Isn't summer wonderful? Sleeping in, re-acquainting with long lost family members, sipping iced beverages pool side, and attending professional development. Does one of these things not look like the others? Although the professional development may not be what some teachers might consider a highlight of summer, those who know actually look forward to the opportunity to learn ways to improve professionally. Remember, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
The summer is where many of the solutions to problems of the previous school year are found and many of the potential problems of the next school year are prevented. There are many places to look for opportunities. A good place to start is at the USBE website. Summers off? Sort of.
At this time of year, when so many of our students are in the thick of test taking, it seems natural to think about our own year's growth. How high have we climbed in the last year on what John Hattie calls the "ladder of excellence?" Whatever role in which we are presently cast, we might ask the same question. Whether a seasoned veteran mentor or a wide-eyed newbie, we are each somewhere reaching ever higher.
One of the primary objectives of a new teacher and mentor program at a school ought to be a focus on accelerating this rate of climb for new teachers and mentors alike. If the relationship is truly collaborative, both are enriched through the mutual benefit of experiences and expertise.
The type of growth hoped for in a mentoring relationship can only occur through a process of dialogue. As Paulo Freire describes it, dialogue is dependent on both members of the relationship having an equal voice and working together to construct an improved understanding. He says that "no one can say a true word alone—nor can she say it for another, in a prescriptive act which robs others of their words. Dialogue is the encounter between men, mediated by the world, in order to name the world."
In such a complex profession as education, if we are to advance, we must engage in a constant process of naming and renaming the world. At the core of the work of an educator is something like what Wallace Stevens describes as a "response to the daily necessity of getting the world right." And to really get it right, we will need to share in the expertise of others who are similarly engaged in the same process.
One challenge of instructional coaching is to help teachers move from an academic understanding toward a practical and real-world implementation of best instructional practices. This challenge is complicated by at least two factors.
The first of these is context. In order to make feedback most meaningful to the teacher, it should be given within the context of his or her own classroom. Doing so increases the immediacy and relevance of the feedback as well as the likelihood that the feedback will lead to improvement of practice. Perhaps the best way to give contextualized feedback about classroom instruction is through virtual coaching. This is done by video recording a classroom activity and having a coach provide feedback through written comments. If the comments are time-stamped, the level of specificity of the feedback increases.
The second factor is time. The goal should be to decrease the time intervening between when the practice occurs and the feedback is given. It would be best if coaching could occur in real-time. This is similar to what a coach of a basketball team might do. It is not uncommon for a coach to give instructions from the sideline. In a similar way, an instructional coach can give instructions to the teacher in real-time from the sideline. Of course, the obstacle to doing this is to not create a distraction to learning.
In the video produced by The Teaching Channel, they discuss ways to make these ideas take shape in the classroom. With the potential benefits of improved classroom instruction, it might be worthwhile for instructional coaches to give these strategies a try.
As we approach the last quarter of the year and students are registering for classes, some teachers are beginning to look forward to next year. This seems natural to wonder what next year holds in store for us. Some predictions are not too tricky. We know the students will be there. We know the papers will be there. Other predictions are a bit more challenging. What will the new IPhone look like? OK, maybe that might not be the most important question; however, it does lead to an important point.
If we project the question of what is waiting for us in education beyond just next year, a world of possible uncertainty opens to us. While there are many things we cannot predict, we are not left completely unaware. In a recent article, one author suggests that there are, in fact, several points about which we can be certain. Beginning with these as a starting point, we can begin to plan for a future education regardless of what the latest shape the IPhone might be.
What is the value of a good teacher? It turns out that we have some, if partial, answers to this question. In some really interesting research, economists sought to quantify the importance of improving teacher effectiveness. They began with the assumption that improving teacher effectiveness would have positive and life-long impacts on the quality of the lives of students. Their assumption was correct. The impacts are significant beyond what we may think. Incidentally, the benefits have very little to do with any specific content knowledge. That is, the benefit of a high quality math teacher does not terminate with a student's better understanding of math. Instead the affects of a more effective teacher appear in somewhat surprising and far-reaching areas.
Benefits of increasing teacher effectiveness
Increased college attendance
Increased lifetime earnings
Decreased teenage birth rates
Raised socio-economic status of community
Increased retirement savings
In short, we clearly see that increasing teacher effectiveness has a tremendous impact on our economy. In real numbers, the economic benefit of a teacher who is 1 standard deviation above the median is roughly $4,600 per student. That would be $138,000 for a class of 30 (Chetty, Friedman, Rockoff, 2011). In a very real and measurable way, the benefits of a highly effective teacher last for the rest of the students' lives.
