Jiayi Education

3 Basic Requirements for Teaching English Overseas

Teaching English OverseasTeaching is a great profession. There are very few people who take this profession seriously. There are many people in the world for whom, learning becomes a tough task. They need the right guidance to make their target. The Oriental countries are beautiful, where teaching scope is not limited but is available in plenty. However, many are not aware of the rules and regulations that the countries now follow.

The basic requirements for teaching in these countries are –

Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree is essential for every aspiring teacher. The degree certifies the teacher to have adequate knowledge about the subject that he or she is applying to teach in these countries. If the degree is from a well-known university, which these countries recognize, then the process becomes easier for the teaching candidates.

Experience Counts in the Orient

Experience is something that you will need to become eligible for teaching in these nations. A relevant experience of two years of teaching will open up a number of opportunities for you. If your experience is longer than the basic need, then the opportunities also become plenty.

First Language English

It is necessary that your first language is English. If you want to teach English in South Asia, then it becomes all the more important. A student will have more trust in you when he or she sees that your first language is English. There has always been a fascination in oriental countries to learn the language English. With more and more teaching institutes opening in the countries every day, the competition is also increasing.

Reasons for Age Limitation

There is also the age limit in the South Asia. The minimum age need is 24 to 25. Basically, a bachelor of English degree completes in 4 years of time, because the process completes in 3 years in England. This process is then completed with 2 years of teaching experience. This is the reason the nations have created this rule for them.

There is basically no upper age limit when it comes to applying for Visa in these countries. The local labor rules in different South Asian countries call for the restrictions. The age restrictions are always up for revision, as there are no concrete plans for it from now on.

The biggest barrier that people face teaching in these nations is – the two years of experience. The entry-level jobs do not offer good wages and it is the only experience that can give candidates the right pay that they truly deserve. Although the rule exists in posh cities like – Shanghai and Beijing, the thing is different for other smaller cities.

So, that you know the latest rules to apply for a teaching job in the South Asia, it is better to go for it as soon as possible. All the best for a great teaching experience in the future.

Teacher Education and Teacher Quality

Teacher Education and Teacher Quality1.0 INTRODUCTION

One of the sectors which fosters national development is education by ensuring the development of a functional human resource. The institution of strong educational structures leads to a society populated by enlightened people, who can cause positive economic progress and social transformation. A Positive social transformation and its associated economic growth are achieved as the people apply the skills they learned while they were in school. The acquisition of these skills is facilitated by one individual we all ‘teacher’. For this reason, nations seeking economic and social developments need not ignore teachers and their role in national development.

Teachers are the major factor that drives students’ achievements in learning. The performance of teachers generally determines, not only, the quality of education, but the general performance of the students they train. The teachers themselves therefore ought to get the best of education, so they can in turn help train students in the best of ways. It is known, that the quality of teachers and quality teaching are some of the most important factors that shape the learning and social and academic growth of students. Quality training will ensure, to a large extent, teachers are of very high quality, so as to be able to properly manage classrooms and facilitate learning. That is why teacher quality is still a matter of concern, even, in countries where students consistently obtain high scores in international exams, such as Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). In such countries, teacher education of prime importance because of the potential it has to cause positive students’ achievements.

The structure of teacher education keeps changing in almost all countries in response to the quest of producing teachers who understand the current needs of students or just the demand for teachers. The changes are attempts to ensure that quality teachers are produced and sometimes just to ensure that classrooms are not free of teachers. In the U.S.A, how to promote high quality teachers has been an issue of contention and, for the past decade or so, has been motivated, basically, through the methods prescribed by the No Child Left Behind Act (Accomplished California Teachers, 2015). Even in Japan and other Eastern countries where there are more teachers than needed, and structures have been instituted to ensure high quality teachers are produced and employed, issues relating to the teacher and teaching quality are still of concern (Ogawa, Fujii & Ikuo, 2013). Teacher education is therefore no joke anywhere. This article is in two parts. It first discusses Ghana’s teacher education system and in the second part looks at some determinants of quality teaching.

2.0 TEACHER EDUCATION

Ghana has been making deliberate attempts to produce quality teachers for her basic school classrooms. As Benneh (2006) indicated, Ghana’s aim of teacher education is to provide a complete teacher education program through the provision of initial teacher training and in-service training programs, that will produce competent teachers, who will help improve the effectiveness of the teaching and learning that goes on in schools. The Initial teacher education program for Ghana’s basic school teachers was offered in Colleges of Education (CoE) only, until quite recently when, University of Education, University of Cape Coast, Central University College and other tertiary institutions joined in. The most striking difference between the programs offered by the other tertiary institution is that while the Universities teach, examine and award certificates to their students, the Colleges of Education offer tuition while the University of Cape Coast, through the Institute of Education, examines and award certificates. The training programs offered by these institutions are attempts at providing many qualified teachers to teach in the schools. The National Accreditation Board accredits teacher training programs in order to ensure quality.

