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Posts Tagged ‘teacher

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Here is even more teacher appreciation and from a BuzzFeed video of all places.

At the end of the video you learn what the retail giant, Target, is planning on doing to help teachers help others.

If you are a mollycoddled teacher in Singapore, you might wonder why a corporate entity needs to help. That might give you an appreciation for the system that you are in.

You might also wonder why our local “be thankful to your teacher” videos might come across as flat or humourless compared to efforts like BuzzFeed’s. If you do, you might begin to appreciate the things that other systems encourage that ours does not.

If not for RSS and Twitter, I would not have realized this was Teacher Appreciation Week in the USA. Here in Singapore, we discount the week to a day and celebrate it in September.

So I tweeted this yesterday to share the news and the hashtag #TeachingIs:

Real teaching is mostly a thankless task done by educators who do not expect thanks. These educators tend to have two important attributes.

I think that the second most important trait to have as an educator is the ability to think like a learner. It is only when you understand what and why they do not understand that can you accompany them on the journey to bridge that gap.

The most important trait is being reflective. If you are reflective, you will constantly analyze yourself and seek improvement. If you realize that you do not connect with learners, you will find ways to do so.

So I share a YouTube video I found a while ago.

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It helps to remember what it was like to be a beginning teacher. That is probably when a teacher learns the most because s/he is most like a student and more ready to reflect.

Last Thursday I made my way to the Civil Service College to attend the 10th C J Koh Professorial Lecture. The lecture was by Prof Dennis Shirley.

I tweeted my notes, but as these tweets stream rapidly away, I am consolidating some of them in this Storify.

BTW, I also tweeted as @cel_nie as I was the Twitter ambassador of the week. My theme that week was group selfies.

My favourite part of the presentation was a quote from the work of Meredith Hong (not sure of the spelling):

I pursued this with Shirley over refreshments. I asked him if he could share any examples of what he had observed during his travels of change that were truly bottom-up, mindful, and sustainable.

Shirley explained how the Finns (yes, those guys again) have central curricular groups that share their ideas with teachers in schools. But it is teachers that decide what actually gets taught.

They take ownership of what they do from a grassroots level. It seems to be less about policy and agenda and more about focusing on learners and learning.

Bottom-up? You could call it that.

Mindful? Certainly!

Sustainable? They have been at it all this while and will continue to do so as long as they ignore the slight dip in PISA scores.

Long may their efforts last. Short may our own longing be for greater grassroots efforts, mindfulness, and sustainability in the face of rapid change.


Yesterday I reflected on what I might do if I could change the way teachers are prepared. This is Part 2 of a few more scattered thoughts.

I think that every modern teacher needs some experience on Managing Expectations. These expectations are their own and those of their learners, the learners’ parents, and the teachers’ superiors. I think that teachers are sometimes blind-sided by unrealistic expectations from many quarters, so much so that some leave or remain unhappy because of them.

I also think that teachers need a strong dose of Valuing Values. I think most teachers join the profession for the right reasons, but they lose sight of what is important (the learners and learning) when grades and exams become the focus of schooling.

Valuing Values would be like the Group Endeavours in Service Learning (GESL) in NIE. It is an active reminder of who, why, and how we serve.

GESL is also a wonderful example of what I mean by an experience instead of a course. It actually straddles more than one university semester and causes disruptions in administrative thinking about what counts and how to count it.

Another critical experience is knowing the difference between Assessment and Evaluation. This would essentially be another name for assessment literacy. Teachers would not just learn about different ways of assessing and evaluating, but also when to use which strategy or tool.

For example, this experience would not just be about designing good multiple choice questions (MCQs). It would also be about deciding if MCQs are the right choice for assessment or if learners need to be assessed (given a number or letter grade) or also evaluated (given value or worth).

I think that preservice teachers also be taught How to Reflect. Here teachers learn how to create space to think, set aside time to reflect individually and collectively, and use different strategies to reflect.

I am not sure if this should be a core requirement or something like writing support. But I am leaning on the former because not everyone is naturally reflective.

While I might have described these elements of teacher preparation in the context of preservice teachers, it might be necessary to extend experiences like Managing Expectations into inservice learning. After all, it is only then that teachers learn to temper idealism with healthy dose of reality.

So these are just a few ideas that have floated in my mind over the last few years. I thought I should capture them in a net regardless of whether they were fully formed or not.

This is Part 1 of a list of experiences that I think preservice teachers (PSTs) should have.

The first core experience is Understanding Today’s Learner. This is not an excuse to rehash educational psychology, but to embed it and update it in today’s context.

For example, there is no point just rehashing social constructivism as a descriptive model of how people learn if there are no authentic examples to try out in class both as learners and as teachers. This theory should also be linked to and updated with social connectivism which takes into account how technology like social media enables nodes of learners to connect.

Another experience would be Preparing Learners for Their Future (Not Your Present or Past). This might be a combination of TPCK and learner management.

PSTs would learn how to integrate (not just use) ICT in academic subjects. They would also learn to facilitate more than they actually deliver content.

The ultimate aim of this experience would be to focus on the learner and learning, not the teacher and teaching. PSTs might face the hard fact that learners can learn without teachers. Teachers then learn how to reinvent themselves so that they are important to learners.

Yet another experience would be Teaching Our Learners to Be. This is discipline specific, but does not focus solely on academic content. The goal is to nurture learners who think creatively, critically, and independently in any field.

