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Remembering My Teachers

Teacher at Chalkboard

“What is done in the classroom today becomes the indelible memories of tomorrow.” – Robert Brooks

What do we remember most about our teachers? Is it their intelligence or their wit and humor?

Why do we say that we’ll never forget some of our teachers? What made it hard to erase them from our memory – the positive influences they exerted on us or the emotional wounds they may have directly or indirectly inflicted? Do they remain in our memory because of the words of encouragement they said that motivated us to excel or the mouthful they gave that destroyed our self-esteem?

Do we recall the lessons our teachers taught in the class or is it the jokes they shared that we cannot forget to the point that to date those same jokes we also share with others?

Think about this… Is it our teachers’ impeccable display of mastery of the subject matter we remember about them or is it their compassion which made us feel so comfortable in their presence?

Being a teacher myself I often wonder what my students remember about me…or do they remember me at all. Imagine how many students I already had having been a teacher since 1988. Has anyone of them proudly announced my name when asked “Who’s your most favorite teacher?” or “Who among your teachers influenced you most positively?”

Constantly asking myself those questions makes me conscious about my performance in the class. Not that I wish to be popular among my students. Teaching is not a popularity contest. But if I get to be remembered by my former students, I wish that it is for the right reasons and not the wrong ones.

As part of my planning, each time a school term begins I make a conscious effort of remembering my former teachers. Why? My teachers in the past, aside from the subjects they taught, they directly and indirectly showed me “what to do” and “what not to do” as an educator. They contributed the pieces in the teaching-learning model that guides me as I practice pedagogy.

There are several teachers whose names were etched in my memory (although I wish to keep their identities under wraps except for some clues). There are a variety of reasons why after all these years I have not forgotten them.

During my PhD days at Bulacan State University I always looked forward to attending the classes of two professors. One of them taught me that “Whatever we don’t use will die of disuse.” and “In onion there is strength.” Yes, that’s onion… not “union.” The other one bragged that “His PEN   IS six inches long.”

I didn’t consider their brand of humor offensive although I know some of the ladies in those classes felt uncomfortable whenever those professors deliver those double-meaning sentences. I am not sure what made the students pay attention to those professors…the ideas they were expounding or the jokes they interspersed in their discussions.

Even without those double-meaning sentences those two professors were really committed to bringing humor into the classroom. A lot of times that they shared hilarious personal stories. 3-hour long classes in the graduate school are stressful and the best known antidote to stress is laughter.

That’s what they did…gave entertainment on the side while we go through the rigors of graduate school.

But when it comes to sense of humor, no one beats my Psychology and Political Science teacher during my first year in college. Aside from his contagious smile, he had the knack for injecting humor during discussions. I remember him making exaggerated facial expressions and movements.

As Maurice Elias suggests, “Let’s add some more enjoyment to school. We don’t need guffaws — a smile and a little levity can go a long way.”

I was also blessed to have three teachers (one each in High School, College and Master’s) who modeled academic excellence. Each meeting with them was always an opportunity to learn something new. Of course I learned from all of my teachers and they all contributed to my development but these three are simply a cut above the rest.

Their common denominator is they never came to class unprepared and demanded nothing less from the students. They were demanding but were very supportive. I don’t know but there was something different in the way that they taught and the way they carried out their duties as mentors.

Because of this dedication to excellence, one of them (the professor in the Master’s program who influenced me the most), became “the avoided one.” Students, as much as possible, would avoid enrolling in her classes. They were students who wanted their grades to be given to them in a silver platter. They were the ones who consider a weekly reaction paper and several book reviews too much for a graduate student. For me, that was the challenge that I wanted to undergo to test my mettle… to hone my skills.

That was the kind of attitude inculcated upon me by my High School Biology and English 2 (and 4) teacher. She gave us assignments and projects that I considered at that time as requirements done by college students. It was difficult but it prepared me to the rigors of college life.

Then in College I had this teacher who taught Shakespeare (and his plays) rarely bringing instructional materials to the class from beginning up to the end of the semester. She did not use audio-visual materials when teaching. She would just stay seated the whole period. But when she talked it was like listening to an audio book. There was never a question from us (the students) she did not satisfactorily answer.

However, I don’t remember the said teachers only because of their brilliance. I had a lot of equally intelligent teachers but whose names I could no longer recall. But these mesdames are different. They displayed enthusiasm while teaching. I witnessed how much they loved what they were doing.

I would also not forget my Grade VI adviser. I felt so sleepy in her class one day but I was trying very hard not to fall asleep. The reason was during my Elementary days, almost every morning I needed to wake up around 4:00 AM in order to sell “pandesal” (bread) before going to school so I would have extra allowance.