The National Accreditation Board accredits teacher education programs based on the structure and content of the courses proposed by the institution. Hence, the courses run by various institutions differ in content and structure. For example, the course content for the Institute of Education, University of Cape Coast is slightly different from the course structure and content of the Center for Continue Education, University of Cape Coast and none of these two programs matches that of the CoEs, though they all award Diploma in Basic Education (DBE) after three years of training. The DBE and the Four-year Untrained Teacher’s Diploma in Basic Education (UTDBE) programs run by the CoEs are only similar, but not the same. The same can be said of the Two-year Post-Diploma in Basic Education, Four-year Bachelor’s degree programs run by the University of Cape Coast, the University of Education, Winneba and the other Universities and University Colleges. In effect even though, same products attract same clients, the preparation of the products are done in different ways.

It is through these many programs that teachers are prepared for the basic schools – from nursery to senior high schools. Alternative pathways, or programs through which teachers are prepared are seen to be good in situations where there are shortages of teachers and more teachers ought to be trained within a very short time. A typical example is the UTDBE program, mentioned above, which design to equip non-professional teachers with professional skills. But this attempt to produce more teachers, because of shortage of teachers, has the tendency of comprising quality.

As noted by Xiaoxia, Heeju, Nicci and Stone (2010) the factors that contribute to the problems of teacher education and teacher retention are varied and complex, but one factor that teacher educators are concerned about is the alternative pathways through which teacher education occur. The prime aim of many of the pathways is to fast track teachers into the teaching profession. This short-changed the necessary teacher preparation that prospective teachers need before becoming classroom teachers. Those who favor alternative routes, like Teach for America (TFA), according to Xiaoxia, Heeju, Nicci and Stone (2010) have defended their alternative pathways by saying that even though the students are engaged in a short-period of pre-service training, the students are academically brilliant and so have the capacity to learn a lot in a short period. Others argue that in subjects like English, Science and mathematics where there are usually shortages of teachers, there must be a deliberate opening up of alternative pathways to good candidates who had done English, Mathematics and Science courses at the undergraduate level. None of these arguments in support of alternative pathways, hold for the alternative teacher education programs in Ghana, where the academically brilliant students shun teaching due to reasons I shall come to.

When the target is just to fill vacant classrooms, issues of quality teacher preparation is relegated to the background, somehow. Right at the selection stage, the alternative pathways ease the requirement for gaining entry into teacher education programs. When, for example, the second batch of UTDBE students were admitted, I can say with confidence that entry requirements into the CoEs were not adhered to. What was emphasized was that, the applicant must be a non-professional basic school teacher who has been engaged by the Ghana Education Service, and that the applicant holds a certificate above Basic Education Certificate Examination. The grades obtained did not matter. If this pathway had not been created, the CoEs would not have trained students who initially did not qualify to enroll in the regular DBE program. However, it leaves in its trail the debilitating effect compromised quality.

Even with regular DBE programs, I have realized, just recently I must say, that CoEs in, particular, are not attracting the candidates with very high grades. This as I have learnt now has a huge influence on both teacher quality and teacher effectiveness. The fact is, teacher education programs in Ghana are not regarded as prestigious programs and so applicants with high grades do not opt for education programs. And so the majority of applicants who apply for teacher education programs have, relatively, lower grades. When the entry requirement for CoEs’ DBE program for 2016/2017 academic year was published, I noticed the minimum entry grades had been dropped from C6 to D8 for West African Senior Secondary School Examination candidates. This drop in standard could only be attributed to CoEs’ attempt to attract more applicants. The universities too, lower their cut off point for education programs so as attract more candidates. The universities as alleged by Levine (2006) see their teacher education programs, so to say, as cash cows. Their desire to make money, force them to lower admission standards, like the CoEs have done, in order to increase their enrollments. The fact that, admission standards are internationally lowered in order to achieve a goal of increasing numbers. This weak recruitment practice or lowering of standards introduce a serious challenge to teacher education.

The Japanese have been able to make teacher education and teaching prestigious and therefor attract students with high grades. One may argue that in Japan, the supply of teachers far exceeds the demand and so authorities are not under any pressure to hire teachers. Their system won’t suffer if they do all they can to select higher grade student into teacher education programs. To them, the issues relating to the selection of teachers are more important that the issues relating to recruitment. However, in western and African countries the issues relating to recruitment are prime. It is so because the demand for teachers far outweighs that of supply. Western and African countries have difficulties recruiting teachers because teachers and the teaching profession is not held in high esteem. Teacher education programs therefore do not attract students who have very good grades. It is worth noting that, it is not the recruiting procedure only that determines whether or not teacher education will be prestigious, however recruiting candidates with high grades, ensures that after training, teachers will exhibit the two characteristics essential to effective teaching – quality and effectiveness. Teacher education can be effective if the teaching profession is held in high esteem and therefore able to attract the best of applicants. Otherwise, irrespective of incentives put into place to attract applicants and irrespective of the measures that will be put in place to strengthen teacher education, teacher education programs cannot fully achieve its purpose.

