Jiayi Education

Professional Learning Opportunities For Teachers That Work

Professional Learning Opportunities For Teachers That WorkFor years I have heard the groans, moans, and sighs of classroom teachers, when they have heard the words PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. The idea of teaching and managing the unique personalities of students for hours within a school day, and then to be forced to close the day with a training, in-service, or workshop is not appealing to most teachers. To make professional learning opportunities more appealing, three guiding principles should be considered: relevance, engagement, and opportunities for ongoing support.

The first question that is commonly posed by classroom teachers is “How does this professional development workshop apply to me as a teacher?” If teachers are unable to see how they fit within the equation, then physically they are present, but mentally they are disengaged. The fact of the matter is that all professional learning opportunities do not apply to all educators. For instance, preschool teachers would likely not find relevance in a workshop about the upcoming state-mandated test for 3rd-8th graders. Despite the fact that this population of teachers understand that they provide the fundamental skills that set the tone for the subsequent grades, they look for training that they can implement immediately. If training of any sort does not result in immediate outcomes that influence student learning, student achievement, and the quality of teaching, then teachers experience a lack of interest and rightfully so.

In addition to relevance, professional learning opportunities should also allow teachers to participate in learning engagements. These learning engagements should be developed to allow time for teachers to actually receive guided, shared, and/or independent practice in instructional practices that are modeled by the facilitator. During this time, the facilitator is afforded the opportunity to observe and to provide supportive feedback to classroom teachers, while the teachers are able to learn alongside their colleagues and to pose questions for clarification.

Lastly, it is also necessary that opportunities for ongoing support be integrated as a part of the professional development opportunity. Too often teachers receive a form of “drive-by training”, which is simply a superficial level of training yet, they are still expected to implement it with fidelity. Without ongoing support, teachers are left to implement the information that they gained from professional learning opportunities on their own. They must rely on the information that they can recall and to depend on their fellow colleagues for support and direction. However, for a sufficient amount of support, teachers seek support from other instructional support staff such as instructional coaches or curriculum coordinators. These individuals possess specialized knowledge and have the availability that gives them the opportunity to provide the type of support that teachers seek after receiving professional training.

Professional learning opportunities that work must be teacher-centered and integrate adult-learning theories just as classroom instruction is geared toward student-centeredness and child development theories. The effectiveness of these opportunities must be grounded in the idea that staff developers and facilitators design workshops that will leave a positive impression upon teachers and that easily transfer into their classroom instruction.

Why Teaching Is a Stressful Career

Why Teaching Is a Stressful CareerNow in 2016, much is being written and spoken about teacher stress. Teaching has always been a stressful career. Working with 25 individuals children in a primary school class would stretch the patience of most people. Then, in a high school situation, a teacher might have to interact with over 100 individual teenagers in a wide age range over a single day. We all know how difficult the teenage years are for the teenagers let alone their parents and teachers.

Stress can be divided into two areas. The first is related directly to the teaching situation while the second is related to issues from outside the classroom. In the main, the first type of stress is part and parcel of being in front of a class. Most teachers take that stress “in their stride”. The second is not in the control of the teacher. That is the dangerous stress, the stress that caused mental anguish and often leads to illness.

In this article, the first type of stress will be discussed. Let me begin by listing the many roles a teacher plays in a single day. The teacher will be:
A lecturer; a demonstrator;
A story teller; a tutor;
An advisor; a disciplinarian;
a first aid attendant; a safety officer on playground duty;
a bus supervisor; an exam writer and marker;
a report writer; “a shoulder to cry on”;
a sport’s coach; a concert organiser
a work place health and safety officer; and
a student teacher supervisor. These are just some of the roles of a teacher over one day.

The lists can go on and on. What profession expects their personnel to have as many roles to perform as these each and every day of their working life?

Let us not forget that the teacher then has to interact with up to thirty different individuals at a time in the classroom. All are different in many ways. All have problems at one time or other that the teacher must address in his/her planning for each and every lesson. Many of these problems are not the fault of the child but are often the result of the environment in which they live. On top of these issues come the personal family tragedies such as a death of a loved one and a family breakup.

Now there are many extra activities that add to the day to day work of a teacher and that impinge on the teacher’s time and increase their stress level. They include:
• Preparing for day one with a new class;
• Setting, organising, marking examinations and reporting;
• Preparing for parent/teacher evening and attending them;
• Writing new work program for a new syllabus;
• Preparing for a school fete, concert, camp, excursion*;
• Training a sporting team*;
• Organising the teaching of a student teacher and then offering advice and writing an assessment of that student teacher.
• Planning for the next year;
• Attending mandated professional development.

The list again could be extended. But I’m sure the reader gets the message. Those with an * can add much for the teacher to enjoy but still create stress.

Finally, one of the important issues for teachers is their physical and mental health. Many teacher refuse to have sick days feeling they are letting their class down. They simply put off being sick. But the day the school holidays begin, they become sick. Many are so mentally exhausted and stressed; they simply sit down and vegetate for many days early in the holidays.

So it is easy to see how teaching is ranked second only to air traffic controllers in the race to be the most stressed professionals. So when you next think of being critical of the teaching professional, ask yourself this question. “Could I successfully adopt all the roles of a teacher every day without making any mistakes?” if “yes” is your answer”, then you are free to be critical of, rather than sympathetic towards, your child’s teacher.


