Posts Tagged ‘Teacher Training’

Classroom Management is Getting Harder

March 24, 2013


Teacher training really falls flat when it comes to providing new teachers the practical tools to deal with the increasing difficulties of managing a class:

Teachers have warned that disruptive behaviour in classrooms has escalated sharply in recent years, as funding cuts to local services have left schools struggling to cope.

A survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) found that the vast majority of staff had recorded a rise in the number of children with emotional, behavioural or mental health problems.

The union collated numerous examples of challenging behaviour, ranging from violent assault to defamatory campaigns on social media.

Suggested reasons for the deteriorating behaviour include a lack of boundaries at home, attention-seeking, an absence of positive role models at home, low self-esteem and family breakdown.

The ATL, which has 160,000 members across the UK, said aggressive cuts to the traditional safety net of local services have left schools dealing with complex behavioural and mental health problems on their own.

Earlier this month it emerged that two-thirds of local authorities have cut their budgets for children and young people’s mental health services since the coalition government came to power in 2010. A freedom of information request by the YoungMinds charity found that 34 out of 51 local authorities which responded said their budgets for children’s and young people’s mental health services had been cut, one by 76%.

Alison Ryan, the union’s educational policy adviser, said: “Services are struggling for survival or operating with a skeleton staff, so there’s now a huge pressure on schools to almost go it alone. Schools are absolutely on the front line of dealing with these children and young people and trying to provide a service that means they don’t fall through the cracks.”

, general secretary of the ATL, said: “The huge funding cuts to local services mean schools often have to deal with children’s problems without any help.”

The survey of 844 staff found that 62% felt there were more children with emotional, behavioural and mental health problems than two years ago, with 56% saying there were more than five years ago. Nearly 90% of support staff, teachers, lecturers, school heads and college leaders revealed that they had dealt with a challenging or disruptive student during this school year. One primary school teacher in Cheshire said: “I have been kicked in the head, spat at, called disgusting names, told to eff off, had the classroom trashed regularly and items thrown. We accept children who are excluded from other schools so they come to us with extreme behaviour issues.”

A teacher in a West Midlands secondary school said: “One colleague had a Twitter account set up in front of him on a mobile called Paedo ****** [their name], which invited others to comment on him and his sexual orientation.”

Another teacher in a secondary school in Dudley added: “I’ve been sworn at, argued with, shouted at, had books thrown at me, threatened with physical abuse and had things stolen and broken.”

Bousted added: “Regrettably, teachers and support staff are suffering the backlash from deteriorating standards of behaviour. They are frequently on the receiving end of children’s frustration and unhappiness and have to deal with the fallout from parents failing to set boundaries and family breakdowns.”

On the positive side, most of the disruptive behaviour facing staff was categorised as fairly low level, with 79% of staff complaining that students talked in class, did not pay attention and messed around.

Some 68% added that students were disrespectful and ignored their instructions, 55% said they had dealt with verbally aggressive students, and a fifth with a physically aggressive student. Among secondary and sixth-form students, smoking was considered a significant problem.

On most occasions challenging behaviour was deemed an irritation which disrupted class work, according to 74% of staff, but 42% revealed that they suffered stress and almost a quarter said they had lost confidence at work. Forty of those questioned said they had been physically hurt by a student.

Click on the link to read The Dog Eat Dog Style of Education

Click on the link to read Problem Kids, Suspensions and Revolving Doors

Click on the link to read Useful Resources to Assist in Behavioural Management

Click on the link to read When Something Doesn’t Work – Try Again Until it Does

Where Have These So-Called “Master Teachers” Been All this Time?

July 19, 2012

I am very frustrated by the lack of investment from many of our “best teachers” in helping mentor their less experienced and less confident colleagues.

In a post in May, I raised the question – Do experienced teachers give enough back to the profession? I argued that these experienced teachers could be a vital resource for improving teacher quality.

It seems President Obama agrees:

President Barack Obama on Wednesday proposed a $1 billion program to recruit high-performing math and science teachers to mentor and evaluate their peers and help students excel.

The so-called Master Teacher Corps program calls for recruiting 2,500 such educators at the outset and increasing that to 10,000 over four years, paying them $20,000 stipends on top of their base salaries. Each teacher would be required to serve at least four years.

To help launch the program, the Obama administration has pledged to release $100 million already available to school districts that have made plans to develop and retain effective teachers of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the plan would raise the prestige of the profession and increase teacher retention.

I just wish experienced teachers could offer more voluntarily without having to be bribed to help with costly incentives.

Click on the link to read my post, Do experienced teachers give enough back to the profession?

Teachers Considered “Highly Qualified” After 5 Weeks of Training

July 18, 2012

Of course a student learning to become a teacher has not developed the skills to justifiably call themselves a “highly qualified” teacher. Sadly, with teacher training at such a poor standard, they could be studying for 5 years and it wouldn’t make much difference:

Today a U.S. House appropriations subcommittee will consider legislation that would allow students still learning to be teachers to be considered highly qualified teachers under federal law.

The nonprofit organization Teach for America places college graduates into high needs schools after giving them five weeks of training in a summer institute. The TFA corps members, who are required to give only a two-year commitment to teaching, can continue a master’s degree in education with selected schools while teaching.

