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Posts Tagged ‘teachers’

The days have flown by and for those of us here in Australia, it is the start of another school year.

Finding inspiration from those around me or from the never ending store of knowledge shared here in cyberspace, I look forward to all that lays ahead in 2014!

Talking of inspiration from those around me, it was late last year that a friend sent me a link to an intriguing website: Letters of Note which aims to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, memos and photos.  It was on this site that I was able to read a brief bio of the well-respected award winning author of novels and essays, Albert Camus.  Raised in extreme poverty after the death of his father when he was just 11 months old, it was in school that his teacher, Louis Germain, encouraged and fostered Camus’ potential.

Never to be forgotten by Camus, it was in 1957 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, that Camus wrote a letter of thanks to his teacher.

19 November 1957

Dear Monsieur Germain,

I let the commotion around me these days subside a bit before speaking to you from the bottom of my heart. I have just been given far too great an honour, one I neither sought nor solicited.

But when I heard the news, my first thought, after my mother, was of you. Without you, without the affectionate hand you extended to the small poor child that I was, without your teaching and example, none of all this would have happened.

I don’t make too much of this sort of honour. But at least it gives me the opportunity to tell you what you have been and still are for me, and to assure you that your efforts, your work, and the generous heart you put into it still live in one of your little schoolboys who, despite the years, has never stopped being your grateful pupil. I embrace you with all my heart.

Albert Camus

I embrace you with all my heart (Letters of Note: 7 November 2013)

As we embrace a new school year and get swept up by the busy schedule of events, programs and commitments that are part and parcel of every school day, it is incumbent on each and every one of us to remember the impact we are capable of having on the minds and lives of our students.

Teachers, like parents, are role models who have a very powerful influence on the students they teach.   It may be a word, a lesson or even just a passing comment that stays with a particular student long after they have left our schools.  Sharing our passion for learning with our students is perhaps one of the most powerful gifts we have to give.   Inspiring our students to reach out, to explore, to question and to discover are the tools by which our students learn to become lifelong learners.

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There has been so much talk of late about technology, the digital age and the value of all that is new in education in the 21st Century that it’s easy, I think, to lose sight of the most valuable asset of our schools.

Remove teachers from our schools and the value, standard and worth of education will be depleted.

It’s so easy to take teachers for granted.  The days are full on.  Commitments are never ending.  Demands are high.  Walk through the corridors of our schools and you see teachers involved in every facet of the school day, the school organization.  The clockwork of routines so familiar to us all hinge around teachers.  Students depend on teachers for a myriad of support, instruction and direction.  Teachers offer so much to their school community:

  • inspiration for students to learn, strive and achieve
  • role models for students to emulate
  • recognition that not all students learn at the same pace
  • quality control to ensure that students deliver
  • guidance to improve students’ performance
  • care of the ‘whole’ student
  • structure to ensure educational goals are identified and achieved
  • innovations to the development and delivery of curriculum
  • shared responsibility with parents for student’s educational, social and emotional growth
  • direction on how technology can be harnessed by students to better their learning goals

School administrators would be lost without the support and dedication of their teachers. That’s why I’m thrilled when the efforts of teachers are acknowledged and recognized.

The 2012 school year began just three weeks ago for us at this end of the world, but already I feel the warmth and appreciation swirling between colleagues, administrators and members of the school community.  The strong sense of support, collegiality and recognition of worth openly shared is a sure way to generate teachers’ increased commitment, performance and drive.

It’s incumbent on school administrations to constantly express their appreciation of their teaching staff, to laud them and ensure they know they are of value in the day to day running of the school and the overall achievements and recognition for which the school strives.  Schools that treat their teachers well are sure to reap the dividends!

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Many would-be educational innovators treat technology as an end-all and be-all, making no effort to figure out how to integrate it into the classroom. “Computers, in and of themselves, do very little to aid learning,” Gavriel Salomon of the University of Haifa and David Perkins of Harvard observed in 1996. Placing them in the classroom “does not automatically inspire teachers to rethink their teaching or students to adopt new modes of learning.”

