Critical Incident Project

Critical Incident Project


Part I: The Incident (Option A – paper)

This incident happened in my Grade 8 classroom, a few days after I began my teaching practice. The subject was History and the class was made up of a heterogenous group of students from different socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. The main players in the incident were: a boy ‘Bill’ who came from an ethnic minority community, the school Principal and myself.

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The class had just returned from their mid-morning break and there was the usual laughter, talking and noisy interactions, all of which toned down on my entrance. I was to start a new lesson that period and I waited for the class to settle down in their places. I noticed a very strong smell of tobacco inside the classroom and demanded to know who had been smoking. The class suddenly fell quiet and there was an uncomfortable shifting of the chairs. No one answered, but I saw the direction of some of their eyes towards a tall boy Bill, who sat in the last row. His nonchalant attitude towards the lessons and learning, and the sniggering remarks that he hardly tried to suppress, had marked him out to me as a trouble-maker. I called him up to my desk and he strode boldly up. I could distinctly smell the tobacco on his breath and just stared at me when I asked him about it. I sent him immediately to the Principal’s room with a short note.

As I continued with the lesson, in the now quietened and attentive class, imagine my mortification when the door opened in a few minutes and he jauntily marched back to his place after handing me the Principal’s note that asked me to admit Bill into the class and requested me to report to her after the class. When I met her, with all my righteous indignation, she asked me to sit down and poured out some water for me. She then explained the incident from the point of view of the student. It seems that he was from a broken home with no one to take care of him or oversee what he did in or outside the house. He had got into the company of some older boys who initiated him into bad habits. She explained that if I, as a teacher and guide, adopted the attitude of a caring well-wisher, then he would change slowly into a normal well-behaved boy. Otherwise, my punishments and alienation would further impede his progress and he would defiantly go his own way. This incident opened my eyes to the responsibilities of a teacher to take special care of students who come from culturally disadvantaged backgrounds.

Part II: Critical Analysis of Incident Brainstorm Meaning

There can be various meanings attributed to this incident: waywardness and ill-discipline of children, influence of nature and nurture on children, empathetic teacher/learner experiences, learning to teach and teaching to learn, and so on.

Of these meanings, I choose to expand on the last two, as they are important for my growth as a teacher. Teaching in a multicultural school would make it imperative that the teachers must be sensitive and vigilant to the diversity and at the same time maintain an impartial attitude that encourages every student to learn and follow the socially accepted norms of behavior (Banks, et al., 2005). I understood from the advice of the Principal that it is the duty of the teacher and the school to help the student bridge the gap that exists between the environment at home and school through various ways such as the formation of the curriculum, courses, the encouragement to interact as per the norms and expectations (Banks, et al., 2005). Counselling the family is also part of this intervention.

As stated by the study made by Wolff et al. (2015), expert teachers focus more on the learning outcomes and the teacher’s expertise in helping the students achieve their learning goals, whereas the beginner teachers are more preoccupied with maintaining the classroom discipline and seeing that the students follow the behavioral norms as laid out by society and the school regulations. I realize that this incident proved that my focus on the classroom and student discipline was normal and with time and more experience, I would soon learn to focus on the student learning outcomes and improving my teaching methods. Thus, I was not only learning to teach and going towards my goal of becoming an effective teacher who is focused in improving the student learning through improved teaching methods that are suited to each individual style of learning. And, most important, I was also learning and teaching children how to interact and enhance their tolerance, respect and team spirit in a culturally diverse society by making use of that very diversity (Kimmel, 1999).


Following the Principal’s advice, I voluntarily got into an empathetic relationship with the Bill, when I found out that he had not been selected for the soccer team. I found an opportunity to casually talk to him about his love for soccer, and mentioned that smoking decreases lung capacity and stamina, which are important for the physically taxing games and sports.

He managed to get into the team the next term after he gave up smoking. His behavior and attention also improved and I could see the change brought about by my little talk. All he needed was a little care and concern. I made use of this approach with other students too by taking a little interest in them and their activities and working that knowledge to their advantage.


I understood that children with undesirable behavior can be the consequence of their family background and either or both ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ can be responsible (Clabaugh, 1999). This is also very relevant to multicultural schools where the students belonging to ethnic minority often refuse to conform into the cultural mold that schools and teachers force them into. This is because such children are not considered to be an asset, but a liability (Nieto, 2010).

In addition, boys belonging to ethnic minority groups are shown to be singled out for more disciplinary actions than the other students in the group (Banks & McGee Banks, 2010). Most of the interactions between the teacher and the taught are in the commanding format of questions and answers. This must change into a more empathetic approach from the teacher’s side to help the students not only complete the curriculum successfully, but also learn how to integrate smoothly into the multicultural society (Banks & McGee Banks, 2010).

This incident has served to make me realize that my job was not just to teach, but also to help the students to learn by catering to their different needs and methods of learning. Bill turned out to be an intelligent student who was bored with the speed of the others who were slower and his attitude stemmed from his conceit.


Banks, J. A., & McGee Banks, C. A. (2010). Multicultural Education: Issues and Perspectives. Danvers, MA: Wiley.

Banks, J., Cochran-Smith, M., Moll, L., Richert, A., Zeichner, K., LePage, P., . . . McDonald, M. (2005). Teaching diverse learners. In L. Darling-Hammond, & J. Bransford, Preparing teachers for a changing world: What teachers should learn and be able to do (pp. 232-274). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Clabaugh, G. K. (1999). The Demon Seed: Are Some Children Wicked? Educational Horizons, 55-56.

Dantas, M. L. (2007). Building Teacher Competency To Work with Diverse Learners in the Context of International Education. Teacher Education Quarterly, 75-94.

Kimmel, D. E. (1999). Experiencing Varied Cultures in the Classroom. Educational Horizons, 61-62.

Nieto, S. (2010). Language, Culture, and Teaching: Critical Perspectives for a New Century. New York: Taylor & Francis/Routledge.

Wolff, C. E., Bogert, N., Jarodzka, H., & Boshuizen, H. (2015). Keeping an Eye on Learning: Differences Between Expert and Novice Teachers’ Representations of Classroom Management Events. Journal of Teacher Education, 68-85.

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