Archive for the ‘Planning’ Category

The Overwhelming Responsibilies of the Modern Teacher

March 26, 2012

I just read a brilliant piece by teacher Daniel Cohen.

Whilst I differ from the author of this article in one key area, I believe the article presents a most accurate account of the day-to-day challenges that face working teachers. I don’t agree with the premise that for all the hard work we put in, we receive little in return. Yes, we are underpayed. But what we do get back from our students can not be easily quantified.

Even still, his assessment on the daily rigours and insane paperwork and planning requirements is captured brilliantly in the article.

I BECAME a teacher to help children learn.

I’m now working with at-risk children who do not cope in a mainstream setting.

They have emotional and behavioural issues affecting their ability to perform and succeed within school.

They, like all students, need a strong teaching profession.

I see the role of teachers as both educating students and preparing them for society as adults.

A lot of the focus is on literacy and numeracy.

As a teacher, I believe there are a lot more skills that students need than just reading and writing.

It’s my role to help them develop into adults.

Teaching is the closest thing you can get to being a parent without having children.

Like parents, teachers form relationships with children that are central to a child’s learning and development.

We help them sort out personal problems and friendship issues.

We help with knowledge in an academic sense. But we also help them learn to interact and deal with people and how to get along.

They can’t learn subject content if they can’t work with others.

And they can’t learn to work with other people in isolation. That’s part of a teacher’s role as well as a parent’s.

Day to day, students attend classes between 9am and 3.30pm.

When the students are at school, the teacher’s whole focus is on working with them.

Preparing lessons, correcting work, organising meetings and other duties associated with being part of a workplace all happen outside of class time.

A teacher’s legal and professional responsibility to students does not end when students aren’t around.

A lot of that happens during a teacher’s personal time.

Our tasks – attending staff meetings outside of class, correcting and checking work and so on – cannot be properly completed within normal, paid allocated time.

Because teachers are in a workplace, we have Occupational Health and Safety obligations to fulfil, such as ensuring that the school is safe and correct procedures are followed in classroom safety.

We are required to provide supervision and ensure that the classroom is a safe environment.

Also, we must formally report on any issues involving child welfare.

These are just some of the very serious responsibilities all teachers assume.

Watching students is difficult.

When you have 27 students, ensuring they are all safe and within sight at all times can be quite time-consuming.

The pay situation as it is now makes me feel really undervalued by my employer – the State Government. I’m disappointed and upset that our pay negotiations have not been progressing.

The work we do is essential.

To have the Government stall undervalues our work and undervalues the education that children deserve.

Failing to pay us properly means we’re not given the resources or time we need to do the best for our students – Victoria’s children.

We’re using our own time to do more for the students because we think it’s important. Teachers want what’s best for students.

Without proper pay, my worry is that the profession will suffer and good teachers will leave.

Those who stay may suffer ill-health because they are not given enough time to properly do the job.

We already have a shortage of teachers.

Without proper pay, we will struggle to keep the ones we have or to recruit new ones.

Teachers put in the extra time because they’re doing what’s best for their students.

But without support from their employer, it is increasingly difficult for teachers to keep on doing that important work.

The Government wants more productivity.

That will be achieved by giving teachers the resources they need and by supporting the profession.


A Blueprint for Teachers on the Quest for Excellence

May 25, 2011

I stumbled across an interesting blog piece that provided an excerpt of a paper written by Horace B. Lucido, a retired physics instructor, author and educational consultant, and a founding member of Educators and Parents Against Testing Abuse.

In his paper, Lucido singles out 10 things teachers need to perfect:

So what are some key elements in teachers regaining the professional respect and trust they deserve? State, district and site practices and policies should:

1. Allow our teachers to use best practices in lesson design and pedagogy rather than canned programs that require rigorous adherence to step-by-step procedures without flexibility.

2. Permit teachers to adjust and modify their lessons to fit their students’ knowledge and skills rather than prepare them for high-stakes testing. Forgo all site and district high-stakes testing that is not required by state or national law. Do away with site and district tests used to prepare for more tests.

3. Test score ‘data’ can only become relevant when interpretation for individual students is corroborated by their teachers — individually or groups — who have evaluated said students using multiple sources of information. No judgments, placements or qualifications for individual students should be made solely on the basis of annual high-stakes testing.

4. Abolish all goal-setting based on annual high-stakes testing scores. This includes targeting students, teachers and schools for score improvement. Each should be evaluated using multiple sources of information before making plans for any corrective actions. Teams of educators, parents, psychologists and community members should be employed in developing helpful strategies.