In order to strengthen teacher preparation, there is the need for teacher preparation programs to provide good training during the initial teacher training stage, and provide and sustain support during the first few years after the teachers have been employed. That is why Lumpe (2007) supports the idea that pre-service teacher education programs should ensure teachers have gained a good understanding of effective teaching strategies. Methodology classes therefore should center on effective teaching strategies. Irrespective of the pathway the training program takes, the program must be structured such that trainees gain knowledge about pedagogy, besides the knowledge of subject matter. They should also get enough exposure to practical classroom experience like the on-campus and off-campus teaching practice. Whether or not there is the need to fill vacancies in the classroom due to the high teacher attrition, many countries face, teacher preparation programs should aim at producing quality and effective teacher and not just filling vacancies.

3.0 DETERMINANTS OF TEACHER QUALITY

Teacher quality has such enormous influence on students’ learning. Anyone who has been in the teaching business will agree that teacher quality is central to education reform efforts. Priagula, Agam & Solmon (2007) described teacher quality as an important in-school factor that impact significantly on students’ learning. Quality teachers have positive impact on the success of students. Where the students have quality and effective teachers the students make learning gains while those with ineffective teachers show declines. With respect to the classroom teacher, teacher quality is a continuous process of doing self-assessment so as to have professional development and a self-renewal, in order to enhance teaching. For the teacher educator, an effective or quality teacher is one who has a good subject-matter and pedagogy knowledge, which the he/she can build upon.

Outstanding teachers possess and exhibit many exemplary qualities. They have the skills, subject matter, and pedagogy to reach every child. They help equip their students with the knowledge and breadth of awareness to make sound and independent judgments. Three determinants of teacher quality will be considered here. They are; pedagogical knowledge, subject-matter content knowledge and experience.

3.1 PEDAGOGICAL CONTENT KNOWLEDGE

Trainees of every profession receive some sort of education that will give them insight into and prepare them for the task ahead. That of the teacher is called Pedagogical Content Knowledge or Pedagogical Knowledge. Pedagogical Content Knowledge can be described as, knowledge the teachers use in organizing classrooms, delivering the content the students must show mastery over and for managing the students entrusted into their care. Generally speaking, pedagogical knowledge is knowledge the teacher uses to facilitate students’ learning. Pedagogical Content Knowledge is in two major forms – teachers’ knowledge of the students’ pre-conceptions and teachers’ knowledge of teaching methodologies. Students come to class with a host of pre-conceptions relating to the things they are learning. The pre-conceptions may or may not be consistent with the actual subject-matter that is delivered. Teachers must have a good idea of both kinds of preconception, in order to help students, replace the inconsistent pre-conceptions or build upon the consistent pre-conceptions to bring about meaningful learning. Teachers must have a repertoire of teaching methodologies for facilitating students’ learning. When the methodologies are applied wrongly little or no learning occurs in students. In effect when either of the two is weak, the teacher becomes a bad one because that teacher will not be able to execute his/her responsibility in the vocation he/she has chosen. Due to this during teacher preparation, Pedagogical Content Knowledge is emphasized.

Teachers gain Pedagogical Content Knowledge from various sources. Friedrichsen, Abell, Pareja, Brown, Lankford and Volkmann (2009) distinguished three potential sources of Pedagogical Content Knowledge. They listed the sources as professional development programs, teaching experiences and lastly teachers’ own learning experiences. During their days as students in teacher education programs, teachers are assisted in variety ways to gain Pedagogical Content Knowledge. For examples, during practice, they learn how to put the pedagogical skills they learnt. Teacher education programs and other professional development programs create avenues for teachers to gain pedagogical content knowledge through workshops, lectures, working together with colleagues, and in teaching practice. Then their experiences in their classrooms as they teach students lead them to gain insight into which methodologies work under best under specific situations. That last source is usually ignored. It indicates that the professional knowledge of the teacher begins to develop long before the teacher becomes a candidate entering into teacher education. This means, the way teachers teach influences to a large extent the prospective teachers’ professional knowledge and beliefs. This type of learning is, generally, overlooked by teachers at all levels because unintentional and informal, it is.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge can be gained through formal and informal means. Learning opportunities for pedagogical content knowledge, formally, designed by institutions, based on learning objectives which generally are prerequisite for certification, constitutes the formal means. In formal learning, students have clear ideas about the objective of acquiring pedagogical skills. Informal learning, on the other hand, is not organized intentionally. It takes place incidentally and so can be considered as ‘side effect’. As Kleickmann et al (2012) described it, it has no goal with respect to learning outcomes, and it is contextualized to a large extent. This is often called learning by experience. Informal, but deliberative, learning situations exists. This occurs in situations such as learning in groups, mentoring, and intentional practicing of some skills or tools. Werquin (2010) described informal, but deliberative, learning as non-formal learning. Unlike formal learning, non-formal learning does not occur in educational institutions and does not attract certification. Whether pedagogical content knowledge

