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Posts Tagged ‘teachers

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This video claims that it showcases “Things Every Teacher Can Relate To”.

Not quite. I am sure that most teachers here do not know what a snow day is. They will also not relate to “spring forward, fall back” time changes.

Likewise teachers elsewhere might not be required to pay for parking at school or know what to do with exam candidates affected by train delays.

Teachers share many things across the globe, but they also differ greatly. It is far more difficult to showcase or celebrate their differences.

For example, I am quite certain that most teachers here cannot relate to the plight of some teachers in the USA. The recent protests and walkouts in Oklahoma as just one example.

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Any teacher here worried about paying for parking or spotty wifi access at the periphery of a large campus needs some perspective. The video immediately above provides some.

No, the video below of Trump supporting the idea that teachers be armed with handguns is not a joke. I mean it is, but it isn’t.

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The idea seems to be that some teachers should be trained to fire weapons when — not if — there is another school shooting. Apparently this is both a reactionary measure (teachers are already on the premises) and a preventative one (a would-be shooter would think twice about entering a saloon with armed cowboys).

So are the premises that 1) teachers are the type of people to be the first line of offensive defence, and 2) crazy or enraged people stop to consider the consequences of their actions?

It is hard to watch the entire video because it is hard to believe that this is even a suggestion. There was a terrible shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida last week and the suggestion is that they need more guns, not less.

I am not weighing in on the guns-in-the-US debate. I do not live there and I do not really have a say. But I am an educator, and what I do is not limited to borders.

I ask questions instead of providing answers I do not have:

  • What might pre and in-service courses for these teachers look like?
  • How might the recruitment and retention of teachers change?
  • What if an armed teacher misuses his or her gun?
  • What if the teacher hits an innocent?
  • Am I in a screwed-up Matrix?

When the stone dropped in the once placid waters of teaching, its ripples started spreading. One result of enforced mergers of some mainstream Singapore schools was how some teachers had to look for teaching opportunities elsewhere.

This is a classic case of a problem defined largely through an administrative lens, being patched by an administrative solution, only to create another problem.

The original problem was falling enrolments due to falling birthrates. Logically, fewer children means smaller intakes mean fewer classes. Administratively, this also means too many teachers.

The administrative solution was to maintain established teacher:student ratios above all else. Never mind other possibilities like centralised efforts, team teaching, or more boutique efforts.

This created the previously non-existent problem of teacher surplus. As a result other schools now have to take in teachers who have no where else to go.

The silver lining in this dark cloud has been that teachers who interact in tight circles within their own schools now are forced to fraternise with teachers elsewhere.

Interactions take the form of phone calls, job interviews, job initiation, mentoring and guidance, and daily interaction. Unlike the induction of beginning teachers, these interactions are with intermediates or veterans.

Staff at all levels — school leaders, middle managers, on-the-ground teachers — can more clearly see the differences in school culture and teacher quality when new old teachers join their ranks.

This is like going on a vacation and experiencing a new culture for the first time. Unlike a vacation, they cannot return home to what they are used to. They have to live with the consequence of administrative decision-making.

I had dinner out with an elderly relative yesterday. He noticed my son was not as good as using chopsticks as the rest of us so he called a server over and asked for a fork. He did not ask my son or us if a fork was warranted, and he got an earful from my wife.

What was the issue? He thought my son was struggling and he sought to help.

The deeper issues were that 1) the help was not needed as my son, while not the best user of chopsticks, was feeding himself just fine, and 2) he was reinforcing old behaviour and an easier way out.

The latter is a lesson for all who see ourselves as educators. We care for our learners and wish to help. Before we do, we should consider if the help treats a symptom or deals with a deeper seated-problem.

We might also determine if our help addresses a short-term problem but creates unnecessary dependence or reinforces old habits, or if not helping immediately and instinctively is actually better help.

If students are to learn from mistakes and struggle, they must be able to make mistakes and struggle. If we step in and help too much, we are not helping at all.

These are judgement calls we might be called upon to make every day. I hope that we do a better job of helping by knowing when and how to not help our learners in 2017.

I am critical of vendors looking from the outside claiming they have solutions for schools. I am all for educators transferring principles they apply from the wider world to change what happens in schools. But I wonder how many bother to look or know how to look.