So wrote Michael Hilzik in in a recent Los Angeles Times article Who really benefits from putting high-tech gadgets in the classroom?  More than once I’ve expressed my thinking on this topic.   No way can technology replace teachers.  No way can Google replace teachers.

It is without a doubt, I feel, that the role of teachers will continue to retain relevancy in our schools.   Indeed, it will be teachers who guide students in how technology can be successfully harnessed.  It will be teachers who will seize technology, adapting and innovating it as a tool for improved learning opportunities in our schools.   Integrating technology into the classroom and into the school curriculum is the domain of teachers, not the inventors of the technology.

My thoughts concur totally with Salomon’s words.  Placing computers in the classroom

does not automatically inspire teachers to rethink their teaching or students to adopt new modes of learning.”

A number of schools in Victoria are enjoying the recent bulk purchase of iPads.   They’ve been put into the hands of teachers with the intention of rolling them out to students in a couple of months.   The expectation, of course, is that teachers will use iPads to successfully engage students in the learning process.

Most definitely the approach is ambitious.  But then, aren’t all revolutions?

Hanging back, waiting for time to tick by, hoping that the latest new fad will pass us by, is a technique employed by many of us.   We’re all human, aren’t we?  Fear of failure is real.   Feeling intimidated by technology is understandable.  Changing teaching methods is threatening.  And with all the demands placed on teachers ….. well ….. it’s just plain inconceivable to find more hours in the day to take on more professional learning.

There’s not one of us who doesn’t employ the ‘tomorrow’ syndrome.

So the scenario that we’re seeing in many schools today can really be regarded as a clever ploy by our school administrators.   Give teachers the tools, give them a time frame, provide in house learning opportunities and re-shape the learning environment to include students as teachers really is a great way to inspire an educational revolution.

How great will it be to see the levelling of the playing field between teachers and students?   How great will it be when we all accept the fact that our ‘teacher’ title does not mean that we know it all?   How great will it be to have the confidence to walk into a classroom and ask our students for help and guidance?   How empowering will it be to both teachers and students to feel the joy of learning?     How great will it be for teachers to be role models to students, to show them – first hand – the joy that can be derived from lifelong learning!

Ensuring that teachers learn new skills and feel confident and competent to use these new tools in the classroom is a key to the successful integration of iPads into our schools.  Adopting some of these ideas may assit the process:

  1. Provide teachers with ‘chunks’ of time to sit down and play.  A snatched hour here or there, a staff meeting, or a short professional learning session on day one of the year, is simply not enough time for anyone, let alone the novice user, to embrace, learn and master the intricacies of a new tool such as the iPad.
  2. Don’t expect teachers to only pick up skills after hours.  While some teachers will embrace this opportunity, others will rightly throw up their hands saying the obvious: “I’ve got a life outside of work!”
  3. Create opportunities for teachers to meet and share.   Innovate, re-think and re-imagine previously tried professional learning formats.  Try introducing an AppChat in which teachers can share and chat about new apps discovered.
  4. Breakdown the barriers.  Put a call out to students asking who among them is an experienced iPad user and would like to work with a teacher to develop skills.
  5. Utilize the train the trainer model so that a teacher who has mastered a new app can train another teacher on how to use it as well as how it can be used in the classroom.
  6. Have teachers meet in small clusters either within subject departments or across subject departments so that they can chat and share.
  7. While using iPads in the classroom won’t change the content of what is taught in the classroom, it will change the way content is presented and the way students engage with the subject matter.  Set up brainstorming sessions in which teachers can look at an app and together come up with ways it can be employed in the classroom.
  8. Mix and match skills.  Have teachers rate their own skill and use this as the basis to provide staff with mentors or buddies with whom they can partner in their learning.
  9. Recognize that the process of learning in teachers echoes that of students.  Some learn more quickly, others more slowly.  Some are confident to play with the unknown, others are reticent.  Provide professional learning sessions that ensure teachers don’t feel like failures.
  10. Create situations in which all teachers feel empowered and excited by what they are learning.  Never forget that learning begets learning: the more you learn the more you want to learn.  If this is what we aim for among our students, why shouldn’t it be what we aim for among our teachers?

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