Category Archives: Education
The main subject of the dissertation I wrote for my doctorate was “school effectiveness.” Choosing this subject was driven by a personal belief that the school contributes the most in the development of an individual. It is in school where an individual acquires and develops formally most of the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values they need and they ought to have.
I put emphasis on the word formally in the preceding paragraph for it could be argued that the home and the church contribute also to the formation of an individual.
It is true, but not all parents are trained educators. Teachers (presumably) are. And not all families are functional. The dysfunctional ones may not help in the proper development of an individual. A school (presumably also) is always functional. This is not saying that the home does not contribute to the development of an individual. It does, but not as comprehensively as…
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While spending my summer vacation in the Philippines, I was invited as guest speaker in a seminar organized by a teacher education institute for their Education students. I obliged for being a teacher myself, I consider it both a pleasure and an obligation to help young people who are aspiring to become teachers understand the complexity of the teaching profession. I want them to realize that teaching is not just any job – something that people wanting to be employed should turn to only when there are no other jobs available in the market.
After delivering my talk came the usual question-and-answer session.
I was asked – “Do you think you are a great teacher?”
That was a question I didn’t see coming.
Part of my preparation when invited to speak is anticipate the questions that I might possibly be asked and mentally get the answers ready. For that question, I did not have a ready answer.
So, I just answered it as best as I could.
I said, “That’s a question that only my (present, past and future) students could answer. I am as good or as bad as what my students think I am (or thought I was or will be thinking I am). The truth is the students are the the best judge in determining the greatness or ordinariness of their teachers. They are the ones who witness every meeting the adequacies or inadequacies of the people assigned to teach them. Only the students could say how excellent or mediocre their teachers are. However, there is one thing I could assure you – I never shortchange my students. I always come to class prepared.”
Little did I know that that would only be the first of a series of unexpected questions.
I was also asked, “Why do you need to teach in South Korea?” That question came as a surprise. I almost said that is not related to any part of my presentation. But I refrained from offering that excuse and played with the question anyway.
I responded with a single word – “Economics!!!”.
They understood… I guess!
That I said because that’s the answer they were expecting. They would not believe anything else. Would they believe had I told them that it was not the search for a greener pasture that brought me to South Korea?
The common perception in the Philippines is if somebody applies for a job overseas, it is to satisfy the desire to earn more money. Secondly, Filipinos abroad accept jobs not in line with the college degrees they pursued.
Before the next question came, I remember telling the Dean of that institution’s Education program before my talk started that it was “job burnout” that prompted me to revisit the “career path” I set for myself many years ago. Teaching overseas is part of my plan – something I pursued only when I got tired working as a school administrator.
I also told the attendees in the seminar about that and I added that initially my intention was to be out of the country only for a year. However, when I noticed that here in South Korea my health got better and that I am having more time to pursue my passion for writing (not to mention that the remunerations are great), I decided to stay for as long as God would permit.
“What’s the difference between teaching in the Philippines and in South Korea?,” was the next unexpected question.
I answered, “None!”
It’s simple, teachers are teachers wherever they are. Notwithstanding their location they would first establish a good rapport with the students then perform all the activities that teachers do in the class.
I said that the principles and strategies in teaching and learning are universal. Wherever they are, teachers draw from the same pool of teaching and learning methodologies. Whoever they teach they get to choose which ones from the same set of educational philosophies would inform whatever decisions they make in the classroom.
I pointed them back to a certain portion of my presentation where I said the following: “Pedagogy dictates that the teachers should be able to master the subject matter, set learning objectives, motivate students, design learning activities, facilitate learning, construct assessment and assess learning.” These are the things teachers ought to be doing whatever is the nationality of the students they are teaching. Wherever and whoever they teach, teachers are expected to display excellently their pedagogical skills and manifest the behavior expected from professionals like them.
After that, I asked them to read my essays entitled “Professionalism Among Teachers” and “What Teachers and Students Expect From One Another.”
Another question that I did not expect to be asked, the last one, was – “Am I satisfied with the current educational system?”
I said that the shift to K–12 basic education system, to me, was the boldest and perhaps the best initiative the government undertook to overhaul Philippine education. Obviously, all the educational programs put up by past governments failed for the simple reason that we remained as a “developing country” until now.
Whether the new education system (K–12) works or not is too early to say. It depends on the kind of Filipinos that the schools will produce in the future and what kind of performance they dish out in the socio-economic and political fronts for the country. If after 10 to 20 years the Philippines will finally be classified as a “developed country,” then the ongoing educational reforms are effective.
For the aforementioned to happen, I argued that the present educational system should inculcate in the students two basic qualities of persons/citizens that could help solve the ills of society – self-sufficiency and personal accountability. Such are the values lacking among Filipinos.
I told the participants that if I ever I will be putting up a school of my own, I will tweak the curriculum a bit and make sure that the students become self-sufficient and personally accountable persons/citizens upon their graduation. I will add components in the curriculum to ensure the development of such values in them.
If the said values the school would fail to teach the citizens of the Philippines, the future generation of Filipinos will not be any different from who and what the Filipinos are now.
The schools, I reiterated, need to help the students to become personally accountable for their own lives – to do everything they should to succeed, to not rely on anyone to achieve their goals in life, and to not think that it is somebody’s duty to help them.
