Dondee CommunitySchool was establishedthrough the innovative amalgamation of three other post-primary schools.
In its mission statement, the idea of ‘caringfor all students equally, of fostering respect and nurturing a just society’ ispromoted. This is an important development particularly in the twenty-firstcentury. Ireland in the past was ahomogenous society of Catholics with a minority of marginalised groups such asmembers of the travelling community. Travellersare acknowledged in many reports as one of the most marginalised groups inIrish society. Many travellers fare poorly on every indicator used to measuredisadvantage including educational attainment, unemployment, poverty and socialexclusion. This DES report acknowledges that Travellertraditions and customs must be acknowledged in the education system (DES, 2002). Thistop-down approach to traveller education is consistent with Dondee Communityschool mission statement of caring for all students equally.
DondeeCommunity School has already initiated a home-school community liaison teacher,however there are other initiatives that could also be undertaken such asschool open days, pupil mentoring, greater pre-entry contact and the year headof the school to be actively involved in settling in students. ‘Do we think of education as an unproblematicsocial good to which everyone is entitled as a right? Is it the same thing asformal schooling? Is it linked to the economy? Don’t most people go througheducation and emerge as literate, numerate, reasonably knowledge and wouldagree that education was good for them.’ (Giddens, 2009) Dondee Community Schoolseeks to improve studentlearning, through pedagogicalpractice. Thiscan be achieved by applying Vygotsky’s views on social constructivism. Vygotskycontributed greatly to the psychology of education discussion. His work focused largely on the role ofsocial influences on cognitive development. He held the view that individual development can be understood byconsidering the embedded social and cultural setting.
Teachers utilise Vygotsky’s views in theclassroom by using group work. The ideaof this is that students listen to each other’s opinions and learn from eachother. Vygotsky’s theory is one that isstrongly orientated around language, ‘forVygotsky, language was critical in shaping thought’ (Smith, 2006: p.
128). The principal ofDondee Community school is concerned with the coping and resilience skills of students. This is of paramount importance in secondaryschools, as teachers have a vital role in the psychology of adolescence. Adolescents are transitioning into adulthoodand it is worth nothing that self-esteem refers to a person’s overall sense ofworth or personal value. It involves avariety of beliefs about the self, such as, appearance, emotions andbehaviours.
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 inan adolescent’s resilience capabilities. Vygotsky particularly believed that children’searly understanding came from the support that they were given by interactingwith knowledgeable adults. Such support enableschildren to function in an area which he named the zone of proximal developmentand which is beyond children’s normal independent abilities. When children aregiven such support, they are then able to internalise the actions of adults andto make further progress. This approach implies that teaching should focus onactivities within this zone. Daniel et alhighlights the importance of relationships, ‘the existence of protective factors can help explain why one youngperson may cope better with adverse life events than another’ (Daniel, 2002: p.11).
Children and adolescents today face a plethora ofstressful problems, including family and relationship conflicts alongsideacademic and social pressures. Such problems have been found to contribute toan increased risk of various emotional–social–cognitive difficulties inadolescence. These include academic failure, social misbehavior, interpersonalproblems, and depression.
Dondee Community school can foster and encourage coping and resilienceskills of students by providing opportunities for students to become empoweredand achieve their goals. Teachers can foster a sense of belonging orconnectedness to improve the self-esteem and resilience of students. As Ridnouer states ‘we show our care for students through high expectations, awareness oftheir lives, and being human with them’ (Ridnouer,2006: p.38)Dondee Community school can introduce positive coping strategies such asencouraging students to eat well and exercise.
By eating healthy, nutritiousmeals that will help their body support them through stressful times. This canbe achieved by incorporating a healthy eating program into each class. Studentsmust 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’tbe judged. As we live in a digital society, classescould be introduced to teach students how to deal with issues such as bodyimage, online and social media stress, and cyberbullying. Teachers can present YouTubevideos and clips from popular vloggers in class to encourage digital-obsessedteenagers to engage with the topics. The resilience lessons can be designed toteach students coping strategies for dealing with everyday issues they face inthe increasingly digital world. Relationships with students cannot be left to chance, it is a teacher’sprofessional responsibility to initiate, encourage and develop in a healthypositive manner. ConclusionTo conclude, thepurpose of this essay was to demonstrate a critical understanding of theFoundations of Education across the five disciplines.
The topics of teacher’s pedagogical practice and coping andresilience skills are clearly relevant and necessary for all teachers in thetwenty-first classroom. The case study of DondeeCommunity School was thought provoking, particularly in considering the differentperspectives of the teacher, principal and student. It was particularly interesting to see theconnections between certain issues. To summarise, the critical study ofphilosophical, sociological and psychological theories was truly enjoyable andinspiring.