What do you think about the subject of this question? WHY would you want to be a better teacher? Is it important for you? for your students? for our society? When it comes to making decisions about our careers there are several considerations to take into account and it could be hard to get the right choice.
Deciding on being better at what we do can be simplified by a method, a decision model that it’s simple and efficient, especially when our decision involves two options: being a better teacher or staying the same. Here’s a plain decision- making model convenient at any given condition:
- Relax. Take a deep breath and expelled air, do it twice. Bringing oxygen to you brain will enhance your performance and health.
- Say something positive. Something like “I can do this” or “I was born for success” to boost good vibes.
- Identify the problem: The issue here is to make a decision that is relevant to you and many others, and what are the consequences of it.
- Think of all possible solutions: Great teachers help create great students. In fact, research shows that an inspiring and informed teacher is the most important school-related factor influencing student achievement, so it is critical to pay close attention to how we train and support both new and experienced educators. Consider the consequences of your solution.
- What is important to you? Are you a persistent and progressive professional? Experience is not doing the same thing over and over again but to improve the methods over the course of time.
- Make the decision. After reflecting on all the previous, it’s time for action.
This way, and following up a methodical path to successfully achieve the goal, think for a moment in three variables of WHAT is needed to become better at teaching:
- Knowledge: Reflection, Self-Assessment, Conferences & Workshops, Peer coaching, Readings, Degree & Certifications.
- Resources: Pictures, Audio texts, Games and Visual aids: Projector/Interactive Board/Computer, Lesson Plans, Teacher Guides & Textbooks.
- Motivation: Professional Growth, Retribution, Expertise, Status, Passion and Knowledge Share.
Then follow the logical next step, which is HOW to overtake the challenge. There would be many, but we have gathered some that are essential and commonly seen in a teacher everyday’s tasks:
- Opening our Minds
- Reflecting and Sharing
To illustrate each, here are some stories that relate in distinctive ways:
Open your mind. One day teachers are invited to a workshop of the new Editorial assigned to make the book changes in the teenagers’ program of the school after 6 years of using another Editorial. Through the plenary, teachers find out about the “no homework” strategy used by this new platform, and the technological input in the monitoring and assessment of students’ progress. Immediate reaction can be witnessed in the room as a negative feature to implement. The panel in charge presents three teachers through a Skype call, in order to tell their own experience using the new method. A teacher raises the hand and asks, “Does this mean I have more paths to communicate with my students at any time?” The presenters confirm the statement and elaborate based on that idea. You can notice the difference in the ambient of the room.
Plan. Jules is preparing for her Adults class next Thursday, and she notices she has only two more classes to cover a full unit. She feels nervous and anxious, since by her own experience and knowing how she likes to deliver the lesson, she would have to select the material to teach and sacrifice the rest in order to achieve the goal. While selecting the material, she feels frustrated and basically disappointed because she understands that this could’ve been prevented.
Reflect and share. The bell rings, students leave, and I stay behind picking up for myself. I start thinking of the last activity we had just 5 minutes ago, mainly about my previous expectations and how that makes me think now that it was a failure. I keep recounting my steps even after I’m home an hour later. The next day I still feel disappointed, and one of the substitute teachers was around and I decide to ask about similar situations. I tell him step by step what happened the day before, and he just looked at me and said, just play with it the next time.
Interact. “It’s time for review…” teacher Jay thinks out loud, knowing that tests are coming next week. He sits with a longing face and thinks about the lesson he’s about to deliver, the exercises to use, the topics to address, and the monitoring involved in the process. Seems to have it under control, it’s usually the same. He takes a moment to ponder of other ways to impart the review, he asks himself what can he do different and what could make my students think different than any other day. After 25-30 minutes alone with his thoughts, another teacher passes by rushing in, and greets Jay. The other teacher starts to take out some papers and items that look like monopoly game pieces, and Jay feels the burning need to ask about it, and the other teacher tells him how he got the idea to play a board game as a review from another colleague. Jay feels excited and really wants to try this.
Explore. The assessment week is here, and Rose is taking her time to grade each student carefully in classwork, homework and writing assignments. Time is running fast and she realizes she needs to speed up the process, but she’s also aware that she might need a plan B at this point. She stands up from her chair and she just takes a minute to think and then she sees a student noticing a mistake in a writing assignment she had on top of the desk. At that point she had the idea to pair students and have them do the checking on the writing assignments by giving students some prompts on how to do it. Students react excitedly and even express their willingness to do it. The teacher starts thinking what other ways she can make students feel useful and make it beneficial for her as well.
Additionally, there’s a critical view to reflect on WHO to becoming better. Reflect on these words and discover if success alone is possible or if it’s worth trying available support: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. Next, answer the question of how often you engage in these best practices:
- I plan my classes.
- I reflect on what helps or hinders learning.
- I receive peer-coaching.
- I explore creative ways of teaching.
- I give-receive feedback.
- I try to keep engagement in my classes.
- I practice professional-development.
- My classes are based on experiential-teaching.
- My teaching practices are oriented to meaningful lessons.
- I ask my students to ask questions.
- I include collaborative-learning in my lessons
- I deliver my lessons as scheduled.
The more help we need to develop a wide set of pedagogical resources, the more we can realize that support is always available, find out about the Professional Development programs that are set up near you and reach out.
Finally, think of the question on WHEN you’d like to take steps to become better; it will depend on the opportunity you give to yourself, bearing in mind what a great scientist once said: It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.
Workshop at ICDA’s In-Service Sept-2016. Source: Be the Best Teacher You Can Be.