Here is an example. I share a mundane experience and then suggest in italics what educators might learn.


Like the majority of Singaporeans, I need spectacles to correct myopia. So do my wife and son. Replacing our glasses is an expensive affair.

I noticed a new chain of stores that promised to not only offer lower prices but to also make replacement lenses in about half an hour.

With free or low-cost technology, you can reach learners with much less traditional effort.

My wife and I wandered into one branch while in town, ordered ourselves new pairs of glasses, and arranged to collect them at a branch near where we stay.

Teaching and learning does not have to happen in one place. Going to where the learner is at socially and pedagogically is easy with today’s technology.

The spectacle chain is thorough with their eye examinations, their staff are polite, and the lenses prepared overseas. The price breakdowns are clear: There is the basic set and several add-ons (like the type of lenses) that increase the cost of a pair of glasses.

Treat people nicely and communicate simply and clearly. Your resources need not be created in-house; they can be outsourced or curated.

Easy pairs of spectacles are done on the spot. More customised glasses like the ones with progressive, transition, or high-index lenses take about two weeks to make.

Communicate performance expectations clearly and keep your promises.

The chain contacted me by SMS when the glasses were ready. I visited the store they promised I could pick them up at and was very pleased with my new spectacles.

Again, go where the learners are at. Communicate with media and strategies that they are already using.

I asked if they could replace my son’s lenses but keep his current frame. The processing and eye examination probably took more time than the grinding of the lenses.

Meet the learners where they are. Technology allows customisation and you can learn how to go with the flow.

I received two $30 discount coupons on my first purchase. I applied one coupon to the first purchase and the other to the second. I received a $10 discount coupon with the second purchase for a subsequent purchase.

Incentivise logically. While many “gamify” by withholding benefits, this chain illustrated a strategy of giving. Giving away on a social media PLN, for example, does not make you poorer. It increases your reputational capital if you create value.

Do you see what I see? Or do you need a pair of special glasses?

There seemed to be a considerable reaction on Twitter to The Atlantic article, Why Introverted Teachers Are Burning Out.

According to the article:

…some teachers are citing their introversion as a reason why today’s increasingly social learning environments are exhausting them—sometimes to the point of retirement.

The article provided cases and mentioned research to support the premise that some teachers burn out because of the pressure to collaborate socially.

Teachers leave the profession for as many reasons as those of other jobs. Ask anyone from human resources candid enough to share and you will hear these reasons and more: Poor fit, better prospects elsewhere, change in perspective, shift in priorities.

I am not making light of the fact that extreme introverts might have issues in the staffroom and classroom. But to attribute introversion as a key reason why teachers burn out is an emotional one disguised as logic.

A logical reason presumes you can quantify or adequately describe what being an introvert is. If the article struggled to provide an agreed-upon definition for it, how can you measure it or describe it?

Perhaps introversion is a gestalt of a person. Like porn, introversion is difficult to define or measure, but you know it when you see it.

In the case of teacher exits, the crux of the issue might lie in the second paragraph:

A few studies suggest that introverted teachers—especially those who may have falsely envisioned teaching as a career involving calm lectures, one-on-one interactions, and grading papers quietly with a cup of tea—are at risk of burning out.

Being an introvert or even deeply introspective should not prevent you from working with people and being collaborative. Poor expectations and the unwillingness to change do.

Teachers take on many roles. One is to be actors. They might be required to pretend to be what they are innately not in order to suit the circumstances and do what is better for students.

The teachers that were described in the article might not have expected to teach less and differently. It is much more challenging to facilitate, collaborate, and balance varied learning needs. It is even more challenging to do this consistently and within a system that is still learning how it needs to change.

What seems sad for the school bubble is that good people leave. However, the people that leave join other systems outside that bubble. They help teachers and learners where they are. They might no longer be teachers of standalone, artificially tested content; they can be educators of people in the wider, authentic contexts of life.

I could not decide which image to use for this quote. This one:

The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don't tell you what to see.  — Alexandra K. Trenfor

Or this one:

The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don't tell you what to see.  — Alexandra K. Trenfor

So I made both.

ImageCodr must be a good teacher. It shows me where to look for CC-licensed images, but it does not tell me what to use. I decided on these two generously shared photos.


Looking forward... by hktang, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  hktang

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