Teaching – Seven Uniquenesses of the Teaching Profession

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.

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

Changing education paradigms

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.


Activities for kids – Spot the difference

Play “Spot the difference” and talk about fruit and vegies

=> http://bit.ly/VY0PZI

The Organized Teacher: A Hands-On Guide to Setting Up and Running a Terrific Classroom

by Steve Springer

Usable as a hands-on guide from the very first day of school,The Organized Teacher addresses the practical needs of firstyear teachers of grades K-8. It covers everything they need to know, from classroom management and school procedures to streamlined record keeping and state standards. The book includes helpful reproducible checklists and instructive illustrations, along with invaluable advice from experienced professionals. => http://bit.ly/Qo6DGg

Education – today and tomorrow

This video was created by Tom Woodward of Henrico County schools in Virginia. Tom used the work of Karl Fisch from Colorado who created a PPT using various quotes and statistics from “flat world” thinking. Used with permission

Use the Solar System jigsaw to teach and learn about space

Solar system jigsawis an interactive resource to teach about the solar system.

The activity is divided into three levels: planet, moon and hardware. => http://bit.ly/pmwem1

What Teenagers Need – Positive Teaching and Parenting

As a high school teacher for the last few decades, I found that the Bible reference that says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen,” was totally relevant with regard to what teenagers need.

Having a bit of a temper tantrum, whether at home or in the classroom, is pretty well as unwholesome, detrimental and harmful as you can get and only serves to discourage, exasperate or rile your teenagers. (Ask me how I know this.)

“Unwholesome talk” can also be a quiet word of criticism. Once when I was supervising a junior Maths class, I noticed a worksheet on the floor next to a student’s desk. It was crumpled in one corner and not many of the exercises had been completed. I pointed out both these shortcomings to the student and it was almost as if I could see the shutters come down on six month’s worth of rapport building.

The words came out before I had my mind in gear and I knew as I was talking that it was the wrong thing to say. Normally I would have said “Would you like a new sheet?” or “How can I help you?” or “This is a good start, now let’s see how much you can get done in the next 10 minutes.” Cajoling is always better than criticism.

My experience, when I’m criticized (even if I know I’m wrong), is to become defensive – and I’m all grown up! Imagine what it’s like for teenagers.

What they really need at this stage in their lives are words that build them up according to their needs that it may benefit them – that is, words of encouragement, affirmation and a good deal of praise. The benefits to them and us as parents and teachers are quite amazing – harmony not discord, peace not battling for supremacy and love not war.

When I left my last school where I had been a casual (sub) for eight years, I received “thank you” notes from the students. I think these notes illustrate what teenagers want and need from their parents and teachers.

Some of the notes mention kindness, patience, thoughtfulness, encouragement and fun. Teenagers value these qualities and what I found was that the more I relaxed and enjoyed their company, the less I had to discipline them.

Below I’ve included a few excerpts from the notes to let the kids speak for themselves. These are teenagers speaking from the heart and show what, according to teenagers, they need and value.

Each note began, “Thank you for…”

• making each student in the school happy

• putting up with us every time you get us (i.e. having patience)

• Always giving every student a chance and treating everyone like an adult giving lots of merits and making every lesson fun and enjoyable

• Being very kind & for giving me lots of (merit) stickers

• You make working be fun

• Being a patient and thoughtful teacher

Patience is needed as well as kindness, thoughtfulness, a sense of humor and fun and the ability to listen more than talk.

When we praise and value our teenagers, the results are nothing short of miraculous.

Philip S. Baker B.A. Dip. Ed invites you to find out more about positive teaching and parenting of teenagers at http://christianteachingtoday.com. His book, “Sunshine in the Classroom Makes Them Happy,” will show you what teenagers need and respond to using basic Christian principles. See his story by going to http://christianteachingtoday.com.

Measuring Teacher Effectiveness: Are We Creating an Education Nightmare?

We seem to be setting ourselves up for disaster education. Efforts are underway not only to adopt value-added models to rate the effectiveness of individual teachers, but to use these models to identify those at the very bottom who might later lose their positions and those at the very top who might then be eligible for merit pay. Yet in all the policy discussions and public commentary, there’s been little focus on learners and on how, precisely, we define the qualities of a good teacher.
The movement to revise methods for teacher evaluation to include such models came about in an effort to undermine current evaluation systems that tend to rate most teachers as satisfactory (Hull, 2011). => http://bit.ly/ka9Fzo