Pedagogical Content Knowledge is used to bridges the gap between content knowledge and actual teaching. By bridging the gap, it ensures that discussions of content are relevant to teaching and that discussions themselves are focused on the content. As such, Pedagogical Content Knowledge is something teachers must pay attention to. Teachers who possess and use good Pedagogical content knowledge have good control over classroom management and assessment, knowledge about learning processes, teaching methods, and individual characteristics (Harr, Eichler, & Renkl, 2014). Such teachers are able to create an atmosphere that facilitates learning and are also able to present or facilitate the learning of concepts by even lazy students. They are able to make learning easier by students hence teacher with high pedagogical content knowledge can be classified as quality teachers. It is worth noting that it is not pedagogical content knowledge only that makes good teachers. A teacher will not be good if he/she is master of pedagogical knowledge but lacks subject matter content knowledge.

3.2 SUBJECT-MATTER KNOWLEDGE

The goal of teaching is to help learners develop intellectual resources that will enable them participate fully in the main domains of human taught and enquiry. The degree to which the teacher can assist students to learn depends on the subject-matter the teacher possesses. That is to say, teachers’ knowledge of subject-matter has influence on their efforts to assist students to learn that subject-matter. If a teacher is ignorant or not well informed he/she cannot do students any good, he/she will rather much harm them. When the teacher conceives knowledge in such a way that it is narrow, or do not have accurate information relating to a particular subject-matter, he/she will pass on these same shallow or inaccurate information to students. This kind of teacher will hardly recognize the consistent pre-conceptions and challenge the misconceptions of students. Such a teacher can introduce misconceptions as he/she uses texts uncritically or inappropriately alter them. It is the teacher’s conception of knowledge that shapes the kind of questions he/she asks and the ideas he/she reinforces as well as the sorts of tasks the teacher designs.

Teachers’ subject-matter matter content knowledge must go beyond the specific topics of their curriculum. This is because the teacher does not only define concepts for students. Teachers explain to students why a particular concept or definition is acceptable, why learners must know it and how it relates to other concepts or definitions. This can be done properly if the teacher possesses a good understanding of the subject-matter. This type of understanding includes an understanding of the intellectual context and value of the subject-matter. The understanding of subject matter generally reinforces the teacher’s confidence in delivering lessons, thereby making him/her a good teacher.

3.3 EXPERIENCE

Experience is one of the factors that account for variations in teacher salary, the world over (Hanushek and Rivkin, 2006). The fact that salary differences are based on the number of years the teacher has served, suggests that employers believe the teachers experience makes him/her a better teacher and such a teacher must be motivated to remain in the service. Though some studies like that Hanushek (2011) have suggested that the experience positively influences teacher quality only in the first few years, and that beyond five years, experience ceases to have positive impact on teacher efficacy, common sense tells us the one who has been doing something for a long time does better and with ease. Experience will therefore continue to pay, since, more experienced teachers have the propensity to know more about the subject-matter they teach, and think and behave appropriately in the classroom, and have much more positive attitudes toward their students.

Teachers who have spent more years of teaching, usually, feel self-assured in their skill to use instructional and assessment tools. These teachers are able to reach even the most difficult-to-reach students in their classrooms. They also have greater confidence in their capability to control the class and prevent incidence that might make the teaching and learning process difficult. Their experience makes them much more patient and tolerant than their counterpart with few years of experience (Wolters & Daugherty, 2007). Novice teachers progressively gain and develop teaching and classroom management skills needed to make them effective teachers. They spend time learning themselves – trying to understand fully the job they have entered. The teachers who have spent more years teaching have gained a rich store of knowledge the less experience teachers will be trying to build. Teachers’ sense of effectiveness is generally associated with good attitudes, behaviors and interactions with their students. This is something the experienced teacher has already acquired. These explain why more experienced teachers are usually more effective teachers than the novices.

