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A Facebook friend shared a fabulous ad which appeared a few weeks ago in The Age – My Career section:

Job Ad

It’s a classic – no?

Apart from making me chuckle, this ad made me pause to consider the role of teachers: what it is we aim to achieve in our role and why we decide to go into teaching in the first place.

While passion and a love of kids are essential ingredients to being a successful educator, the role of a teacher is complex and demanding.  Most often, the full complexity of the job is not understood until working in the field.  Learning, mastering and perfecting a myriad of skills and techniques becomes a lifelong pursuit for all who work in the education sector.

Following the results of a recent OECD survey of 106,000 teachers from 34 countries in which 2059 Australian lower secondary school teachers and 116 principals participated, it was somewhat dismaying to learn that only 39% of Australian teachers included in this survey believed that society valued the teaching profession.

In a press release of The Teaching and Learning International Survey  which was conducted last year, it was stated that “Most teachers enjoy their job, despite feeling unsupported and unrecognised in schools and undervalued by society at large…”

The OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) finds that more than nine out of ten teachers are satisfied with their jobs and nearly eight in ten would choose the teaching profession again. But fewer than one in three teachers believe teaching is a valued profession in society. Importantly, those countries where teachers feel valued tend to perform better in PISA.”

It’s  encouraging to read that “teachers who engage in collaborative learning have higher job satisfaction and confidence in their abilities” a fact that lends support to my belief about the incredible benefit to teachers of Personal Learning Networks (PLNs).

Teacher feedback on the value of formal appraisal programs however, may well come as a surprise to the many schools who are implementing stringent programs.  While around 80% of teachers get feedback following classroom observation and 64% from student feedback, it seems appraisals are not necessarily translating into valued recognition of teachers’ skills.

But formal appraisals have little impact on career advancement or financial recognition, according to most teachers. Annual pay rises are awarded regardless of performance in four-fifths (78%) of schools and 44% of teachers work in schools where formal appraisals have no impact on career advancement.

Around half of teachers also report feeling that most appraisals are carried out merely as administrative exercises and 43% say they are not strongly related to how they teach in the classroom.”

It is interesting that this comment was echoed in a feature article published in the Education Age a few weeks prior to the OECD press release.  The article “A tick of respect keeps good teachers teaching” written by Emily Frawley, a Melbourne based secondary English teacher, reflects on the significant amount of time given over to teacher appraisal:

A lot of my time at the moment is being taken up with filling in performance development plans, documenting course outlines, having students fill out surveys on me, going over the data from my VCE student’s exam marks, having other staff observe and provide feedback on my practice, visiting and critiquing my colleagues, and attending meetings to discuss how to standardise the way I teach, assess and provide feedback to my students.”

Underlining this requirement to be accountable, Frawley states that it is the lack of respect shown to teachers as a profession which undermines the societal value of the teaching profession.  Her article is hard hitting and impassioned – well worth a read.

My awareness of the OECD report came from a recent article in The Age by Michael Preiss “Australian teachers feel undervalued: OECD report” (June 25, 2014).  Rather than highlight the valuable role of teachers in society, this article instead focuses heavily on the amount of time teachers spend disciplining students who interrupt.

Reading the OECD report itself, or its press release gives a far better picture of today’s teacher.   Better still, this video sums up the report’s findings well:

George Dantzig, born in 1914,  was an American mathematical scientist who made important contributions to operations research, computer science, economics, and statistics.  Just recently, my husband related to me a famous story about Dantzig:

Arriving late for a class with Professor Jerzy Neyman, Dantzig noticed two statistic problems on the blackboard.  Assuming they were a homework assignment, he copied them down and worked on them even though they “seemed a little harder than usual”.  A few days later he handed in the completed solutions to the two problems.

Six weeks later, an excited Professor Nayman visited Dantzig to tell him that the problems he had solved were two of the most famous unsolved problems in statistics!

An amazing achievement – no?

Isn’t it incredible what we can achieve when we don’t know the difficulty level of something or alternately when dogged determination is applied to either reach a conclusion or master a skill?

I found myself reflecting on the ‘I can’ attitude I regularly share with both students or teachers with whom I am working.  Having an ‘I can’ attitude to tackling the new – be it a skill or concept – creates a mental set for successful achievement.

I firmly believe that an “I can” attitude is a key ingredient to us being able to achieve almost anything.

