Why Teachers Deserve More Time for Increasing Their Information
- Jun 12, 2017
Teachers are dedicated, wise, and thoughtful change agents who need more time to identify problems they see in their schools or classrooms and work individually and collectively on solutions. They need both more time for individual planning and time to collaborate with colleagues who teach the same grades or the same subjects. A productive day of teaching requires substantial planning time to choose effective strategies, design lessons, prepare materials and collaborate with others. Any good teacher will tell you this, and they do, whenever they are asked.
In a sense, teachers are students throughout their lives. The moment they stop considering themselves students, they cease to be teachers. They need to keep on acquiring and updating knowledge of what they teach in classrooms, periodically, keeping up with the changing world. More so, they need to stay ahead of the student to stand everyday at the helm of the class and teach them. They can’t afford to be the same way they were 10 years ago and think that a classroom of teenagers can be managed by lifting a scale or scaring them to the principals’ room because they asked a question that they were not able to answer.
What teachers fail to learn in universities and teacher-training colleges they rarely pick up on the job. They become better teachers in their first few years as they get to grips with real pupils in real classrooms, but after that improvements tail off. This is largely because schools neglect their most important pupils: teachers themselves.
The demands placed on teachers continue to grow. As greater emphases are placed on positive school climates, restorative practices, trauma-informed schools, and inclusive classroom settings, teachers need additional time to prepare and plan. But asking teachers to do more without providing sufficient time to tackle these responsibilities impacts student outcomes. What’s more, it sends a terrible message to current teachers and those considering the profession: that teachers aren’t “real professionals.”
Teachers need to learn how to impart knowledge and prepare young minds to receive and retain it. Good teachers set clear goals, enforce high standards of behaviour and manage their lesson time wisely. They use tried-and-tested instructional techniques to ensure that all the brains are working all of the time, for example asking questions in the classroom with “cold calling” rather than relying on the same eager pupils to put up their hands.
And the idea of improving the average teacher could revolutionise the entire profession. Around the world, few teachers are well enough prepared before being let loose on children. In poor countries many get little training of any kind. A recent report found 31 countries in which more than a quarter of primary-school teachers had not reached (minimal) national standards. In rich countries the problem is more subtle. Teachers qualify following a long, specialised course. This will often involve airy discussions of theory. Some of these courses, including master’s degrees in education, have no effect on how well their graduates’ pupils end up being taught.
Unless teachers are getting extra time and extra professional development and working with experts because they like this sort of thing, it’s the wrong level of granularity. It’s like asking physicians to be medical researchers, too. People who write curriculum are smart enough that teachers shouldn’t have to rewrite it to make it usable (one hopes, and if not, buy a different curriculum) and it’s not that hard to make sure the stuff on the end-of-year test is covered before that test by re-ordering chapters with a sparing hand. Teachers should be focused on implementing curriculum to meet the needs of their specific group of students.
On paper everything makes sense but on field this is not possible due to society demands, norms, administrative paper work and decisions taken without consulting teachers. Teachers of the future will have greater confidence and will become more advanced in their ability to teach beyond the test. Paper/pencil tests have their place in assessing a student’s level of understanding of concepts. Life is filled with tests, many of which will not be on paper but on one’s ability to apply various skills. This can be achieved only with time in their hands.
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