Another reason more experienced teachers tend to be better teachers than their inexperienced counterparts, is that, experienced teachers have gained additional training, and hence, have acquired additional teaching skills, needed to be effective from direct experience. Usually the training of teachers does not end at the initial teacher training stage. After graduation, teachers attend capacity building seminars, workshops and conferences. These give teachers the opportunity to learn emerging teaching techniques and also refresh their memories on the things they have learnt. Such seminars, workshops and conferences mostly add to the teacher’s store of knowledge. The other advantage the experienced teachers have is that they have encountered more situations to develop the skills needed to be effective teachers through additional direct, and sometimes indirect experiences. That is to say, they have encountered challenging situations which gave them the opportunity to build their skills. Whether they were able to overcome these challenging situation or not, does not matter so much. If the teachers encounter difficult situations in their classes, they learn from them. If the teachers are able to overcome difficult situations, they get to know how to resolve such situations at the next encounter, otherwise their reflections and suggestions from co-teachers gives them ideas about how to approach same or similar situations. They also have a greater chance of being exposed to current and competent models. More experienced teachers have a higher chance of demonstrating superior self-efficacy in most areas, because they have learned the needed classroom management and instructional skills from their colleagues. Teachers who have been in active service for many years are most likely to be classified as quality teachers, because of what they have learnt from in-service training, capacity building workshops and seminars, their interaction with other teachers and what they have learnt from experience in their classrooms.

4.0 CONCLUSION

Teacher education aims at providing teacher education program through initial teacher training for teacher trainees, and in-service training for practicing teachers in order to produce knowledgeable and committed teachers for effective teaching and learning. To realize this mission, teacher education programs have been instituted for the training of teachers. These programs differ from one country to another. Even within the same country, there may be different programs training teachers for the same certificate. These alternative programs are a created, specially, where there are shortages of teachers, and attempts are being made to train large numbers of teachers at a time. These alternative programs ease the teacher certification requirement, allowing those who under normal circumstances would not become teachers. This introduces serious challenges. Because large numbers of teachers are needed within a short period, their training is somewhat fast-tracked resulting in what is usually referred to as half-baked teachers – teachers of lower quality. Applicants who did not gain admission into the program of their choice come into teaching only because they have nowhere else to go. Such applicants tend not to be dedicated to the teaching service in the end. Fast-tracking initial teacher preparation actually harm the mission for which the initial teacher training institutions were created. This is because the teacher produced through such training are usually not of high quality.

Teacher preparation has a direct impact on students’ achievement. The most important in-school factors upon which student’s success hinges, is a teacher who has been well prepared. A well-prepared teacher is one who has gone through a strong teacher preparation program. It is therefore necessary for educators to work to create needed improvements in teacher preparation. To strengthen teacher preparation, teacher preparation programs must provide strong preparation during the initial teacher training period and give support to fresh teachers until they are inducted. Pre-service teacher education should emphasize the acquisition of effective teaching strategies. This can be done in methodology classes and corresponding field experiences. Students who have quality teachers make achievement gains, while those with ineffective teachers show declines, therefore having high quality teachers in classrooms has a positive impact on students’ achievements.

Pedagogical content knowledge, subject matter content knowledge and experience determines the quality of a teacher. Teachers make subject-matter accessible to students by using Pedagogical content knowledge. Pedagogical content knowledge has two broad areas of knowledge: teachers’ knowledge of students’ subject-matter pre-conceptions and teachers’ knowledge of teaching strategies. What Pedagogical content knowledge does is that, it links subject-matter content knowledge and the practice of teaching, making sure that discussions on content are appropriate and that, discussions focus on the content and help students to retain the content. The teacher’s job is to facilitate the learning of subject-matter by students. The degree to which the teacher can assist students to learn depends on the subject-matter content knowledge the teacher possesses. Teachers who possess inaccurate information or comprehend the subject-matter in narrow ways, harm students by passing on the same false or shallow subject-matter knowledge to their students. The last of the three determinants of teacher quality is experience. Teachers who have served more years gain additional and more specific training by attending seminars, conferences and workshops and in-service training and so tend to understand their job better. They also might have met and solved many challenging situations in their classroom and therefore know exactly what to do in any situation.

5.0 REFERENCES

Accomplished California Teachers (2015). A coherent system of teacher evaluation for quality teaching. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 23(17) 1 – 23.

Benneh, M. (2006). Particular issues on teacher education and training in Ghana. Dakar, Senegal: UNESCO.

Friedrichsen, P. J., Abell, S. K., Pareja, E. M., Brown, P. L., Lankford, D. M., & Volkmann, M. J. (2009). Does teaching experience matter? Examining biology teachers’ prior knowledge for teaching in an alternative certification program. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46, 357-383.

Hanushek, E. A. (2011). The economic value of higher teacher quality.” Economics of

Education Review 30, 466-479.

Hanushek, E. A., & Rivkin, S. G. (2006). Teacher quality.” In E. A. Hanushek, & F. Welch (Eds.), Handbook of the economics of education, vol. 2 (pp.1051-1078). Amsterdam: North Holland.

Harr, N., Eichler, A., & Renkl, A. (2014). Integrating pedagogical content knowledge and pedagogical/psychological knowledge in mathematics. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 924.

