Dondee language, ‘for Vygotsky, language was critical

Dondee Community
School was established
through the innovative amalgamation of three other post-primary schools.  In its mission statement, the idea of ‘caring
for all students equally, of fostering respect and nurturing a just society’ is
promoted. This is an important development particularly in the twenty-first
century.  Ireland in the past was a
homogenous society of Catholics with a minority of marginalised groups such as
members of the travelling community.  Travellers
are acknowledged in many reports as one of the most marginalised groups in
Irish society. Many travellers fare poorly on every indicator used to measure
disadvantage including educational attainment, unemployment, poverty and social
exclusion.

 

This DES report acknowledges that Traveller
traditions and customs must be acknowledged in the education system (DES, 2002).  This
top-down approach to traveller education is consistent with Dondee Community
school mission statement of caring for all students equally. Dondee
Community School has already initiated a home-school community liaison teacher,
however there are other initiatives that could also be undertaken such as
school open days, pupil mentoring, greater pre-entry contact and the year head
of the school to be actively involved in settling in students. ‘Do we think of education as an unproblematic
social good to which everyone is entitled as a right? Is it the same thing as
formal schooling? Is it linked to the economy? Don’t most people go through
education and emerge as literate, numerate, reasonably knowledge and would
agree that education was good for them.’ (Giddens, 2009)

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Dondee Community School
seeks to improve student
learning, through pedagogical
practice. This
can be achieved by applying Vygotsky’s views on social constructivism. Vygotsky
contributed greatly to the psychology of education discussion.  His work focused largely on the role of
social influences on cognitive development. 
He held the view that individual development can be understood by
considering the embedded social and cultural setting.  Teachers utilise Vygotsky’s views in the
classroom by using group work.  The idea
of this is that students listen to each other’s opinions and learn from each
other.  Vygotsky’s theory is one that is
strongly orientated around language, ‘for
Vygotsky, language was critical in shaping thought’ (Smith, 2006: p.128). 

 

The principal of
Dondee Community school is concerned with the coping and resilience skills of students.  This is of paramount importance in secondary
schools, as teachers have a vital role in the psychology of adolescence.  Adolescents are transitioning into adulthood
and it is worth nothing that self-esteem refers to a person’s overall sense of
worth or personal value.  It involves a
variety of beliefs about the self, such as, appearance, emotions and
behaviours.  As noted previously,
Resilience is the process of adapting well when confronted with adversity,
trauma or tragedy. Caring and supportive relationships play a positive role in
an adolescent’s resilience capabilities. Vygotsky particularly believed that children’s
early understanding came from the support that they were given by interacting
with knowledgeable adults.

Such support enables
children to function in an area which he named the zone of proximal development
and which is beyond children’s normal independent abilities. When children are
given such support, they are then able to internalise the actions of adults and
to make further progress. This approach implies that teaching should focus on
activities within this zone. Daniel et al
highlights the importance of relationships, ‘the existence of protective factors can help explain why one young
person may cope better with adverse life events than another’ (Daniel, 2002: p.11).

Children and adolescents today face a plethora of
stressful problems, including family and relationship conflicts alongside
academic and social pressures. Such problems have been found to contribute to
an increased risk of various emotional–social–cognitive difficulties in
adolescence. These include academic failure, social misbehavior, interpersonal
problems, and depression. Dondee Community school can foster and encourage coping and resilience
skills of students by providing opportunities for students to become empowered
and achieve their goals. Teachers can foster a sense of belonging or
connectedness to improve the self-esteem and resilience of students.  As Ridnouer states ‘we show our care for students through high expectations, awareness of
their lives, and being human with them’ (Ridnouer,
2006: p.38)

Dondee Community school can introduce positive coping strategies such as
encouraging students to eat well and exercise. By eating healthy, nutritious
meals that will help their body support them through stressful times. This can
be achieved by incorporating a healthy eating program into each class. Students
must also be encouraged to speak up if they’re experiencing difficulties,
whilst teachers have a duty to create a safe space where their feelings won’t
be judged. As we live in a digital society, classes
could be introduced to teach students how to deal with issues such as body
image, online and social media stress, and cyberbullying. Teachers can present YouTube
videos and clips from popular vloggers in class to encourage digital-obsessed
teenagers to engage with the topics. The resilience lessons can be designed to
teach students coping strategies for dealing with everyday issues they face in
the increasingly digital world. Relationships with students cannot be left to chance, it is a teacher’s
professional responsibility to initiate, encourage and develop in a healthy
positive manner.

 

Conclusion

To conclude, the
purpose of this essay was to demonstrate a critical understanding of the
Foundations of Education across the five disciplines. The topics of teacher’s pedagogical practice and coping and
resilience skills are clearly relevant and necessary for all teachers in the
twenty-first classroom.

The case study of Dondee
Community School was thought provoking, particularly in considering the different
perspectives of the teacher, principal and student.  It was particularly interesting to see the
connections between certain issues. To summarise, the critical study of
philosophical, sociological and psychological theories was truly enjoyable and
inspiring. 

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