Adhering to this approach has helped me tackle a myriad of life experiences in both my personal and professional life which I’m sure I’d never have broached if I hadn’t developed that “I can” attitude.

Instilling a belief in ourselves that we can accomplish, we can learn, we can master a new skill or concept is an essential ingredient in both teaching and learning!

 

It’s a few weeks since I saw this video excerpt from a TED talk from Frans de Waal.

If you’ve ever pondered the importance of morality, fairness and equality in education, this video exemplifies it perfectly!

Rewarding students fairly, goes to the very essence of education.  The “carrot and stick” approach has been used in our schools for time immemorial:

do your homework –> get good grades
study hard –> pass exams
do well in school –> get a good job

I guess that’s fine, but …. somehow it leaves me feeling a bit empty.

Not so long ago, I had a heated debate with a work colleague about this very topic.  Completing essays and worksheets, spurting forth facts previously learned by rote and learning how to complete exams so as to get high scores was not, I contended, a great education.   Instead,  I insisted, we need to excite in our students a love of learning and to give them a scaffolding of how to learn so that long after they leave our schools their desire to continue learning will never end.

Sadly – I didn’t win the argument.

It is with much anguish that I see teacher education follow the same path.  Rewards for learning are often overlooked.   Rarely do overworked, tired teachers get the opportunity or take the opportunity to learn just for the ‘hell of it’.

How sad.   What kind of role models are we to our students.   Surely there needs to be more to our professional learning than completing sufficient hours to ensure we maintain our teaching accreditation.

Kindling and then maintaining the flame of desire to learn within ourselves is the only way we can inspire a love of learning in our students.

I just caught up on reading the May 2014 (15) e-teaching post which was researched and prepared for ACEL by Katrina Davey.  The focus of this post is on a topic very dear to my heart: inspiring those teachers who proclaim their interest in ICT, but are simply too overloaded to take on yet another commitment.

We’ve heard all the protestations before.   We know everyone is busy.   Despite knowing this though, we still enthuse to our work colleagues about our latest discoveries which we know would become valuable gems to them on a daily basis – if only they would ‘give it a go’.

Coming up against the ‘brick wall’ responses ranging from verbal to non verbal is nothing short of deflating.  It’s good we’ve got thick skins though and persist in our efforts to share!

One of the by-products of our PLNs and the Blogosphere, Twitterspehere and other SM outlets, is that we continually encourage each other and know that as newbies come on board, our circle of sharing continually expands.  Sharing some of the key points outlined in Davey’s short post is bound to engage some of you out there and, with some luck, give you some ammunition to inspire some of your work colleagues to ‘give it a go’.

At the outset, Davey states what we’ve all come to know that teachers are unlikely to follow through exploring online resources which require setting up a login account or a class account.   Instead, she suggests:

The best way to motivate a reluctant staff member is to be able to show them a fun or interesting website which only took 10 minutes to examine and can be trialled in the next few days.”

Some of the ideas she suggests sound great:

  • Encourage teachers to explore just two websites which directly relate to the Australian Curriculum.  She nominates Scootle and ABC Splash.  They are both easy to navigate and are visually appealing.
  • Spend just 10 minutes locating a fun activity on Google by typing the teaching topic followed by any of these keywords:  interactive, animation, games, learning object, simulation, webquest.  Have a play to test out the sites value.  Decide whether to use this ‘find’ as a whole class or individual activity.
  • Capitalize on the fact that students constantly have earphones plugged in! Add keywords such as song, tune, lyrics and karaoke to a topic search to find appealing links which will make for memorable lessons.

A range of topics are explored on the weekly e-teaching posts and other e-publications from ACEL.  If you or your school is not already subscribing, I recommend you to check out the site.

Adobe Ink & Slide

Just a few days ago, I came across a new ‘can’t live without’ tool which has just come on the market.

Adobe Ink and Slide, available from the Adobe Store for just $199 USD, is set to revolutionize the drawing, designing and drafting tasks associated with creative professions of artist, designers and architects.   Although it’s clear that there are skills that need to be learned, once mastered, the design process seems to be charting a new course with this amazing tool.

Can’t wait to give it a try!  Check it out for yourself:

Adobe Ink & Slide

 

 

Social Media is a great way to stay abreast of so much.