In a recent article in the Salt Lake Tribune, we read about something that many educators have known for a long time. We are in the midst of a transitional time in our profession. In many schools, there have been a significant number of new teachers for a few years. In just a few years a majority of a given faculty could be completely turned over.
The excitement of change in this current condition also comes with some cause for concern. In some schools, the number of people in need of a mentor exceeds the number of mentors in the building. All this points to the need for educators to consider taking upon themselves the role of mentor and to be trained.
Once trained, relatively new and mid-career teachers find that working in this role enlarges their own professional capacity, builds collegiality, and helps to ensure a consistent level of student achievement. Whether a person is assigned as a mentor or wants to be ready in case they are assigned, every teacher should consider participating in mentor training.
It is reasonable to predict that a majority of teachers will at some point be asked to mentor a new teacher. In some cases, there have been teachers training as mentors while they are still being mentored. Although this may seem funny, such is the state of our education profession.
We offer many chances each year for teachers to become trained as mentors. Look in JPLS to find more information on the options available to you.
The boss over Utah's largest teachers union believes the shortfall is a symptom of issues facing education. It's a national problem, with a 30 percent drop in teachers from 2008-2012, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Just like having good mentors is important to student teaching, as newly hired educator, having a mentor at your school is incredibly important, too. Mentor teachers can provide invaluable help to new teachers. Mentors are experienced, patient, knowledgeable veteran teachers who are selected and trained to guide new teachers.
For some time now, teachers have understood the value of using TED videos in their classroom. When used well, they can enhance many lessons. Additionally, they can serve as a springboard to many rich discussions on a wide variety of topics like whether the egg or chicken came first. Somewhat less known is TED-ED and TED-ED Lessons. The once disparate collection of interesting videos has been organized into a tidy package for teachers to use in their classrooms. Additionally, lessons have been created for the videos. In addition to the ready-made lessons, teachers can create their own lessons using an almost endless database of educational videos. When planning a lesson or reflecting on ways to improve one previously taught, consider using this great resource as a supplement to your lesson.
Getting students to think at a higher level is, to say it lightly, a challenge. However, when done, the reward is great. In a recent webinar, Kathy Glass discusses her book Complex Text Decoded: How to Design Lessons and Use Strategies That Target Authentic Texts. In the discussion, she gives real-life ways to get to a deeper understanding of the types of texts we use everyday. What's more is that these strategies can be used for a wide range of texts and across all subjects. It is important to note that student engagement will also increase as teachers lead conversations to a deeper level. This is something any teacher would wish for. By following the strategies presented in the webinar, teachers can learn to become more deliberate about making these discussion occur with greater frequency in their classrooms.
The return to work after an extended break is often accompanied with a mix of emotions. During the time off, many remember that they enjoy spending time with family and friends. In fact, the time of rediscovery is something more veteran teachers eagerly anticipate and plan for. Looking forward to time off is nice. The return to work/reality is not always as eagerly anticipated. However, the question that must be raised is whether there could be another way. Is there a way to enjoy life between the breaks? Is it necessary to put family and self interests on hold with each return to work? This is a problem that many new educators struggle to solve. Striking an acceptable balance between work, home, and self interests is a tricky one. One source suggests that there are some steps that teachers can take to more easily arrive at a sort of equilibrium of work and personal life. Additionally, Andy Puddicombe makes a compelling case for regularly doing nothing.
As educators, we all have worked hard to get to where we are today. We are all concerned about the future and what our place will be in that future. Here are a few suggestions of behaviors that we can use to demonstrate that we are professional and want to be taken seriously in our jobs.
Always be on time to school, to extracurricular duties, to meetings, and to class.
Dress in a professional manner.
Follow school rules, policies, and directions from supervisors. If you disagree with a rule, follow the proper channels to change it.
Have a thorough knowledge and understanding of the content you teach.
Actively seek to learn more about current best teaching practices in our field..
Convey your pride in your profession and your interest in being the best teacher that you can be.
As a new teacher, be appreciative of your colleagues’ experience and expertise.
Be flexible when your plans don’t work out or when interruptions disrupt a lesson.
Resist the urge to complain. Remaining cheerful under stress is an invaluable workplace skill.
Remember to laugh every day. Laughing really does make the day go by faster.