Oct 072013
 

No One Can Do What You Do?

Who can do what you do? The reason a shortage exists in the field of teaching is simply because few can do what you do. The teaching profession is profoundly unique. In some areas of the country, a shortage is impacted by economics; other places are effected by geography and weather. For the most part, metropolitan cities have fewer issues in recruiting teachers than smaller, less populous locations. Nonetheless, the field of teaching is unique and shortages prove that few have the calling and desire to do what more than 3.1 million public and private educators are already doing. Let’s look at some of the reasons teaching is unique and why shortages are common across the country, specifically in specialized subject areas such as science, math, and special education.

There are seven ways in which teachers/educators are unique professionals:
First, we’ve already established the fact that teachers embrace the field of education as a calling not as a job. Let’s face it, teaching is a very complex and demanding career that requires teachers to be managers of people, analyzers of data, and researchers of best practices and instructional methodologies-and these skills are utilized each day. In any other major profession that required the same unique qualifications, teachers would make significantly more money. Undoubtedly, the salaries for teachers must be reexamined and adjusted to reflect the uniqueness of the profession and provide balanced scales for all teachers, whether they work in a big city or a small town or country hamlet.

Second, teachers are also unique because the profession is now driven by so much data. Teachers must now be statisticians and researchers, fully accountable in some form or fashion for managing data in the areas of assessment, attendance, graduation rates, discipline percentages, and gifted and special education progress. The administrative responsibilities of the teacher have definitely increased, but the resources necessary to make the management of these duties efficient are minimal. The new demand for data is needed, and critical to enhancing results, but resources are likewise needed to help teachers be effective and efficient in collecting, examining, and utilizing the data.

Third, teachers are required to be learning and behavioral specialists and to be able to apply differentiated instruction. Differentiated instruction is a newly celebrated philosophy, and a mandate for all teachers, that requires teachers to find effective teaching strategies that will meet the needs of students with different learning styles, all in the same classroom at the same time. Teachers must, then, be competent and active in enlisting the unique resources and skills necessary to meet the needs of kinesthetic, visual, and auditory learning styles. Additionally, the special challenges of addressing emotional behavioral disorders, learning disabilities, and attention deficit problems-all in the same classroom-broaden the gap between teachers and managers. Today’s teachers are practitioners, researchers, and change agents; but, none of these unique skills are recognized or rewarded.

Fourth, continuing on the same theme, teachers must work with every child, despite the challenges of that child. In nearly every other profession, management is able to pick out the bad product or the poor employee so that productivity and quality can be increased. Educators do not have that same luxury. Instead, public education demands that every child be given the resources and opportunity to succeed. This includes those students who truly want to learn and will become good “products” and those students who get energized from wreaking havoc and chaos in school by fighting, dealing drugs, taking part in gang activity, or constantly disrupting classes.

Instead of weeding out the bad students, educators are required to manage all situations, to provide alternatives to parents, and to somehow effectively guide troubled students through the educational process. And teachers realize that they must do so, regardless of social and economic situations and, in some cases, the lack of positive parental guidance that might influence the behavior of the student. What becomes most frustrating is recognizing that, if these challenging students refuse the positive alternatives, they may end up dead, in jail, or in a hospital or wallowing in a continuing cycle of poverty. No one gets into teaching to celebrate such a potential loss of lives and potential. Teachers get into the business to change and enhance lives-uniquely, and one by one, as needed.

Fifth, teachers are unique because the line of accountability in education has many levels and tangents. This accountability is not necessarily a bad thing, but it has added to the complexity of teaching. In one way or another, teachers are impacted by the federal government, a state department of education, the local school district, and administration at their school. What does this mean for teachers? It means that the results of classroom practices go far beyond the classroom, students, parents, and principals. I can’t name another career field that has as many accountability variables and levels as does the field of public education. As a teacher-educator, be aware that your individual results in the classroom are data and will be analyzed as data and that those results will be evaluated in ways that are unique to the field of education. Your successes or failures in the classroom, as reflected in the data, will impact your longevity in the field of education.

Sixth, educators are unique in that no other professional group manages so many people and is so responsible for individual progress. Teachers work with up to one hundred and eighty students or more each day and are required to ensure that each of those students succeeds academically. Young people, from the ages of four to twenty, are instructed, counseled, directed, nurtured, motivated, inspired, and coached by teachers-a cycle that continues until high school graduation, in best-case scenarios.

You may be surprised to know that children spend more time at school than they do awake at home and that children are influenced by more adults in school than in any other social circle. That makes the public school system the single most influential force on children-more so even than church. Teaching, then, is a unique career that is faced with high liability and tremendous responsibility-because real lives are dependent on competent and professional adults. These demands are tremendous, and very few people can meet them successfully.

