As a teacher in training, ‘we are responsible for our actions’ (Tripp, 1993, p.5) in the sense that our reflection on the day’s events is crucial ‘to learn to learn from experience or to make greater use of learning where there is no formal guidance or teaching’ (Moon, 2001, p.6).
To look at a critical incident and reflect on it, Tripp (1993, p.44) states that when ‘writing for others [about our reflected experience]… we learn most and gain the most satisfaction’ for the reason that by critically analysing our experience, our understanding and control over professional judgement and consequently over practice is increased (Tripp, 1993, p.44).
Typically, a critical incident …’refers to some event or situation which marked a significant turning point or change in the life of a person or institution’ (Tripp, 1993, p.24).
However, critical incidents in this context are:
‘mostly straightforward accounts of very commonplace events that occur in routine professional practice which are critical in the … sense that they are indicative of underlying trends, motives and structures’ (Tripp, 1993, p.25).
Thus, to reflect on and critique an event, I will be using Tripp’s model of ‘Critical Incident Analysis’ (see Figure 1) which details the steps that need to be taken when choosing a critical incident to critique.
Miss Patel (MP) asked the children if anyone had done writing at home to bring in.
Zuzannna, shot her hands up and gained MP’s attention. She proceeded to show MP her writing. MP, whilst showing Zuzanna’s work to the class, she highlighted that Zuzanna was amazing, as she had made sure that she had used finger spaces between each word, had used capital letters in the appropriate places, and also that she had used a full stop at the end of her sentences.
Zuzanna was then given a choice to pick a peg to place her work up onto the washing line. Once she had picked her peg, MP gave her a sticker, together with a green card to put beside her name on the wall-chart. Evidently, Zuzanna was ecstatic with this outcome.
However, later that week, Zuzanna brought another piece of writing to be placed onto the washing line. After having her work put up and receiving her sticker, MP went on to praise the next child’s writing. Zuzanna remained standing beside MP. When MP noticed, she told her to sit back down. Immediately Zuzanna’s face began to crumple and it was only then when MP realised that Zuzanna was waiting for another green card. She then explained to Zuzanna that children can only receive one green card throughout the week for bringing in writing from home, but that they will still receive stickers as a ‘well done’. Disappointed and disheartened, Zuzanna sat back in her seat.
Suggestion & Meaning
Every day after registration MP went through any non-assisted writing that children had done at home. In doing so, children would be rewarded by having the opportunity to pick a washing peg which had pictures on them to pin up onto the washing line above MP’s desk. Having their work pinned up was a privilege in itself. Together with this, they were awarded with a sticker and a green card.
The concept behind green cards is that when a child gains 10 green cards their name will be called out during ‘Monday’s Achievers Assembly’ to collect a bronze medal. Once they have achieved their bronze, the next medal is the silver where they collect a total of 20 green cards, and then the gold where their green cards are to total 30. Children will be wearing their medals throughout break-time and lunch-time. Here, we can see that Zuzanna has identified that if she can manage to obtain more green cards using the school policy to praise, in return she will eventually get a bronze medal whereby she could gloat in glory throughout play-time as others would be aware that she had done well to succeed. As Zuzanna was a Polish EAL student who struggled to speak English, she had somewhat of an egotistical personality with a desire to compete with other Polish EAL students. This in itself was motivation for her, in order to succeed above her peers although the majority of the time she was in no position to boast. Despite this, she had memorised how many green cards she had and how many she needed until she had 10 green cards.
With the use of the school’s behaviour policy, they make it imminent that children are rewarded for positive behaviour and work, a former head teacher(Taylor, 2009) frequently mentioned, in his acclaimed 6:1 praise to discipline strategy, that the person in authority has a duty to praise the chlid(ren) 6 times before they are disciplined once. Hence why it was evident in my 4 weeks spent at the school that although the 6:1 strategy was not in place, the children understood that the school had a high praise rate.
Suzanna understood the concept that praise is expected for doing extra writing at home and that when their writing is placed up on the washing line above MP’s desk it is an achievement as MP will have access to look and praise it often, thus boosting their self-confidence. The children apprehended that if their work was above MP’s desk, other children that came into the classroom from next door (when it was time for phonics) would also notice the work and enquire whose work it was. The children would then ‘congratulate’ the pupil (in this case Zuzanna) that had their work on display, which again was another form of boosting their confidence.
The school has taught the children to accept and depend on the state of authority rather than on themselves to commend their work with their reward system. But this is purely on the assumption that the children are not yet aware of whether the work that they are doing is correct or not. Zuzanna in the “incident extension” primarily assumed that she was entitled to another green card for her good work, but due to MP rectifying the situation, Zuzanna then comprehended that she was not in a position to decide such matters for herself. She now knew that she was not able to take the symbolic power structure of the classroom into her own hands to attain another green card. She had learnt that she was to respectfully depend on the judgement of the teaching authority within the classroom environment to obtain a green card. Despite this she has managed to find other means to feed her competitive nature to succeed through praise from authority as well as her peers.
I feel that children should have the opportunity to express when and why they feel they deserve a green card. This is because it has become apparent that some children are more aware of their own progress and developmental needs than the teachers around them. Zuzanna did in fact struggle a great deal when literacy sessions were run, especially when her peers were doing so well. She was rightfully aware that her extra writing was helping her to improve hence why she longed for another green card. I would have liked to see more encouragement with the use of other motives other than the green cards in order to keep them motivated in practising at home as a sticker alone sometimes did not fulfil their desire for a physical end product like the bronze medal.
Tripp, D. (1993). Critical Incidents in Teaching: Developing Professional Judgement. 1st Edn. Routledge
Moon, J. (2001) ‘Reflection in Higher Education Learning’. University of Exeter
Taylor, C. (2009) ‘Diva’s & Dictators: The Secrets to Having a Much Better Behaved Child. 1st Edn. Vermillion.