If we think of teaching as a profession, what would that mean?
The 2% Rule
Set aside 2% of gross pay to purchase anything that will make your efforts easier or more effective. Like a dentist and his machines or a lawyer and her office furniture, we need to pay for some of our expenditures.
What would be in a closet of relevant props and equipment not well supplied by your institution that would make your job much easier in the long run?
Make a wish list of everything you think will enhance the classes you presently teach:
A Modern Must
Purchase an up-to-date computer on which to store and revise lesson plans, worksheets, curriculum outlines, scanned model papers, etc. The affect on better teaching can be enormous.
Keep technologically current: ours is by its nature a progressive profession in this sense: we are preparing students for the world that’s here and about to be here. We can’t do that if we don’t know about it.
Readily available software speeds the creation of rosters for attendance taking.
Grading can be done on spreadsheets with weighted formulas ready to go. This is particularly efficient at the end of term where final numbers can be inserted and instant averages determined. Consider allowing these to set the least possible grade in the name of fairness to all, then raise the grade when a student has grown more than is adequately reflected in the number so far.
“Academic software” is available to teachers at greatly reduced prices for virtually every well-known program. Long-term storage is simple and efficient. Take advantage of your status. Contact major companies directly or through your bookstore.
Search for and download a weighted-grading program and attendance software and try them out. Did you find a good one that you can easily use? Comment here:
Teaching is among the most stressful occupations on the planet. Ideally between classes teachers should take a walk and breathe the outside air, let go the tension from the previous class period and prepare mentally and emotionally for the next. Often, however, they are expected to be monitors and perform other mind-cluttering duties with very few minutes in between.
Nonetheless it is up to us to care for our personal well-being. What can we do?
Take walks, naps, stretch out, exercise, go swimming.
Arrange for regular massages, chair massages and hot baths.
Make a point of not talking for a while each day.
Be careful with diet; don’t rely on caffeine.
Make sure to wash whenever handling student papers, particularly if they are not computer printed. When necessary use antiseptic hand wash.
We need to be sensitive to the breakdowns of our own bodies and take time off when necessary, not just when the calendar says it’s okay. Look for danger signs – exhaustion, headaches, teeth grinding, alcoholism, depression. The body never lies.
Do one thing today in the name of your health and well-being. Make one change in your daily routine that you think will be personally beneficial.
Think of health in a wider context.
Compensate for isolation, in terms of the usual absence of other adults in the classroom, by opening channels of communication when possible. There are many ways to correspond with others in your field.
Work with other teachers when you can. Do you share a prep period? Is there someone you respect who is teaching the same course?
Look for opportunities and info on the web. Establish e-mail contact with those pursuing similar directions. Contact universities. Take courses. Ask about upcoming conferences. Consider websites such as this one. Keep abreast of the latest developments and try some of them out.
Learning, by definition, implies change. As members of the profession of learning itself, we cannot do things the same way we did forty years ago.
Always be a beginner at something to stay in touch with the learning process.
As professionals in our field we must find, create and share with our colleagues the techniques and strategies that effectively enhance learning today.
No matter what anyone tells us, we are not mass production machines, stamping out students according to someone else’s criteria.
What are you learning now?
For many years teachers were paid less than anyone with comparable academic credentials. More recently we have sacrificed our ability to develop our own sense of how best to employ our talents for a more adequate salary. Make no mistake; it is a heavy cost.
To compensate, sometimes we have been able to find ways to add to the paycheck with additional work we really wanted to do. Some of us lead touring groups, run drama clubs, offer private tutoring; some of us coach. Some seek grants, quality teaching bonus pay, and venues in which to publish.
All of this adds to a very busy agenda in a very stressful profession. And yet it may also move us in the direction we need to go if we are to satisfy our personal ambitions and inclinations. No two teachers are alike. And over time we may be able to make the choices we need. These help us escape the monoculture with its few limited categories of study and certification into new and broader dimensions to explore – some interdisciplinary, some multi-cultural, some in the field work, some curricular innovations, some national endowments.
These extras help us to continue to grow. Most of the time we must substantially alter our job conditions and even the job itself to continue our learning and carve out a place, even a unique one, for ourselves.
[For many years I was struck by the sense that I taught more successfully in the drama club and the 40 plus productions I directed during my high school days than in all the classes, in part because of the enthusiasm of the students who were similarly seeking what made them joyous and in part because of the contagion of enthusiasm. Eventually I created a Performing Arts Center and put on 5-7 productions a year as my job.]
Teaching is a highly creative endeavor. We are true builders of our nation and of our world. Respect must be earned and should be paid. (to paraphrase of Arthur Miller’s coda in “Death of a Salesman.”)
Testing one. . . two
Whatever we could get from testing, we have already gotten. Students average more than one a day! Rather than assessing what has been learned, tests tend to narrow what we try to teach.
Consider alternatives: portfolios build pride in work. Projects demonstrate accomplishment, as do papers, presentations, and performances.
Be direct: try self-evaluative schemes such as:
|What did you learn from the unit?|
|What did you get from the course?|
Feedback is an essential ingredient for achieving quality educational processes. Neither standardized test grades nor final exams of any sort address the matter nearly as fully or adroitly.
At some point we must acknowledge that it isn’t what the teacher wanted to teach so much as what the students came away with as individuals that matters. What inspired, what encouraged, what surprised, what informed can emerge in a well-thought-out feedback process. And these, if reviewed, are likely to improve the course the next time around.
Design questions as suggestions for gathering informal comment. Hopefully many (rarely all) responses to your work will contain regard and appreciation. A few may be bitter, often expressing a repetition of an early rejection and righteous indignation toward approaches which disturbed the student, and this may not have gone away, despite special attention on your part to be kind, encouraging and accepting of diverse views.
[A few critics may re-arrive years later with different perspectives. “You were right about the war!” … “Forever was a feeling not a time” … “I reread my journal from all those years ago and it brought back such odd feelings.”]
Well, as this manual was intended as a course, it’s time for your feedback
The Final Word:
What have you gotten from The Manual for Teacher Development?
What particular suggestions resonated for you?
How many did you try? Which ones?
Have you found a way to integrate these into a course you teach? How? (Be specific when you can.)
Do you intend to try out others? Which?
Any Final words on engaging with this manual?
How well do you think the manual would help educators be more effective and engaging?
This Self-Guided Manual for Teacher Development was originally conceived in conjunction with the Ed-Psych Masters Program for Teachers I developed for Marist College. It has been extensively broadened and expanded since.
The complete manual is available for teacher education courses at no cost and for individuals seeking to improve the quality of their own work.
©2015 Ken Moss, all rights relinquished.