Kleickmann, T., Richter, D., Kunter, M., Elsner, J., Besser, M., Krauss, S., & Baumert, J. (2012). Teachers’ content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge: The role of structural differences in teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 20(10). 1 -17.

Levine, A. (2006). Educating school teachers. Washington, DC: Education Schools Project. Retrieved from http://www.edschools.org/teacher_report.htm

Lumpe, T. A. (2007). Application of effective schools and teacher quality research to science teacher education. Journal of Science Teacher Education 18, 345-348.

Ogawa, H., Fujii, H., & Ikuo, A. (2013). Teacher education in japan through training program with experiment study. Chemical Education Journal (CEJ), 15, 1 – 10.

Priagula, C., Agam, K. F., & Solmon, L. C. (2007). How stakeholders can support teacher quality. Charlotte, N.C.: Information Age Publishing.

Werquin, P. (2010). Recognising non-formal and informal learning: Outcomes, policies and practices. Paris, France: OECD publishing.

Wolters, C. A., & Daugherty, S. G. (2007). Goal Structures and teachers’ sense of efficacy: Their relation and association to teaching experience and academic level. Journal of Educational Psychology 99(1), 181-193.

Xiaoxia A. N., Heeju, J., Nicci, N., & Stone, E. (2010). Recruiting, preparing, and retaining high quality secondary mathematics and science teachers for urban schools: The Cal teach experimental program. Issues in teacher education 19(1), 21-40.

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.

 

Teaching Strategies That Can Help Motivate Students and Improve Learning

Teaching StrategiesOne of the teacher’s roles is to help the student improve on their learning skills and prepare for lifelong learning. Online tutoring services should promote the following productive learning skills: Concentrating, reading and listening, time management, remembering, creative thinking, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration so, students can acquire skills they need to be productive.

To promote learner development in a way that draws out and gives form to what the student already knows, the teacher or tutor should provide mentorship in online tutoring websites.

PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS IN LEARNING

Modern theories of learning emphasize the need to think while learning because learning and thinking are related. As an educational goal of online math tutoring for kids, helping the child in learning how to think more productively by being able to generate ideas and to evaluate those ideas will lead to possible best solutions in problem-solving.

Critical thinkers must be creative thinkers as well in order to find best solutions.

Most often when a problem drags on, it is not because we cannot tell if the determined solution is the best, it only shows the gap in our inability to find the best solution available because no one has thought about it yet.

Designing a process for problem solving and combining creative-and-critical thinking skills can help the student improve their learning skills in an online tutoring platform. This combination process results in productive thinking.

MOTIVATIONAL PERSUASION AND LEARNING STRATEGIES

Humans learn because it is fun or it is useful in our present situation or both. When students discover that learning is fun, they want to partake in it more often and more skilfully, in different ways.

There are a variety of ways in which students think productively. According to Howard Gardner, “An intelligence is the ability to solve problems, or create products, that are valued within one or more cultural settings”. Teachers and tutors alike should design teaching strategies that will be beneficial for students, using different learning styles.

One of the goals of education is to develop sharp analytical mind in the student vis a vis developing intelligences and help the student reach their full academic potential to face tough competition in the future. Students, who are helped to do so, will be more engaged, competent and inclined to serve humanity constructively.

Teacher and student working together in education improve goal matching due to combining goal-directed teaching and goal- directed learning. The prefect school environment should promote teamwork between teachers and students. Close matching between teacher and student goals can be achieved in two (2) ways; by teacher adjusting their goals to more closely match the way students think and by persuading students to adjust their thinking, so teacher goals become their learning goals. This way, they can embrace the teacher’s educational goals for them. Students want enjoyable, satisfactory and fun-filled learning sessions.

A teacher/tutor can achieve better learning results by adjusting to student goals and persuading them. These strategies also applies in learn it online tutoring platforms.

Self directed learning, places the responsibility of learning directly on the learner. This promotes the deeper learner approach. Deeper learning is demonstrated by the learners’ ability to explain a topic to others, apply it and consider related theories.

TEACHING STRATEGIES THAT MOTIVATE

In trying to persuade the student, the teacher/tutor should consider total motivation, as many students performance to a large extent is a reflection of their mindset.

Self perceptions of student always affect how they learn and perform.

One of the determinants of learning is motivation. When students feel a sense of belonging they are motivated to learn and do well in school.

One strategy to help students perform well in school as well as in online tutoring services is for teacher/tutor to care about their social as well as academic needs.

Social factors in the form of interpersonal relationship with peers, parents, and teachers are directly related to the students’ emotions. Emotions have been shown to play an important role in motivation and learning.

Another teaching strategy that promotes motivation is to keep students engaged or make each learning session engaging. Task-oriented and engaging outlook in learning is associated with deeper learning.

To facilitate task-oriented and engaging outlook strategy, teacher needs to evaluate each student on a personal level than comparing students’ performance against each other.