While I’m not a big user of Facebook, and mostly restrict this to catching up with family and friends, every now and then, this too becomes a source of inspiration in which posts by friends or colleagues send me off on a tangent of exploration.

So it is with thanks to Tania Sheko, that I discovered an inspirational article about the impact of technology on the arts and specifically our museums.  Impossible  to ignore, I found myself reading and pondering various points raised in the post she cited: Can Museums and Other Institutions Keep Up with Digital Culture?  (located on smithsonian.com).

While so much mentioned in this article has become part and parcel of both discussion and practice in our schools – relevancy and engagement – clearly this is a new issue with which The Arts is grappling as they aim to ensure that the youth of today develops an appreciation and interest in that which their parents and grandparents have always valued, opera and symphonies for example.

Museums too are considered in this thought provoking article.  By nature, museums are traditional.  For millennia, museums have collected the old and put it on display.   The question being asked today is whether 21st century audiences are either attracted or interested in the old and if not, which clearly seems to be the case, what can be done about it?

A groundbreaking installation by David Datuna Portrait of America, a 12-foot long multi-media American flag, is the first public artwork to utilize Google Glass.  Displayed in the National Portrait Gallery over the recent President’s Day weekend, visitors wore Google Glass to ‘see’ intricate stories embedded within the flag.   As reported in this article,

For three days, more than 23,000 visitors waited in long lines to participate in what became a blockbuster event. My colleague Nik Apostolides, the museum’s associate director who organized the installation, pointed out that visitors happily used Google technology “to layer their interaction with the art.” With this remarkable piece situated center stage in the Great Hall, the museum suddenly morphed into a Digital Age showcase.”Can Museums and Other Institutions Keep Up with Digital Culture?  March 7, 2014
As noted by David Datuna in a recent BBC video, Google Glass formed a bridge between people and the concept of the piece.  In short

“Technology is a way that helps improve engagement … it helps with appreciation .. (and) also helps give a more fulfilled experience ….”

As Tania responded in a Facebook post back to me, seeing this kind of interactive technology makes us ponder the sort of changes we could implement in our school libraries.   Yes – it makes me think about how aspects of many exhibitions I’ve seen in recent times could be incorporated into programs in our schools.   More and more, technology is turning traditional ‘learning’ on its head.

Food for thought, no?!

For those of us working in education, we know that the role of teaching is both demanding and all consuming.   The responsibility is mammoth.  The preparation required to teach and be a good teacher is seemingly without end.

Teaching, as a profession, differs from all others.  The power and influence a teacher has over their students is profound.   Being the best, is something we all strive to be.

A great teacher can change a student’s life, and that’s not just some saying on a bumper sticker. There’s ample evidence that teaching is the single biggest in-school factor in a student’s achievement. It’s more important than class size, curriculum, or any other element at the school.”

                                                                                                                                                                                         Bill Gates On what teachers mean to me

Mentoring trainee teachers and new graduates is as big a responsibility as teaching the young students in our care.  Experienced teachers have much to share.  Ensuring that able and qualified mentors work with our trainee teachers and new graduates is essential.   Just as the students in our schools deserve good teachers who care about them, can relate to them and can foster their individual talents and skills, so must the mentors that work with our trainee teachers and young graduates be compassionate, patient and encouraging.   Being able to instill confidence, to guide by example and to nurture individual skills is essential to ensuring that the teaching profession gains strength.  Passing on skills and techniques by example is important.  Showing respect and recognition of the efforts of trainee teachers is crucial to instill a sense of worth and that sense of ‘can do’ in our new teaching colleagues.

Although the Davis Guggenheim Mentoring Short Film was created for the American market, the essence outlined is as relevant here in Australia as it is anywhere.   Providing good mentoring to teachers is crucial for improved student outcomes.   And, as is said at the end of this short video:

We want our students to be lifelong learners right ….. so as teachers that’s what we need to be.”

As I’ve so often said on this blog, lifelong learning is something to which we should all aspire.   Learning how to be a lifelong learner is important.  This is something we aim to teach our students and should be something that each of us should be pursuing in our daily professional lives.   Remaining an active learner means that we will never go stale.  Rising to the challenge of learning new concepts is a exhilarating.

Watch, think and learn:

A longer film TEACH by Davis Guggenheim is highly recommended by Bill Gates.

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