Private Tutoring Vs Public Education

Private Tutoring Vs Public EducationA tutor is a professional instructor who tutors or teaches a student. The term ‘tutor’ is largely used in the context of private or personal teaching, either to a single student or a group of students, that are in need of supplementary tutoring outside the classroom.

Tutor profiles in different countries

The title is used to denote different job profiles in different countries. For instance, in the US, the term tutor is usually associated with a professional who instructs or teaches within a school setting. But often, a tutor is a professional instructor in a given subject or field and by and large, the term is used at a higher educational level – e.g. high school and college levels.

In the UK, a class of students or a ‘form’ is the responsibility of the ‘form tutor’ who is headed by a guidance teacher or year head and has full-time responsibility in his or her role as a specialist subject teacher. The form tutor is the person who interacts with parents about their child’s progress, shortcomings and any problems encountered at school and provides the foundation for a well-rounded academic experience.

In Asia, a tutor usually refers to a professional instructor who provides private coaching or teaching. Several countries in south-east Asia maintain different profiles for the job of a tutor; in Cambodia, tutoring is provided by regular teachers, small and large companies provide tutoring in Hong Kong and in South Korea private entrepreneurs and companies use technology to provide tutoring on a large scale.

Fallouts of private tutoring

A study undertaken by the Comparative Education Research Centre at the University of Hong Kong made some very strong observations, chief among them being the fact that private tutoring has created and exacerbated social inequalities and nurtured an unregulated industry which burgeoned at the cost of much needed household income. Besides, it has caused inefficiencies in school education systems and has undermined government and official statements about free-education for all. In short, private tutoring has threatened social cohesion.

This sort of private tutoring is called ‘shadow education’ and the industry is growing rapidly globally. There are several factors attributed to this such as:

• Stratification of education systems
• Perceptions of shortcoming in regular academic streams
• Cultural factors
• Growing incomes
• Diminishing family sizes

This has spurred the education sector to attain the status of a profitable industry segment with a vast advertising and marketing portfolio, much like saleable commodities in the market.

Benefits of tutoring

Besides the institution that gains manifold from having tutors on its roles thereby expanding the scope of knowledge and information, there are certain benefits that the tutors also gain as well as the students.

The benefits enjoyed by a tutor through glimpses into the teaching segment and interacting with qualified and experienced teaching professionals are:

• Increases knowledge of specific subjects
• Widens scope of subject-related information
• Improves the ability to manage study strategies
• Enhances motivation to improve knowledge in order to be competitive
• Encourages higher levels of thinking

For the students the benefits are numerous; however, the important ones are:

• Provides greater interaction between teacher and learner and creates a role model for youngsters
• Greatly improves academic performance
• Improves personal growth and self-esteem
• Motivates self-directed and self-paced learning
• Provides greater opportunities for intensive study practice of subjects

How to Be a Nice Teacher

nice teacherA while back, I read a book entitled “Fires in the Bathroom”, which describes some students” struggles as high “schoolers” from their perspectives. What I came away with was the idea that students want to be understood and accepted as individuals. The social care is primary while the academic care is secondary. The major theme in the text was that students wanted their teachers to know that they had lives outside of school. Students want to know whether a teacher can identify with their daily struggles. In other words, the relationship piece is essential because students come with a historical, cultural and social phenomenon which teachers must take into account.

Teachers need to have this sense of awareness of not only what is going on inside the classroom but also personally on some level. This requires genuine caring on the teacher’s part which is a symbol for approachability, open mindedness and positivity. The “nice” teacher needs all these elements packaged in his/her demeanor, behavior, and teaching style. For the fortunate one, it may be natural while others have to acquire these talents or skills. Quintessentially, there must be a genuine desire and interest to be that” nice” teacher.

Nice, being the operative word here is not just relegated to superficial acts of kindness, flattery, political correctness or even politeness. There is some wisdom in the statement that:” people will forget what you said and did, but they won’t forget how you made them feel.” Now, let’s reverse that: “What do you say about and to yourself? Is it kind? One will be genuinely kind to others only if he knows how to kind to himself? How do you handle school related stress? Are you open to growth, personally and professionally? Are you relatable, awake and aware? Are you flexible, fair and organized and willing to seek support in those areas if necessary? To be approachable, open-minded and positive are gifts that you can offer to your students but the teacher has to offer those gifts to himself or herself first. It is a continual process of self-development on the path of leadership.

Some students want their teacher to help them garner a sense of self-respect and accomplishment. They are components of the inner and outer states of being. Being “nice” or pleasant is to show the beauty inherent in education in tangible and intangible ways. The process of education is to help one come into his full orbed greater self and to be satisfied with what we see in the mirror and in others’ mirrors. The teacher is a mirror to the students and vice versa. The wise teacher recognizes that he/she has much to learn from the students and vice versa.

At the secondary level, some students have come to expect a greater level of involvement in their education. For the teacher, this is about releasing control and being vulnerable to some extent. This teacher may be able to do that if he/she is confident in his/her craft and he has managed to balance his professional and personal life. He/she is also at a point of achieving a relatively, satisfied, happy state of being. A stressed, overwhelmed teacher is not usually approachable and positive. My advice to teachers is to take care of yourselves so that you can be fully present for your students.


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