To get there a Science teacher might focus less on delivering content but on presenting problems and issues that a scientist would face. Doing this would require the learning of content, but it is not the content that comes first. The content is a means to a more meaningful end: Scientific thinking.

In that example, teachers learn how to get students to be scientists instead of learning about science.

Still another course would be Homework is Not a Given. This would be a flipped experience so that PSTs question the logic, purpose, and nature of homework. They would discover how irrelevant homework can be and how to leverage on it as a pin-point strategy instead of a blanket one.

What I have suggested so far might seem like courses, but they are not. A PST keeps an e-portfolio like a travel journal to document his or her experience. There is no right or wrong way to maintain the diary as long as the teacher can provide evidence of the attitude (values), aptitude (knowledge) and “act-itude” (skills).

More thoughts on reshaping teacher education tomorrow.


Apparently you can relight a candle by igniting the smoke of a recently extinguished candle.

If you were a science teacher and you learnt this “trick”, would you leverage on the wonderment this generates and make it a teachable moment? Or would you ask your learners to find out why? What else might you do?

What you do depends on many things, of course. If you are pressured by a packed curriculum and tests that dictate what to cover, then you might do neither.

What you might want to do reflects your teaching philosophy.

Leveraging on the teachable moment could be the mark of a creative and responsive teacher. But I think that an educator who gets his/her students to investigate why the candle smoke lights up a candle helps his/her students learn to think and act like scientists.

The first person focuses on teaching that hopefully leads to learning. The second focuses on the learner and learning. The first person might want students to learn ABOUT science. The other wants students to BE scientists.

It might have been William Butler Yeats who declared:

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

Which would you rather do? Which would you rather be? Which do our kids need more?

NOW by mag3737, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  mag3737 

I agree with everything in this article except its title, Why Learning Through Social Networks Is The Future.

The gist of the article is that students benefit from forming their own personal learning networks just like teachers benefit from their professional learning networks.

Why title this as something to aspire to in the future instead of now? Kids are already leveraging on social media to get help with their homework. Personal learning networks are already happening without the knowledge or permission of teachers and administrators.

Looking to the future makes some people put things off. Now is the time to leverage on PLNs. Now is the time to add value by including the guidance, wisdom, and experience of teachers who care.


I could probably watch this TED Talk of Rita Pierson and find a different inspiration each time.

I liked the part where she mentioned twice in succession that, despite less than ideal circumstances, teachers teach anyway.

She could have meant teaching anyway (whatever the circumstances), any way (whatever worked), or both. We need teachers that do both.

YinYang by Naddsy, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  Naddsy 

Last week I reflected on the first world problem of deciding whether one was a teacher on an educator.

Judging from the hits this post received, it seems to have struck a nerve or tapped the pulse of teachers/educators.

I still think that it is important to make a distinction between a teacher and an educator as well as what each does. So I have consolidated some of my thoughts on the differences between the two.

  • Everyone can teach. Few can educate.
  • A teacher teaches; an educator reaches.
  • A teacher typically focuses on curriculum and assessment. An educator focuses on development and evaluation.
  • In the curricular race, a teacher perspires. In the journey of lifelong learning, an educator inspires. (An educator goes the extra mile.)
  • A teacher works with content. An educator deals with people.
  • Teaching is a job. Educating is a calling.
  • Some teachers do this to earn. Educators do this to learn (about themselves, their learners, better ways to inspire, etc).
  • A teacher might network locally. An educator is connected globally (and thinks and acts that way too).

Unlike the photo I used to represent the distinction and the dichotomy of my phrasing, I do not think that teaching and educating are mutually exclusive. Like the symbol, I think one blends into the other. But I do think that teachers need to aspire to be educators.

Sources of inspiration:

I follow @FiWoProblems (First World Problems) on Twitter because there are funny and often trivial 140-character-or-less truths about the modern world.

Recently I experienced my own first world problem and it reminded me of why I chose to be an educator instead of a teacher.

A standing fan in my dining room went into its death throes and I bought a replacement. Rather than throw the old one away, I thought I would be responsible and recycle it.

I offered it to a karang guni (“rag and bone”) man, but he rejected it and asked if I had a computer or television to recycle instead!

Karang guni men used to collect things like newspapers. A few still do. But there is a shift in behaviour that has followed the shift in values.

Only high-value items seem to be worth the time and effort of the collectors. The value of recycling has become less important than making a profit!

There already is a scary parallel shift in values in schooling. I am talking about the shift from the values of education to hot-housing kids to stay ahead and teaching to the test (and only the test).

I stopped being a classroom teacher at the end of 1998 so that I could become an educator. I am not saying that a teacher must leave a schooling system to be an educator. I am saying that you might get more time and space to learn to be an educator if you do.

I tried being as educator while I was a teacher by not just focusing on the curricular race, examinations, and grades. I used to expand the horizons of students by bringing them out on field trips, enriching their learning by using technology, and spending time talking about life.

After I left, a former student told me that a teacher who took over told my class that I had taught them the wrong things. If educating my students about the right things is teaching them the wrong things, then my conscience is clear.

Some folks do not care if there is a distinction between a teacher and educator. Some do not have the luxury of thinking this way.

I think that it is important to have a first world problem of deciding whether or not you are a teacher or an educator. There are deeper value systems under those labels that manifest themselves when you are teaching or educating.

On the lighter side of things, here are some other first world problems you might relate to…

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Click to see all the nominees!

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