While she was discussing I closed my eyes but I was awake. Then one of my classmates said, “Look ma’am! Ching (that’s my nick name when I was a kid) is sleeping.” My eyelids were a bit heavy so I couldn’t open my eyes immediately when I heard a classmate say that. Then my adviser  responded, “It’s okay. Let him sleep for a few minutes. I saw him selling “pandesal” this morning.”

That for me was a display of compassion. My teacher did not get angry. She was aware of my situation and she tried to understand. Her simple act of kindness made me feel I am important. It started to develop my self-esteem.

Then I had these experiences with two of my High School teachers that reinforced my self-esteem. My English 1 teacher told me one day, “You’re performing well in the subject. Keep it up!” That was the first time I received a positive comment about my academic performance. Then my Biology and English 2 (and 4) teacher, the same one I previously mentioned, told me also that I can be a good student if I study harder. In addition, she told me that I can be a writer.

The words they said nurtured my self-esteem. The things they told me awakened a self-confidence that until now is alive and strong in me. The words they said encouraged me to excel.

Those teachers believed in me and I promised myself not to disappoint them.

In his book entitled “Self-Esteem Teacher,” Robert Brooks explained that “Teachers have a very significant, lifelong impact on all of their students. This impact involves not only the teaching of particular academic skills, but as importantly, the fostering of student self-esteem.”

What do I remember most about my teachers? What qualities did they have that made their memories persisted in my mind and continued to influence my practices as an educator?

It is their sense of humor, enthusiasm, dedication to the craft, compassion for the students, and the practice of praising students…of telling them what they are capable of.

The foregoing are the building blocks of the educational philosophy that I have embraced.

“Most children will not remember what a teacher taught as much as how he or she made them feel. Children who perceive themselves as accepted and valued will work harder and have positive feelings about their school experience.” – Leah Davies

Source: Remembering My Teachers

Professionalism Among Teachers

science-teacher-in-class-getty_573x300The complexities involving the teaching profession and the importance of the role of teachers in the holistic development of learners require strict adherence to the tenets of professionalism. There are expectations that teachers need to meet and there are qualities that they are expected to possess.

All the qualities teachers ought to have and what are expected of them can be summed up in one concept – “teacher professionalism.”

“Teacher professionalism” is an idea  that can be defined differently based on multiple perspectives and its merits scrutinized according to various arguments. It is considered a broad concept consisting of several dimensions.  However, for delimitation purposes, the discussion on the subject in this article is anchored only on the definitions of the term “professionalism” given in the next two (2) paragraphs.

Evans pointed out that “professionalism means different things to different people.”1 The Oxford dictionary simply defines the term as “the competence or skills expected of a professional.”It is the level of excellence or competence that professionals should manifest in their chosen fields of specialization.

Tichenorexplains that professionalism  are the expected  behaviors of individuals  in a specific occupation.  Professionals need to conduct themselves in accordance to set standards.

Boyt, Lusch and Naylor4 combined  the said views about professionalism when they describe it as a multi-dimensional structure consisting of one’s attitudes  and behaviors towards  his/her job and the achievement of high level of standards. Similarly, Hargreavesdefines professionalism as the conduct, demeanor and standards which guide the work of professionals.

The terms associated to professionalism as seen from the definitions and explanations given are as follows: competence, skills, behaviors, conduct, demeanor and standards. Competence and skills are synonymous and so are behaviors, conduct and demeanor. Standards refer to the quality or accepted norms for competence and behaviors.

Skills are not the only components that make up teacher’s competence. Knowledge is, of course, an integral part of it.

Skills and knowledge are very broad attributions to teacher’s competence however. What specifically are the skills and knowledge that would make a teacher competent?

As Baggini puts it, “To be a professional or a professor  was to profess in some skill or field of knowledge.” It’s a given that teachers should have knowledge of the subject matter or expertise in a particular skill. Teachers are expected to know not a little but much about what they are teaching.

What adds challenge to being a teacher  is the ability to dig (whenever applicable) into the scientific, philosophical, legal, sociological and psychological foundations of what is being taught. It is important that teachers are able to relate whatever they are discussing to other  fields. Such an ability would enable teachers to enrich the discussion.

But teaching and learning are complex processes that involve a lot more… not just knowing what to teach and being able to connect a topic to other disciplines. What would make teachers truly competent are the corresponding skills that enable them to effectively teach what they know and make the students learn. Such skills are acquired through training in pedagogy.

