Saturday, July 17, 2010
Asking the students what they think
1. Teachers should enjoy teaching the subject – and pass on this enthusiasm to the students. This enthusiasm comes from a deep knowledge of the curriculum and the belief that this content is important for students to learn. The teachers’ enthusiasm is seen by students as being more important than the actual content.
2. Teachers should enjoy teaching young people and create a climate that is supportive and encourages risk taking.
3. Lessons should be interesting and should be connected and relevant to life beyond school.
4. Teachers should be willing to have a laugh, but at the same time should know how to maintain order.
5. Teachers should be fair. This is a difficult one as fairness could be defined by students as equality (treating everyone the same) or it could be defined by them as equity (treating everyone according to their needs). One interesting thing to come out of the report is how the students defined unfair treatment. Most of the time they meant unreasonable instead of unfair and this implied they did not understand the reasons for decisions that were made. Often a teacher can be seen as fair just by explaining the reason for a situation to the students.
6. Teachers should be easy to talk to. This calls for teachers to have well developed listening skills and for them to be trustworthy as well as being able to give sound advice.
7. Teachers should not shout – this is often seen as threatening and inhibits risk taking, creativity and higher level thinking.
8. Teachers should not make comparisons between schools, classes, students or siblings as this can undermine self-esteem and achievement. A negative self-image leads to failure in school.
9. Teachers should explain things without making students feel small.
10. Teachers should not give up on their students – having high expectations are extremely powerful. If we aim too low this sends a message to students that they are not capable or that we don’t care.
When I reflect back on my own time at school, I can easily identify the teachers who enthused and motivated me. I’m sure, for example, that I went on to study Geography directly as a result of the love of this subject by my A’Level Geography teacher who was always going off to different parts of the world on field trips and who would bring back and share with us her slides and photos. This probably influenced me to become a bit of a globe-trotter as an international teacher myself, and in turn may well have been the reason why my son, who is now at university studying Geography himself, became interested in the subject.
Bill and Ochan make another important point. Many teachers, when asked to recall a particularly successful lesson or teaching experience, tend to recall lessons from their own childhood rather than recent ones by their colleagues. This is a worrying finding as it indicates how isolated many teachers are in their own rooms – they may plan collaboratively, but often the actual teaching goes on in isolation in many classes. Teachers, therefore, often lack recent examples of pedagogical excellence.
In my own teaching I’m extremely lucky. As an IT teacher who is responsible for integrating IT into the curriculum I’m never teaching alone. Either the class teacher brings his or her class to the lab and I work with them there, or else I go to their classrooms and do the IT there. This has been one way of professionally developing the teachers with IT of course, but I have learnt so much as well from going into the classes and seeing what the teachers are doing and how they are doing it. Our aim is to co-plan, co-teach and co-assess all the units of inquiry. We are not there yet, but we have made a good start.
Photo Credit: Chinese Class by cleverCl@i®ê>