Specifically, this strategy to make the students learning session engaging involves taking what the students know from real life examples and using that concept in classroom learning. Students are motivated by knowing that what they learn in classroom and learn it online tutoring sessions is relevant to their daily life activities.

 

Creating Memorable Moments In The VPK Classroom

Creating Memorable Moments In The VPK ClassroomEach day that I am in my VPK classroom I find moments to spend with each of my eleven students. Sometimes it’s when they have a question for me or if I have a specific message for the student, such as asking them to get their water bottle for outside time.

I recently asked a child to get his water bottle and I explained to him the importance of staying hydrated in the heat of Summer, he then asked me why? and why water? Ah Ha!

A teachable Moment: I explained the whole our body is ninety percent water and we need clean water to live and that not all Countries in the world have that blessing, we continued with questions and answers for a good ten minutes even getting out The World Atlas to see and learn about some of those countries. At the end of our discussion the boy looked at me and said ” thank you for teaching me about the importance of clean water and about other places, I really like looking at the pictures of other countries.”

In that moment I felt like the best teacher in the world and when mom came to pick up the child he told her all about the importance of water and how much he liked the pictures in the Atlas.

That is the reason I am in my classroom each and every day, year after year.

I was a recreation leader before I became a teacher and while I enjoyed that career very much I knew in my heart that being in the classroom was the place for me.

Today I have my own VPK and Preschool Program in my own classroom and each year I have a new class full of three and four year olds to share teachable moments and build special memories.

I take extra care to track each students growth with photos and examples of their work and present them with a gift bag at Graduation to share with their families.

During the summer I direct my first camp for three to five year olds so that they can have a safe first camp experience in a small group setting with a lot of memorable moments and fun activities to teach them about our planet, nature and science so that they are better prepared for the school year and can be confident in their classroom wherever they go to school.

I thank the parents for sharing their children with me.

 

Early Education

Early EducationI am a Director of an early childhood center. I wanted to take the time to inform the community, particularly the parents of the community, of several opportunities that exists right in our area. Early Education! I am aware that the parents of this community are heavily involved in the welfare and of the achievements of their children. From the moment of their birth they are beginning to learn and collect information, even while still in their mother’s womb. Education plays a large role in our children’s welfare, now and later in life. I would like to make you aware of the different opportunities that there are available in this community, that will allow your child to be in an educationally enriched environment. If you haven’t heard of the term Early Education, let me share with you some background and research on the subject.

Common Misconceptions

In the past when people heard the word childcare, they may have automatically thought of a place that simply watched over your child while you were at work, or tending to some other duties, and at one time that may have been the case, but so much has changed in the course of 30 years. Early education centers are held to much higher standards than they were back then. Early education Programs, follow a steady flow of rules and regulation that dictate how we are to go about our day to day business and with that we implement a high functioning curriculum that addresses and guides the teacher’s lesson planning, assist them how to better target a child’s strengths and address any potential delays which will result in bettering the outcome of the children.

Research

Research shows that when children are exposed to early learning experiences before they turn five, they have long term benefits and their school readiness scores are substantially being risen. NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said, “High-quality early childhood education and full-day kindergarten are fundamental to a student’s long term success and shouldn’t be determined by their parents ‘income… {It}is the right thing to do.” One well-known study, the High Scope Perry Preschool Study, found that individuals who were enrolled in a quality preschool program ultimately earned up to $2,000 more per month than those who were not. Young people who were in preschool programs are more likely to graduate from high school, to own homes, and have longer marriages. With all the different resources available to parents now, it would behoove the parents of the community to take advantage of this opportunity.

Support

The State of Florida offers its support to Early Education Programs through various means. OEL (office of early learning) offer pilot programs which allows programs to potentially strengthen their staff, by investing time, teaching, and funding, the training they provide largely enrich the teacher’s knowledge of the field. Which is in turn put back into the classroom instruction.

Coalitions also contribute greatly to the success of such programs. Adding assistance to Educational Centers and Institutes providing collaboration with those related in the field, planning meetings and hand in hand working with families through their child’s formative years. They also provide health screenings for children, to identify any potential delays that may hinder a child’s cognitive growth. Along with vast resources that contribute to the overall success to Individual programs.

Unique Opportunity

There are a few aspects of early education programs that benefit families on a more personal level. One is that from the time you drop off your child to the time they leave, your child is in an enriched learning environment. Early educators are taught to not only scaffold the classroom environment to encourage higher learning, but consciously use each moment of the day as teachable moments. by actively scheduling in their lesson plans well laid out strategies that target different areas of learning, such as cognitive, social emotional, physical both large motor skills and fine motor and language skills.