Pedagogy is commonly defined as “the art, science, or profession of teaching.” Pedagogy informs teaching strategies, teacher actions, and teacher judgments and decisions by taking into consideration theories of learning, understandings of students and their needs, and the backgrounds and interests of individual students.7

Pedagogy, in a nutshell, tells how best to teach and how best the students learn.

Knowledge and expertise in a field would not make one a teacher. Pedagogical skills are needed. Competent teachers SHOULD know, not just the subject matter, but how to  set learning objectives, motivate students, design learning activities, facilitate learning, construct assessment, and assess learning.

In addition, another skill through which competence of 21st century teachers is gauged, is how extensive and effective do they apply technology (computer) to teaching and learning.

Aside from competence, the other dimension of teacher’s professionalism this article is exploring is behavior.

Teachers are aware that they should behave in accordance to the ethical standards set for the teaching profession. They are expected to speak, act and dress accordingly. Barberpointed this out when he identifies as one of the main characteristics of professional behavior  a “high degree of self-control of behavior through codes of ethics.”

But the behavior dimension of professionalism among teachers goes beyond proper manner and decorum.

Another characteristic of professional behavior identified by Barber is “orientation primarily to community interest rather than to  individual self-interest.” It is no secret that teachers sacrifice a lot to help their students. Teachers work long hours and the practice a lot of patience. As Orlin puts it, “ I see it (teaching) as an act of self-sacrifice, as a hard path undertaken for the greater good.”9

Teachers also know that they need to keep learning. They need to have a continuing professional development plan for them to be better-equipped in dealing with the challenges of the profession. They need to keep abreast with the current trends and innovations in the field of education.

There are also general teaching behaviors which, according to a study, are the most important for effective teaching (as perceived by students). Hativa identified five (5) of them, namely, making the lessons clearorganizedengaging/interestingmaintaining interactions, and rapport with students.10

Two (2) of the said general teaching behaviors (making the lessons clear and organized) are related to the first dimension of teacher professionalism (competence and skills). The rest are more indicative of the second dimension (behavior).

Teacher professionalism strongly implies the demands and complexities of teaching making it harder to understand why the profession doesn’t get due recognition. Teaching is not just any profession. Not just anybody can be a teacher. Not just anybody can be entrusted the responsibility of developing the mind and body.

 – SDG –

References:   

  1. Evans, Linda (2008) Professionalism, professionality and the development of education professionals. British Journal of Educational Studies, 56 (1). pp. 20-38.
  1. Definition of “professionalism” – Oxford English Dictionary
  1. Tichenor, M. S., Tichenor, J. M. (2005). Understanding teachers’ perspectives on professionalism. ERIC.
  1. Boyt, T., Lusch, R. F. ve Naylor, G. (2001). The role of professionalism in determining job satisfaction in professional services: a study of marketing researchers, Journal of Service Research, 3(4), 321-330
  1. Hargreaves, A. (2000). Four ages of professionalism and professional learning. Teachers and Teaching: History and Practice, 6 (2),151-182. 
  1. Baggini, J. (2005). What professionalism means for teachers today? Education Review, 18 (2), 5-11.
  1. Shulman, Lee (1987). “Knowledge and Teaching: Foundations of the New Reform”(PDF). Harvard Educational Review. 15(2): 4–14. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  1. Barber, B. (1965). Some Problems in the Sociology of the Professions. In K. S. Lynn (Edt.), The Professions in America (pp. 669-688). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  1. Orlin, Ben “Teaching As Self Sacrifice.” Match With Bad Drawing. WordPress, March 10, 2014. Web. 19 July, 2017.
  1. Hativa, N. (2014). A pratical approach to designing, operating, and reporting, 2nd, Tel Aviv: Oron Publications.

Source: Professionalism Among Teachers

What Makes A Great Teacher

Some have wrongly thought that if they know a subject matter then they can teach it. Some have claimed the title teacher, mentor, professor or what-have-you just because they know a great deal in a field of study. It takes more than knowledge to become a teacher, a lot more to become a good one, and a whole lot more to be great.

Being good at Math doesn’t make one a Math teacher. Having a perfect accent and impeccable grammar doesn’t make a person an English teacher. And if by luck, accident, mistake or necessity, a person was given a teaching load by virtue of just being good at a particular field then that’s very unfortunate, a disservice to the teaching profession.

There’s a whale of difference between knowing a subject matter and knowing how to teach it. It is not a guarantee that when one is an expert in a domain of knowledge that he could be a  teacher in that field. Perhaps he has the potential to become one for he already possesses one of the requirements to become a teacher…and that is mastery in a discipline. But expertise in a field, knowing what to teach, is just the beginning of the journey we call teaching.

Source: What Makes A Great Teacher

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