5. Eliminate both scripted and paced lesson mandates. It is not in standardizing our classrooms that students learn to be creative and innovative-attributes that are highly prized in the world of work. Just as the diversity of plants and animals is the strength of the Earth’s ecosystem, our ‘edusystem’ should model that diversity in the manner in which teachers provide unique lessons using a variety of methods. Standardized sameness is not conducive to how students learn nor is it an attribute valued in our culture — otherwise we would all be driving only Fords and wearing only Levi jeans.

6. Eliminate all punitive policies that pronounce harsh judgments on students, teachers, schools and districts based on unchallenged interpretations of student test scores. Teacher evaluations of their students’ knowledge and skills should be the hallmark and cornerstone of valid conclusions about what students know and are able to do. They are the professionals in the classroom.

7. Codify regulations against administrative use of direct and/or implied threats of repercussions to those teachers who follow their State Standards for the Teaching Profession rather than curricular and/or pedagogy directives which utilize a script-like pacing without allowing for teacher modification and adjustments to fit the classroom clientele.

8. State Standards for the Teaching Profession should be the guiding principles for all teacher evaluation protocols used by administrators. Terminate ‘walkthroughs’. Thoughtful classroom visitations that respect the context of the lesson with pre and post discussion is vital to proper evaluation. Otherwise, walkthroughs become nothing more than “big brother” in a formal setting, keeping a critical eye rather than a supportive stance.

9. Teachers should have the freedom without fear of recrimination to express their professional opinions inside and outside of school sites regarding school practices and policies. Fellow teachers, parents and the larger community need to hear from the classroom professionals regarding the educational programs at their schools. This will provide open forums for discussion and the enhancement of the school environment.

 10. Develop an enhanced parent-teacher communication protocol complete with translators for second language learner parents who are not fluent in English. Ongoing and frequent parent-teacher communication will both improve understanding and appreciation of the role each plays in the education of their students and also foster a greater mutual respect.

Which of the ten do you agree or disagree with?  Would you add an eleventh element?

I’m Drowning in Paperwork: Please Pass the Snorkel

February 3, 2011

I admit it.  The allegations are true.  I am a tree-killer!

It’s not my fault, of course.  In the short time I have been teaching, the paperwork demands on a teacher have grown from taxing, to barely manageable, to excessive, and now – out of control!

Why?  Why, at a time when teachers are being criticised for their students’ low performance data and failure to deliver on outcomes, is the paperwork demands of a teacher so high?  Surely time would be better spent developing engaging lessons.

The answer is simple.  The rules applying to all teachers are in place to cover the lesser achieving teachers.  The assumption is that if a lazy teacher wasn’t told what to do, how to think, what to cover, how to plan and who to cater for, they wouldn’t achieve anything.  By forcing teachers to complete crazy amounts of paperwork, they are treating all teachers as if they were inert, fraudulent, apathetic stooges.

Take the planning requirements, for example.

Is planning important?  Absolutely!  Planning is important for three main reasons:

1.  It shows what you are teaching your students in a week, term and year.

2. It helps you organise thoughts and properly sequence the concept or skill you are teaching.

3.  It provides a comprehensive guide for a casual relief teacher, should you not be able to teach your class.

As important as planning may be, it can still go overboard.  In the summer holidays alone I had to complete first term planners for literacy and numeracy, yearly planners for literacy and numeracy, a 10 page integrated planner for my topic of inquiry (Federation) and weekly planners for both numeracy and literacy.  The amount of hours I spend on those darn things doesn’t correlate with how useful they turn out to be.

The rationale that by spending hours upon hours on these planners,  an average teacher will become transformed miraculously into a more focussed and effective educator is just plain wrong.  On the contrary, it forces some teachers to cut corners by mindlessly copying dull, lifeless units from textbooks.  With all that paperwork, teachers often become too concerned with deadlines and time restrictions to go to the trouble of conceiving original and fresh lesson ideas.

And it’s not just planning.  There’s professional learning contracts which chart the goals, reflections and progress of the teacher, class newsletters, letter to parents, school policy feedback forms, incident report documentation, worksheets, homework, curriculum night summaries, parent teacher interview folios and I’m sure there’s more, because … there’s always more!

I’m not trying to play the victim here.  I love my job and understand the value of the above requirements.  It’s just that the sheer amount of  paperwork clearly gets in the way of a teacher’s natural desire to spend less time meeting arcane professional standards and more time excelling in delivering fun, vibrant and engaging lessons.

I’d love to write more on this topic, but unfortunately, I’ve got more paperwork to finish.


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