Another thing that is unique to Early Education Programs is that, the amount of time in which we have the children. Most Programs have the ability to stay open for a longer period of time, opening early in the morning and closing later in the afternoon. This gives parents a more flexible time to arrange their affairs, and give the children an opportunity to get more hands on experience, which they largely need at that particular age in life. It prepares them for what they will encounter later on when they come of age to enter public school.

Calibration between Professionals

Collaboration between teachers continues to be essential when it comes to children leaving the preschool program, and entering Kindergarten. The Preschool teacher really become, the voice of the child when it comes to what strengths, and weaknesses that may exist. The kindergarten teacher will have a better view of the child’s potential, and can use the information that’s been collected to aid in his, her assessment and planning. The information shared on each child can really go a long way in ensuring the ease of transition. If we continue to see collaboration between Professionals, it will help in easing the transitional period, when entering Kindergarten.

 

Teachers Are Teaching BUT Are Students Understanding

Teachers Are TeachingWe live in an age where the number of discussions about education reform, teacher accountability, and dropout rates have become the basis of news reports, research topics, and even dinner conversation topics. Many educators feel the overwhelming pressures of high-stakes testing, the lack of parental involvement, biased teacher evaluation systems, and limited amounts of instructional time to sufficiently address all of the academic standards prior to the end of the school year. At times, as an educator, it becomes difficult to decipher through it all in order to figure out what to do to meet the needs of the divergent learners that come into our classrooms. It is because of this difficulty, which in part, may explain the alarming number of teachers choosing to leave the profession altogether. With so many challenges, many may ask: “Well, what is the answer to improving student learning?” The answer is that in the midst of it all, educators must remain committed to the one element within education that is within their control, which is authentic and purposeful teaching. This type of teaching occurs when teachers seek to teach so that their students understand because without understanding learning ceases to exist. In order to teach for understanding, teachers can choose to focus their energies to committing to three key principles: teaching the whole child, taking careful mental notes along the way, and making the learning process a reciprocal process.

So, let’s begin! Teaching the whole child takes work because in order to teach the whole child, you must know the whole child. This requires studying your students. As, we study our students, it is necessary that we endeavor to collect artifacts or data that offers insight as to what they are heard saying and observed doing. The information gained aids teachers in making accurate inferences relative to student learning. Through student observations, value is placed on the qualitative data that children can offer, but in today’s society, the quantitative data or numerical value that can be derived from test scores have unfortunately gained more value. So, our students have been oftentimes seen more as numbers rather than actual people. For example, consider the times that you have had the opportunity to participate in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting, or a Data Team meeting. Think about how the strengths and needs of various students were identified. You may recall hearing the number of grade levels that a child may have been performing at in comparison to his or her peers or the number of words that a child could read fluently within a minute. Indeed, the numbers can provide vital sources of information, but they are not the only sources of information that educators can glean from. So, instead of “talking numbers”, educators should seek every opportunity to learn why students perform at the level that they do. This is not a superficial task, but one that requires work and dedication.

Secondly, it is so critical that teachers make mental notes before teaching, while teaching, and after teaching. Engaging in a reflective practice is so necessary if teachers endeavor to be more than what Wiggins and McTighe identify as “coverage teachers”, but instead, teachers that are truly invested in their students’ ability to understand what is taught. Making these mental notes requires that you monitor the level of engagement, motivation, and interest that your learners take in the learning process that you have been assigned to facilitate. Recording these mental notes, requires that teachers not only engage in observing their students, but that they also strive to make connections that will help them to assess where their students are, where they are as the teacher, where understanding is occurring, where there may be potential breakdowns in understanding, and what next steps should be considered in moving forward. Making mental notes is advantageous because it gives the students the opportunity to benefit from responsive teaching, which means that the teacher is not teaching at them, but teaching for them… for them to understand.

Lastly, in order for students to understand what is taught, they must be invited to be a part of the process. Authentic and effective teaching is grounded in inviting students to engage in a process where reciprocity occurs. This reciprocity takes the form of teachers being willing to teach their students and to learn from them, and where students are willing to do the same. Believe it or not, there is a great deal that our students can and will teach us, if we give them permission to do so. We no longer live in an age where teachers serve as the sole provider of dispensing knowledge, but students can take on this role as well. Teachers can and must create a learning environment in which students’ thinking is valued, their opinions are welcomed, and their experiences are invited. In the absence of these components, students become disengaged and teachers struggle to teach for understanding.

Just like anything else in the world of academia, the three principles in this article can not simply be remembered, but must truly become embedded within the “teaching DNA” of an educator if they are to be truly practiced. These principles must be adopted as a part of the educator’s teaching philosophy, and not to be dismissed when new administrative mandates are introduced or drastic shifts in students’ behavior occur. Instead, teachers must remember that each principle discussed in this article is the source for relationship-building. “Good” teaching, which is teaching for understanding, is most evident, when teachers strive to build healthy, genuine relationships with their students.

 

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