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Running head: STATEMENT OF BELIEFS

Statement of Informed Beliefs


Naomi Wethern
College of Southern Idaho
Evin Fox
EDUC 204: Families, Communities, and Culture
Spring of 2016

STATEMENT OF BELIEFS

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Statement of Informed Beliefs

Introduction
One of my life philosophies is There is no such thing as normal. I plan on applying that
philosophy to my teaching as well. We are all different, we all have different approaches to
learning. A teacher cannot give a one size fits all lecture and expect everyone to learn. It is
important to take into account a students culture, ethnicity, learning styles, and abilities.
However, even with the best of intentions I cannot do it alone. Teaching/learning involves the
teacher, student, family, and community. The work and commitment from myself (teacher), the
student and the family can all fall under four main components. They are: the students ability to
learn, the students social ecology, cultural diversity, and the curriculum.
Students Ability to Learn
A large part of a childs ability to learn is the commitment, support, and effort from the
teacher. An important part of this is the teachers expectations of the student. As teachers we
need to find that balance between expecting too little and expecting too much from our students.
Children tend to rise to the bar we set for them. If we set the bar too low children wont
accomplish all they are capable of. However, if our expectations are set too high children may
stop trying, feel resentment toward the adult, or feel like a failure. Not being able to meet others
expectations could negatively impact the childs self-esteem or how they think of themselves. A
teachers expectations are closely related to the educational goals for the student. Similar to
expectations, educational goals can be very beneficial to the student. However, just like
expectations, if the goals are set too high or too low they can be very detrimental to the child.

STATEMENT OF BELIEFS
This is an aspect of setting goals for students, it can be difficult to properly assess the child and
set reasonable, beneficial goals.
On the other hand reasonable, achievable goals can help the teachers help the students.
Goals can provide a realistic benchmark for teachers. If three months into the school year a
student hasnt met a single educational goal, it could serve as a heads-up that the student needs
some extra help or evaluations. Goals can also be a way for teachers and students to work
together.
According to psychologist Jean Piaget children learn by doing (Berns, 2016, p.64).
Therefor it is very important for children to do. This should include putting the effort into
schoolwork, reading at home, and playing/exploring the world around them. This is one of the
reasons why having a partnership between the student and teacher is so important. As teachers
we really need to realize that teaching/learning is something we should be doing with children
not to them. My oldest son is a good example of this. For homework my son is required to do
multiplication and division flashcards every weekend. When I sit down and force him to just
answer the cards he is resistant. However, when I make it a game and do it with him it is much
easier and he remembers more of them.
Students Social Ecology Theory
In addition to the partnership between teacher and student, education is impacted by the
students family and community. Developmental psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner developed
a bioecological model for studying people and their socialization. His model includes the
microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and the macrosystem (Berns, 2016, pp.19-25). The
microsystem is made up of the immediate activities and relationships that a child interacts
with that affects their development and socialization (Berns, 2016, p.21). One of the main

STATEMENT OF BELIEFS

components of a childs microsystem is his or her family. In todays society families come in all
shapes and sizes. By definition a family is Any two or more related people living in one
household (Berns, 2016, p.84). In recent years the nuclear family (a mother, father, and
children) has become less common. Now families can be made up of a single parent,
grandparent(s), other family members (also known as the extended family), or adopted/foster
parent(s).
Not only does the make-up of the family affect the child but also the way the family
operates. How members communicate with each other, family goals, and values/beliefs all play a
role in the childs ability and willingness to learn. One very important aspect of family is the lack
of abuse and neglect. Abuse is any harm and mistreatment done to a child. Abuse can be
physical, sexual, and psychological or emotional. Neglect is a type of abuse that involves a lack
of care. This includes physical needs such as shelter, clothing, food, and medical care as well as a
lack of safety and supervision. Because abuse and neglect cause harm, not only to a childs
physical and mental well-being but to their development and ability to focus, it is very important
that teachers are aware of the signs and report any suspicions immediately.
Even when a child is being well taken care of a childs family can impact not only their
ability to learn but their willingness. For example, children who are exposed to a variety of
language experiences (i.e. being read to, sang to, or talked to and with) will carry those skills
with them to school. On the contrary the child who is not exposed to those experiences will have
learning difficulties while in school. Because families and parents play such a large role in the
childs education it is important that we include the family in the learning process. Teachers can
do this by sending home newsletters (with ideas for activities at home), inviting parents to
volunteer, asking for suggestions, and having family nights in the classroom. I believe it is also