Lastly, teaching is unique because it is the only profession where the federal government has mandated absolute perfection. Specifically, the No Child Left Behind Act requires that all children-that’s 100 percent-reach proficiency on state level assessments. Between the lines, this legislation essentially requires teachers to provide effective and rigorous instruction, which will hopefully translate into providing the necessary skills and information sets so that students can be literate and competent. However, the mandate that all students be made to pass assessments is largely unrealistic because of unforeseen and calculable variables that prohibit the attainment of such a goal. Yes, the goal is lofty, but it is worthy. The expectation that teachers teach is warranted. At the end of the day, we all know that students must be able to think and apply their knowledge in real life. After all, primary and secondary schooling is a training ground with the ultimate goal of preparing young people to successfully navigate college, a profession, and the world of adults. But the attainment of such an idealistic goal as what is outlined in No Child Left Behind creates an all-consuming stress that has hurt and will continue to hurt the teaching profession if not taken in stride.

As this federal policy stands, I expect it to cause numerous educators to leave the profession-not one scientist or researcher would ever purport to achieve 100 percent accuracy on any research or experiment due to variables. Even 99.9 percent acknowledges the influence of some variables, even if it is only 0.1 percent. Yet, in the world of education, teachers must live with and comply to that unrealistic federal mandate or find a new line of business, which could be extremely detrimental to hundreds of districts across the country.

So, yes, teaching is unique, and it requires educators to be multi-faceted and multi-talented. It is my strong belief that very few professions demand what is required of teachers in the public sector. The demands are not necessarily bad, but they are indications of the complex nature of the teaching profession. Those who are cut out for this unique profession are called, often naturally skilled or highly and thoroughly trained, and committed to success. And, no, not everyone is cut out for a career in the most challenging occupation on the planet. It also requires an awareness of self. And, it is not for the weary. No, not everyone can do what teachers do. Join the movement – The Teachers Movement and make a difference.

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Dr. Graysen Walles Author, Reasons to Keep Teaching: The Greatest Career on the Planet http://theteachersmovement.com

Jul 212013
 

One special teacher can make a student feel inspired, as though he can do anything in the world if he sets his mind to it. Unfortunately, this student may enter another teacher’s class with a sense of overarching dread. One teacher can make a spirit soar while the other seems destined to destroy. The difference between the two teachers is soft skills.

Depending on whom you ask, soft skills are loosely defined as people skills. Kate Lorenz, an editor for CareerBuilder.com says that soft skills “refer to a cluster of personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social graces that make someone a good employee and compatible to work with.” The most important of these skills are Professionalism/Work Ethic, Oral and Written Communications, Teamwork/Collaboration and Critical Thinking/Problem Solving. These are the very skills educators seek to impart to their students.

On any average day, teachers work with a variety of people. Soft skills translate into the ability to successfully navigate the needs of those individuals. A teacher must use her oral and written communication skills every day to effectively pass on information to her students. A teacher uses teamwork and collaboration at any school-wide function, including faculty meetings. Without critical thinking and problem solving skills, the teacher cannot effectively manage classroom behavior or student progress.
A successful teacher will find that his voice and vocabulary do the marvels which no other device can do.

Another important thing to mull over is his attitude which comprises proper planning and zeal to stir sensations in the classroom. A teacher has to adapt according to the situations; he has to bring in himself a proper blend of rigidity and flexibility allowing him to create humor at times to drive away the monologue. One should be wary enough not to hurt anyone’s cultural and religious beliefs. Challenging though such things are, they are not devoid of satisfaction if practiced earnestly. If teachers remain aware of the importance of such soft skills in teaching, it not only will establish proper rapport between the teacher and the taught but also ensure our competence and bring admiration.

Teachers have various roles. The main role is the content expert. However, this role alone is not sufficient to describe the work of teachers. Teachers are also consultants, managers, motivators, and counselors. Teachers are also decision makers. Each teacher has to engage in an ongoing series of decision-making. The areas are planning decisions, teaching and managing decisions, and assessment decisions.

Educational institutions are looking for various soft skills in teachers, besides technical competence and work experience. The twenty-first century workplace does not require teachers who are “walking encyclopedias” but rather self-reliant and resilient individuals who are achievement-oriented with high self-esteem; persuasive and effective communicators; emotionally intelligent; good problem solvers and decision makers with analytical and creative minds; fast and lifelong learners; good team players; and ethical with a high standard of integrity (morally intelligent).

For teachers, the ability to use effective soft skills can make or break a career. While it may seem obvious that such skills would factor importantly in a classroom, soft skills are also paramount when working with parents, administration and other teachers.

