I have a broad knowledge of child/adolescent development based on observations, experiences and academic studies. I know that there many different factors and circumstances that contribute to the development of youth. There are genetic, environmental, cultural and experiential influences to name just a few. For example, I look at the unfortunate circumstance of a child living in an abusive household. There will be inherent consequences that will effect that student’s development. The abuse could possibly result in the student having a hard time trusting adults and this would hinder the student’s capability to learn from teachers. On the other hand, you could have a student that has a supportive and encouraging family, but has a learning disability that will deter their capacity to read and write. There are an endless number of factors and components that play a role in child/adolescent development.
My belief that each student will be impacted by a variety of different development factors throughout their lives plays a crucial role in my instructional approach. I refer to the common difference between verbal and visual learners. Personally, I have realized throughout my life that I retain information better through visual reinforcement. I also understand that there are individuals on the other end of the spectrum that learn better through verbal communication. It is this basic knowledge that shapes how I will present instructions to students. I believe it is vital for teachers to use a balanced approach between these two strategies to ensure that students are effectively being reached.
As I discussed above, there are also cultural factors that can play an even more significant role in child/adolescent development. One of my Gonzaga University professors said, “Each student that walks through the door has a different story.” I have always tried to remind myself of this reality and incorporate it into my instruction. There will be students that I will encounter that will be insufficiently fed, lack proper clothes for adverse weather and have parents that are completely disengaged. Such factors impact students’ personal and academic development. Is a student really going to be worried about an analytical essay when they don’t have the means for their next meal? Though there is no universal solution for the circumstance, it is important that teachers gain the trust of their students and continually monitor students to provide help to the situation in whatever way possible.
In addition, I believe that child/adolescent development is gradual and it partially based on natural maturity. This also plays a role in my instruction. I am interested in teaching at the secondary level and there are certain expectations, some more accurate than others, that are associated with high school students. As a teacher, it is important to gauge the developmental level of individuals and the class as a whole. If there is a class that seems to grasp concepts quickly and it may be an opportunity to challenge students further. On the other hand, maybe there is class that is taking longer than expected to learn a certain unit. It is important to self-evaluate as the teacher, receive feedback and possibly alter instruction to fit students’ developmental levels.
Lastly, if teachers ignore the fact that students develop differently, it can result in certain students falling short of their potential. There may be factors that we understand or it may be factors that we can’t fully grasp, but each child/adolescent develops differently. This is one of the central challenges of teaching and how we are able to modify instruction to meet each individual’s needs.