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Posts Tagged ‘teacher

The tweet below reminded me of how I used to introduce myself after I stopped being a teacher and became an educator.

At most teacher and educator events, we are often asked to introduce ourselves by sharing what we call ourselves, where we work, and what we teach.

I often start normally with my name and then say that I work nowhere in particular. If that does not confuse people, I add that I do not teach any subject in particular; I say that I teach people.

I state that last point in all seriousness, but it often draws laughter, some of it nervous and some of it knowing. The few that chortle knowingly are educators whose mantra is the tweet.

When someone teaches with a passion, it is obvious. The passion expresses itself in different ways, some more exuberant than others.


Video source

The video above is not a recording of a lecture or tutorial of a university professor of inorganic chemistry. She was demonstrating reactions on a talk show.

Her reactions to her own experiments were obvious: She was excited and joyous. It was as if the experiences were new, like a learner’s first time. This puts her in good stead to connect with her learners because she empathises with them.

Her teaching is also infectious. If you are enthusiastic and excited about what you are teaching, that is half the battle won. After all, some things are not just taught, they are also caught.

If the results of this study are valid, then new teachers are not as prepared as they should be if they depend on teacher education textbooks.

This presupposes that the six research-based instructional strategies are themselves valid and rigorous. But since we have to start somewhere, those fundamental six are as good as any.

The chart seems to be a modification or revision of a 2016 report and presentation by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). The fundamental six (in the screen captures below) were from a guide in 2007.

So the fundamental and research-based instructional strategies are not new. However, the researchers found that in their sample of 48 teacher preparation textbooks:

  • none accurately described all six fundamentals
  • the fundamentals were inadequately addressed

What then do textbooks offer teachers about helping students learn?

According to the study, the emphasis seemed to be “posing probing questions” or “elaboration” (41%). However, there did not seem to be any emphasis on helping students retain what they heard or did.

The study then went on to illustrate how teacher preparation courses paralleled textbook content, and in doing so, were also inadequate.

Do stakeholders have reason to worry?

Yes, if teacher preparation is the only time when teachers learn the fundamentals.

No, not when there is learning on-the-job (OTJ) and continuous professional development (PD). In some places, there might also be teacher recertification.

Yes, if the OTJ and PD are not updated and relevant.

No, if the teachers participate in informal PD (I call it unPD) and get the latest and greatest from edu-Twitter, education blogs and newsletters, etc.

Yes, if that behaviour is not the norm or firmly entrenched as an expectation of professional practice.


Video source

Teachers in the USA get a whole week for appreciation. Maybe teachers there would appreciate Singapore teachers’ salaries.

It is just one Teacher’s Day here in Singapore (this year it is on August 31st). That same month, teachers here must pay for parking in their schools — horrors!

Sorry, teachers. See video.

I like watching videos where experts either explain difficult concepts to learners of different ages or just to kids. The video below is one of the latter.


Video source

Explaining to an adult how to create bioluminescent plants from firefly DNA is challenging, much less kids. The two content experts from MIT were not quite comfortable teaching kids and their attempts illuminate some concepts about how students learn and what an effective teacher looks like.

When one content expert tried simplifying the concept of transferring bioluminescence, she ran into some trouble.

Expert: “…we just ask them to give us some chemicals”.
One child: “Do you tell them?”

Expert: “We just borrow the light from the fireflies…”
Another child: “Do you mean like real borrow or do you just keep it?”

The expert was visibly stunned by the kids’ questions and their teacher intervened with timely and appropriate answers.

An effective teacher is not just knowledgeable in content, she should also be a child and learning expert. As information mushrooms and knowledge needs to be constantly negotiated and updated, being the latter type of expert is critical.

The other expert got the kids to participate in a hands-on activity where they simulated bioluminescence by mixing chemicals in small vials. Instead of hearing about bioluminescence, they tried and saw for themselves.

This is not about appealing to different “learning styles” — which is a myth anyway — but to teach and reinforce with multiple methods and modes. That said, kids generally learn best by what stems from natural curiosity, i.e., experiencing and asking.

The teacher as a child and learning expert asked a critical question at the end of the experiment: “What do you think this could help solve?” She did not provide answers to her learners, but got them to generate answers that required them to think actively about what they just experienced.

This funny-yet-sad tweet reminded me of why I need to do what I do.

Viewed positively, you might say that the teacher was very consistent about his attire over four decades.

Viewed more critically, you might ask if his dressing was a possible reflection of his unchanging mindset.

Symbolism aside, the teacher’s attire does indicate how many teachers operate. They might get older, but they do not change how they appear to others.

Ask most lay folk what a teacher looks like and you will likely get traditional views. You will hardly, if at all, hear of distinctions between teachers and educators, or educators who reach through walls, teach over the Internet, or operate without school principals.

These are educators who are pushing the boundaries of the past so that their learners are better prepared for the present and look forward to shaping their futures. There is value in looking back, but facing backwards while trying to walk forwards is a recipe for falling and injuries.

I liking showing people how to look and walk forward, strange as that may sound. I start by pointing out that they have their feet pointed in one direction and their eyes in the other.

Here is a tweeted headline that could have been relevant ten years ago.

The Yellow Pages were irrelevant even then. It seems to have taken a newspaper a decade to realise or admit it.

It sometimes takes teachers in schools just as long, if not longer, to realise and admit that some of their practices are losing relevance.

The aptly named Yellow Pages can also mean that the medium is showing their age. The problem with irrelevant practices is that the signs are not as obvious. It takes critical reflection to spot the yellowing edges of bad habits and pages of unquestioned tradition.


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