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Author: Ajit K Singh has a Masters in Economics from Delhi University. Among his varied interests he has a passion for Philosophy, Psychology, Soft Skills and related subjects. Following the family tradition, he got commissioned in the Indian Air Force as an Administrative Officer. He specialized in selection of Officers for commissioning, having done a course in the Defence Institute of Psychological Research, Delhi. Post retirement he researched and became a trainer in Soft Skills and Emotional Intelligence, including Life Skills. He is an avid writer and occasional poet.

Apr 102013
 

In this talk from RSA Animate, Sir Ken Robinson lays out the link between 3 troubling trends: rising drop-out rates, schools’ dwindling stake in the arts, and ADHD. An important, timely talk for parents and teachers.
Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we’re educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence.

http://bit.ly/QCLhWy

Jan 182013
 

Sand and Water Tables are a perfect addition to classrooms, daycares, playrooms or backyards. Really, anywhere there are children with adults interested in their education. There are literally hundreds of ways to elevate the level of learning for your children by coming up with different projects, or using different material, even conduction experiments with your sand and water tables. Children will experience development in sensory, motor and social skills, and have a broader understanding of spatial relations and natural science. Oh yea, and an amazing amount of fun!

When choosing a project for your class or your kids be mindful of their ages. For example; if you are going to substitute sand with dry noodles make sure small children are being supervised closely to prevent choking. For older children lay down some rules and give them some responsibility over their sand and water table. If you take the sand and water tables out regularly get the children into a routine of set up and clean up. This not only makes your life easier, but this teaches them to work together and as you praise them for a job well done they will learn to take pride in work.

Free play requires little preparation on your part and is one of the greatest ways to use your sand and water table. There are very few limitations on what your children can experience. Try setting your children up with sand, water and toy sea creatures. Throw grass in there for sea weed. Not that children need much encouragement before they play pretend, but sometimes its fun to teach them about the ocean maybe let them color in an octopus or shark before letting them go. Free play is a highly educational time for children, it is not simply a way to keep the kids occupied, though it does accomplish this well. During this time children learn to create their own worlds which gives them a sense of control over their environment. Children are young and their imaginations are powerful and this little tub is like a melting pot. Watch your children closely and you will see them working things out together and yes sometimes fighting as their view of this play world may clash with someone elses’ view. Free play helps them learn to share, not only toys but also space and a collaborative view of their ocean world.

Sensory Games are also excellent ways to use your sand and water activity tables. One idea is to first make the water cloudy with paint or even mud. Then place different object at the bottom. Then have the children form a line and one at a time try to guess, by using their sense of touch, what is at the bottom of the tub. Aside from random objects, have each child bring something from home. Send them home the day before with a ditto explaining the project so their mom can help them find something suitable. Then have them bring it in concealed in a paper bag and brought to you. This project is fun to watch the kids try so hard not to tell the others what they brought in. And they all get pretty excited when their object gets picked. Another variation of this is to find three dimensional letters and numbers and have them feel what symbol they are holding. After they have guessed their letter correctly have them hold on to it for a project to do latter where you can reinforce their understanding of the alphabet, now from a platform of pride and accomplishment. Children always learn better when they think its their idea or that they have somehow earned it.

Other fun educational activities are Sand and Water Table Experiments. By using your sand and water table children can learn about photosynthesis, metamorphosis, erosion and countless other laws of natural science. Try filling a clear tub with healthy soil and divide the tub in half by placing an opaque tub over on half (so as to block out light on that half). Then have each child place two seeds in the soil, one each side. Make sure they place their seeds close to the outside, half the fun is watching the roots grow. As they see the plants growing you can explain photosynthesis by teaching the kids how plants need to eat soil, water and sunlight like they need to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.

While sand and water tables are built for the convenience of having a portable and secure tub, many of the same projects, experiments and fun can be had by using large plastic bowls, baby bathtubs, or any container that can hold water, be easily dumped and is not in danger of braking.

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Corey Hardin, Vice President to JoLee OE Early Childhood Educational Products. If you are interested in purchasing Sand and Water Tables, Sensory Tables, or simply looking for fun projects to do with your sand and water tables, I recommend Fun Kids Tables.http://www.funkidstables.com

Jan 182013
 

The family is both the fundamental unit of society as well as the root of culture. It … is a perpetual source of encouragement, advocacy, assurance, and emotional refueling that empowers a child to venture with confidence into the greater world and to become all that he can be.

~ Marianne E. Neifert. Dr. Mom’s Parenting Guide

More quotations about family at http://bit.ly/siNxqq