to a new and different world as I had grown up in a very safe
protected environment.  Here I learned what
it is to be homeless and destitute.  Our teacher
will then take time the following day to allow us to reflect on our
observations and feelings from the previous night.  This created the feeling of a safe
environment and everyone was willing to share their stories and personal
experiences.  It was this specific teacher who modeled the act of
kindness every day and taught us the principle of being caring, compassionate
and willing to put your hand up to assist those in need.  This experience has been my guiding principle
in life until this day.  This role model taught
us a number of valuable life lessons and inspired me to not only look at myself
but to help other children and people in the wider community to reach their
goals and aspirations. 

To
achieve this goal – as pedagogue – I hold to two key personal attributes, these
being Empathy and Inspirational Modeling (Mentorship).  These will be discussed more fully below.

Empathy:

(Osterman, 2006) postulate that empathy
should be one of a teacher’s keywords. It’s an important part of emotional intelligence,
empathy is the ability to understand and appreciate another person’s
feelings.  In the classroom it is
recognising a child who is not very talkative this particular day that they
might be deeply upset about something without saying a word.  The caring response and personal connection with
students will be foundation of a student’s learnings. (Stevenson, 1999) argues that empathy is
the ability to share in another person’s emotional experience in a particular
situation in order to empathetic we need to have the ability to step outside
ourselves and into another’s world.  This
can be experienced in different ways e.g. crying during a sad movie or
imagining the hurt someone must feel losing a loved one. Empathy has a long psychological history where the term enjoys preeminence
as the basis of all human emotion (Stevenson, 1999).  

In this vein (Buber, 1958) maintained that an individual develops in
empathic relationships where there is always a “you” and never only a “me”.  Empathy is other-regarding there is self-pity
but there is no self-empathy.  In this regard
(Vetlesen, 1994) argues empathy is the basis of all feelings for others. However
it appears as if empathy can easily be confused with the term sympathy, with the
main difference being with sympathy you feel the need to help others as a
result of feelings of pity.  It would
appear then that empathy, on the other hand, includes you participating in
another’s feelings. (Truax and Carkhuff, 1967) further identified a term accurate empathy to involve both sensitivity
to current feelings and the ability to communicate this understanding to the
other’s current feelings.  When someone
deeply understands and accepts us as we are, we lose our need to defensive and
we be become accepting of other’s shortcomings as pointed out by (Roberts, 1985). By being empathetic
it is my aspiration to accept everyone the way they are.  It is my goal to
develop this attribute in order that I can mentor my student to be confident in
who they are and accept themselves for who they are. 

As an individual this comes with the recognition that both inside and
outside of the school environment I will need to be aware of my own shortcomings.
I need to question myself am I being aware of other people’s needs and personal
goals.  This leads to the introspective
question what makes me insensitive and how can I be more aware of my own shortcomings?

Modeling (Inspirational Mentorship):

(Smith, Shultz, and Pitts 1999) defined modeling as observing and imitating another person’s behaviour which can occur
through classical and operant conditioning. 
 According to (Holt, 1931)
Sigmund Freud’s research concluded ideas, attitude, values and behaviour all affect
our modeling process.  Referring back to my
own experience in primary school, our teacher modeled her kindness and passion in
helping people in need and got us a class excited and passionate and this has
always been with me.  I have found that
the learning process depends largely on the modeling process.  (Skinner, 1953) Identified the
importance of three consecutive processes for modeling to occur:  first, the presence of a proper stimulus.  Second, the observer needs to copy the
specific behaviour, and finally, immediate reinforcement.  This was my personal experience with my
teacher.  (Smith, Shultz, and Pitts 1999)
noted that the perceived learning largely depends on the characteristics of the
model displaying the behaviour.  Culture,
race and peers, amongst others, all play a huge role in modeling
behaviour.  People tend to model those
who present with highly desirable traits in society.  Teenagers might look at well-known singers or
actors and assume that this is what life is like and model their behaviour even
if it might influence them in a negative way. 
Students observe us as teachers and role models and often we don’t realise
that is crucial that we are constantly aware of our words and behaviour whatever
the context may be.   

I am aware of the need to be a role model inside and outside the
classroom.  From my own experience I know
that a teacher’s example is always under close scrutiny and inappropriate behaviour
can be damaging for our relationship.   Many students in low decile schools / home
environments might not have acceptable role models and thus the onus falls on
me as a teacher to be a role model and mentor.   

I wish to conclude with the words of (Osterman, 2006) when she said that
“There is a unique realm in the professional life of a teacher that is shared
through personal quality and more often through experience or practice.”
 It is my goal is to be what (Murphy, 2006) said “The desire to be
something that we are not but might be” and to install this hope in the
students entrusted to my care.