So this was our last week at Unlimited School. I’ve had a lot to reflect on this past month. The teaching that goes on here is a lot different than on my first teaching practice at Villa Maria. Here they readily facilitate my attempts at reflective practice and some staff will even take as much time as I like to discuss teaching theory with me. Its nice to hear that many teachers are very philosophical in their approach to teaching.
My synopsis of what Unlimited is about and where they are at in terms of practically achieving their goals is that they are simply just not there yet. Many of the ideals they aspire for are out of reach at the present moment in my opinion. The student centred model certainly has merit, and I hold an encouraging disposition towards any attempts at utilising it, but I think that they will need to deal with an onslaught of behaviour management and accountability issues in the near and practical future.
One point made by John Haitey was that if they reverted to mainstream policies for dealing with disciplinary issues at Unlimited that they would eventually become more and more like a mainstream school. This would, in effect, evaporate their special character and displace their purpose for existence. At present Unlimited have no clearly articulated means of dealing with the ever-present concerns and I observed a reasonable number of students taking advantage of the ‘trust policy’ that they are hoping the students will adapt. I really like the utopian idea of all teenagers taking responsibility for their own actions and behaving accordingly but I personally would not want to teach in a place that had no structured guidelines in place for how to deal with those who fail to live up the trust given to them.
I think that the solution may be to put more emphasis on a thorough screening policy that could protect the atmosphere of student centred teaching and learning. The student centred model depends almost entirely on the motivation or collective focus of the students involved. When even a small minority of students don’t want to play ball then it certainly detracts from the learning of everyone in the group. I think that consultation with parents and previous teachers would be a good starting point for incorporating a screening policy that could prevent many behaviour management issues and the mainstream disciplinary procedures that are sure to follow if not dealt with proactively.
Despite this candid observation I was very impressed with the dedicated attitude of the staff at Unlimited. Every one of the educators that I spoke to was genuinely glad to be teaching there and willing to do whatever it might take to see their school move forward. They were very inclusive to all of the student teachers and went out of their way to accommodate us and make our experience there worthwhile. I can honestly say that I left this teaching practice with a lot more confidence and understanding of myself as a teacher.