I told the participants in the seminar that for a school system to be truly effective and successful, it should succeed in changing the mindset of Filipinos – a mindset that revolves around the principles of self-sufficiency and personal accountability.
My lecture was entitled “The Ps of Great Teaching.”
The Ps I discussed were the following:
That’s not a typo there, there are two “passions” in the list, one with a capital P.
It was my turn to ask the students questions after I answered all theirs.
“Which of the Ps of great teaching is most important for you?”
I got many good answers.
When they asked me to answer my own question, this was my response:
“All the Ps are important. You cannot teach as best as you could when you lack any one of them. However, for me, Passion is the most important.
Passion with a capital P means the sufferings of Jesus Christ. Becoming a teacher is following His example – to be self-less.
Like Jesus, teachers have to carry their cross. The cross and Jesus getting nailed on it was the symbol of humanity’s salvation. Education is the cross that teachers carry on their shoulders – that cross called education is what brings salvation to the soul of every student in their classes.
Teachers do talk about their students. They share among themselves their best and worst experiences in the classroom and compare their students’ performance and behavior. This they do either in meetings or just informally during lunch and coffee breaks.
Students do the same – they also talk about their teachers. When they are not within hearing distance of the educators, they discuss about them. Students tell each other (and their parents) how good or bad their teachers are – how much they like or abhor them.
It’s not only the teachers who could express satisfaction over good performance of students or show discontent for the students’ lack of effort in their studies. The students could do the same. They would show approval for the good effort put up by their teachers and convey disdain when they feel they are being shortchanged.
Both teachers and the students expect each other to perform well when they come to class. They both demand excellence. The teachers assume that their students have studied their lessons and have done their assignments. On the other hand, the students believe that the ones leading the learning process, their teachers, are prepared whenever they stand in front of them – that they have a lesson plan and they know how to execute it.
The most foolish assumption that teachers could make is to think that their students wouldn’t notice if they come to class unprepared. Students know if a teacher is not doing his or her job properly. It’s not only the teachers who could distinguish excellence from mediocrity.
Teachers require students to participate in discussions and other class activities. For that, they need to do their part. The teachers should never forget that there is a prerequisite to requiring the students to participate – motivation. Students expect their teachers to make them interested in the subject and to ask questions that make them think. They expect them to explain clearly and give sufficient examples for them to be ready to participate.
Such are among the pedagogical skills that teachers are expected to manifest if they hope to succeed in making students participate actively in their classes.
Students expect their teachers to be competent. The worst mistake educational managers could do is to not strictly screen applicants or blindly disregard hiring procedures and standards for whatever reasons and end up entrusting to somebody mediocre – to somebody not trained to be a teacher – the education of students. Knowledge coupled with the required pedagogical skills are what constitute competence among teachers.
Interestingly, competence and their correlates are not the ones that came out on top of the list of what students perceive as qualities of effective teachers. In studies conducted to determine what students consider as the best characteristics of quality teachers, those that relate to personality, not pedagogical skills, were the ones that consistently top the list.
In one of the said studies, among what emerged as the top five qualities of effective teacher as perceived by students, “the ability to develop relationships with their students” received the highest score.1 Of the four remaining, only “engaging students in learning” (ranked 5th) is related to pedagogy. “The ability to develop relationships with their students,” “patient, caring, and kind personality,” and “knowledge of learners” were ranked, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, respectively.
Students and teachers differ in their perception of the characteristics of effective teachers. In a study that explored student and teacher beliefs on good teaching,2 teachers rated constructs related to their abilities as teacher much higher than those related to their personality. For the students, it’s the opposite. They gave preference to constructs related to the personality of teachers. Students who participated in the study rated “caring,” “content knowledge,” “safe environment,” “dependable,” “prepared” and a “teacher-student relationship” as most important when describing what makes a good teacher.
Again, emerging on top of the list, as viewed on the perspective of students, is a quality related to the personality of the teacher – “caring.” Note that “content knowledge” and “prepared” are related to pedagogy, the rest to the attitude and behavior of the teachers.
A very interesting topic for research is who can best answer the question “What are the qualities of an effective teacher, the students or the teachers?”.
Who is the better judge of what constitutes quality teaching – the students or the teachers themselves?
Teachers also expect respect from the students. That is something not difficult to elicit from young people like the students who are (supposedly) taught by their parents to respect people in authority. But even if parents were remiss of their duties to inculcate among their children that value, the teachers are always in a position to be accorded respect. The teachers, however, have to understand that respect is a two-way street. Students also expect to be respected. Their being the persons in authority don’t give them the right to embarrass the students either directly or indirectly.
In a study on students’ perceptions of effective teaching in higher education,3 “respectful” and other correlated descriptors were mentioned by students in a number of times significantly more than any of the other characteristics, including “knowledgeable” (which got the second highest mark). Student-respondents said that they appreciate teachers who are compassionate and understanding of the unique and challenging situations that students sometimes experience.
One of the proven ways of ensuring successful learning is for the teacher to ensure that a good rapport between them and their students exist. And the best way to do it is by not only telling the students what they expect from them but by knowing also what the students expect from the teachers.