STATEMENT OF BELIEFS

critical to have open communication with the parents. I have two children in school and I really
appreciate when their teacher communicates with me. Even just a quick note on a post-it helps
me know how their day was and what we can work on at home. This type of communication is
especially important for my son who has some learning disabilities.
Family is not the only part of a childs microsystem that influences their learning, the
community also plays a role. A community is the group of people you deal with on a regular
basis or live in close proximity to (i.e. a neighborhood) (Berns, 2016, p.56). The community can
play a role in education in two ways; by supporting the teacher and by supporting the student.
The community can support students by working to keep class sizes small, holding fundraisers
for supplies, and volunteering (mentoring, tutoring, reading, etc.) in schools and classrooms.
Community members can also support students outside of the classroom by offering services (i.e.
free vaccine clinics) and being all around supportive of students and their families. Teachers also
benefits from all of these supports. Community members can further support teachers by coming
in and helping teach students or by offering fieldtrips. For example, in my childrens school a
farmer came in during science class and showed the students the different parts of the plant and
taught the process of how plants grow. Then another farmer invited the class out to the farm
where they got to learn about and explore plants, vegetables, healthy eating, and even some small
animals. Not only did my children have a lot of fun but they also came home with a lot of new
information.
A third aspect of a students microsystem is the school. So it is important that the social
environment in the classroom is supportive to childrens learning as well. One very important
way to do this is to build teamwork with the children and not a sense of competition (aka
competitive goal structure). This can be done by planning games and activities around teamwork

STATEMENT OF BELIEFS

and not competition, this is also known as having a cooperative goal structure. So instead of
having a spelling contest with one winner, teams can use puzzle pieces to correctly spell the
words. Another very important step is to not publically shame students in front of others.
Whether its because a student has done something wrong or just done something embarrassing.
Cultural Diversity Instruction
It is important as a teacher to remember there are two main ways that different cultures mingle
or co-exist. One way is cultural assimilation and the other is cultural pluralism. Cultural
assimilation is the way a lot of public schools work. The actual definition of cultural
assimilation is the process whereby a minority (subordinate) cultural group takes on the
characteristics of the majority (dominate) cultural group (Berns, 2016, p.212). This includes
English language immersion classrooms and celebrating only American holidays. On the other
hand the definition of cultural pluralism is mutual appreciation and understanding of various
cultures and coexistence in society of different languages, religious beliefs, and lifestyles
(Berns, 2016, p.212). Cultural pluralism is mutually beneficial to both cultural groups. The
majority group has the opportunity to learn new customs, languages, and ways of celebrating.
While the minority group gains an appreciation and understanding of their new community
while still holding onto the customs of their culture and heritage. As teachers it is very important
to support and encourage a sense of cultural pluralism in the classroom. One way to do this is by
acknowledging students differences (without calling them out and embarrassing them). If we
seem embarrassed or even uninterested in peoples cultural, ethnic, and even
learning/developmental differences other children will pick up on that. One way my childrens
school handles this is by teaching some Mexican history as well as American history. They also
acknowledge and celebrate a few non-American holidays.

STATEMENT OF BELIEFS

Curriculum for all Learners


Curriculum is one area where it is imperative that we recognize and take into
consideration every students differences. Curriculum is the goals and objectives of an
educational program, the teachers role, the equipment and materials, the space arrangement, the
kinds of activities, and the way they are scheduled (Berns, 2016, p.166). Although having a
plan and knowing what and how you are going to teach is very important, it is also critical to
remember that learning is not one size fits all. You need to be able to adjust the plan for
students with different learning styles, language, and abilities. For example, if you have a student
who is a visual learner or struggles with English, instead of just talking about the different parts
of a plant you could provide color pictures and even live plants. The important thing to
remember when planning your curriculum is how you are teaching is just as important, if not
more, that what you are teaching.
In order to properly plan your curriculum you need to have an accurate understanding of
what your students already know and how they best learn. The best way to do this is by using
authentic assessments. An authentic assessment is a way of assessing how well a student can
actually perform a skill instead of how well they take a test (Berns, 2016, p.273). Unfortunately
the public school system still relies on standardized tests. According to Berns standardized tests
are tests in which an individual is compared to a norm on scientifically selected norms (2016,
p.273). There are several problems with standardized testing one of them is the idea of
scientifically selected norms. What is important and common knowledge for a student in New
York City will not be as well understood (or as important) to a student in a rural town of 500. So
you could test two equally intelligent and capable students from two different areas and get
two different results. The other major, and concerning, problem with standardized tests is their

STATEMENT OF BELIEFS

inability to take into account how a student learns, processes information, and how well they test.
My son has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder (as well as a few other diagnosis) and gets
easily overwhelmed. He enjoys reading but struggles with the physical act of writing. So recently
when he took the reading/writing portion of a standardized test he did not do well. Not because
he didnt understand the material but because he got overwhelmed by the writing so got very
anxious and finished after only a paragraph. The results to this test will not show his true
abilities. However, had someone sat with him, listed to him read, and then asked questions they
would have gotten a more accurate understanding of his abilities and knowledge.
Conclusion
The classroom, much like the world, is a diverse place. It is our role as teachers to
acknowledge, appreciate, and make adaptations for all the differences. A large part of this is to
remember that you have partners in this. The families, community, and even the children.
Education is a team sport. As teachers we need to be able to work with the students, with the
parents/families, and with the community so we can best support our diverse classroom.

STATEMENT OF BELIEFS

References
Berns, R. (2016). Child, family, school, community: socialization and support (10th ed.).
Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.