Of course it doesn’t make any real sense that a new college graduate with five weeks of ed training or any student teacher should be considered highly qualified — because they aren’t. But federal officials inexplicably partial to Teach for America have bestowed millions of dollars on the organization, and TFA has, not surprisingly, lobbied Congress for this legislation.

The truth is, that 5 weeks of practical observation and teaching is far more beneficial that years of theory and mindless lectures.

Click on the link to read, ‘Teachers Trained Very Well to Teach Very Poorly

Why Our Schools are in Crisis

July 16, 2012

Xavier Symons wrote a compelling examination of our failing education system. He pinpoints three areas where things are going awry:

The first is student-oriented learning. Traditional teaching in which teachers provide a succinct overview of topics is an endangered species. Student orientated, interactive learning has almost completely displaced it.

Certainly, there are benefits: creativity, enthusiasm, research skills. But why not pour a bit of expert knowledge from the well into the bucket? My friends and I loved having a teacher who had just graduated from education school. Student-centred learning for us meant student rule. It was great fun. We just didn’t learn much.

The second problem is the obsession with IT literacy. Students know heaps more than most teachers about IT. X-Box and circumventing internet filters and downloading movies is child’s play for this generation.

IT literacy is like learning to ride a bike: you don’t need school. But essay writing skills? We did need a teacher for that. In the worst cases, students end up pooling ignorance in meandering discussions, and scratching their heads in bewilderment.

As a high school student, I built and produced pictorial essays using film software. Some of my friends made mind maps on smart boards and podcast radio plays. The latest fad is educational games on iPads.

I certainly became IT literate. But it was at the expense of English proficiency and knowledge of history. I had a lot of fun doing a pictorial essay about the Vietnam War – but I I never learned why the French were there in the first place.

While IT literacy is very important in the digital age, the bread and butter of the humanities remains grasping and describing human experience and human history.

The third problem is uniformed teachers. Too many leave uni knowing the bare minimum, and never try to delve deeper. Many of my peers have found that their history teacher knows no more than the textbook. Alarmingly many teachers of English literature don’t actually read. And science teachers may be able to entertain a classroom by emphasising the practical aspects of biology, but students will be seriously underprepared come exams.

I have given my opinion on each of his three points:

Click here to read my opinion of ‘child centered learning’ vs ‘teacher centered learning’.

Click here to read my opinion on the problem with IT in the classroom.

Click here to read my opinion on the standard of teacher training.

It isn’t that Hard to Make a “Poor” Teacher a “Good” One

July 12, 2012

There is a theory among educational circles that a struggling teacher can’t improve. This is probably true in today’s climate, but it isn’t a reflection on under-performing teachers, but rather a reflection on the total lack of support given to teachers.

A teacher’s journey begins with a pressurised, yet basically completely useless, teacher training course. This course not only fails to provide teachers with the requisite practical skills but is often taught and run by former teachers who are overjoyed at the prospect of finally being out of the classroom.

Then, if that teacher is lucky enough to score a job at a school with resources, a track record of half-decent behaviour and academic standards (because let’s face it – graduate teachers often go to the toughest schools to teach in), they are left on their own. No mentor, no support system. They are put in an environment where every teacher is in charge of their own classroom and teamwork is often non-existent.

That teacher can always break the unwritten rule and ask for help, but that would be a mistake. A graduate teacher’s first contract is usually a 12-month trial run. That teacher cannot afford to advertise their uncertainty and lack of experience. Teachers are overburdened as it is and many resent having to help an amateur when they have an ever-increasing workload to deal with. Therefore, a graduate teacher that asks for help risks not having their contract extended, thereby risking future employment.

So what do these teachers do? They learn on the job. And that’s where mistakes are made and bad habits are formed.

These bad habits sometimes make them look like “poor” teachers. Many of them are just well intentioned teachers who have never been given the support they needed.

The public are probably very supportive of new regulations that makes it harder for teachers branded “incompetent” from finding a new teaching job. I bid them to see beyond the labels and call on the system to support our teachers rather than replacing them for a newer version of the same thing:

For the first time, schools will be given legal powers to find out whether staff applying for new jobs have previously been subjected to official warnings.

Former employers will be required to disclose any disciplinary action taken against teachers over the last two years to give new schools a more comprehensive picture of their ability.

The regulations – being introduced from this September – come amid fears that too many schools allow weak teachers to leave and find new jobs rather than draw attention to their performance.

In the last decade, just 17 staff in England have been officially struck off for incompetence.

But teachers’ leaders insisted that the regulations would treat teachers “worse than criminals” and force some out of the profession altogether.

Click here to read about how I would solve the problem of the unsupported teacher.

Teachers Trained Very Well to Teach Very Poorly

July 8, 2012

I was stunned how poorly I was trained at University. I completed a Bachelor of Teaching at a major Melbourne university, but experience has shown that my degree was not worth more than a roll of toilet paper.

My training did not prepare me for how to teach and what to do in certain highly pressurised situations. This is because my course was high on theory and propaganda and low on practical teaching opportunities. It was those fleeting teaching round experiences at other schools that I was able to observe other teachers and begin to form my own teaching style.

In a recent article, Christopher Bantick blames poor training on our teacher’s lack of subject knowledge:

For a generation there has been a significant decline in scholarship in the nation’s classrooms. Education degrees do not prepare undergraduates adequately in subject knowledge. The result is that many teachers entering Australian classrooms clutching their bachelor of education scrolls simply do not have enough academic depth to teach with any scholastic authority.

I personally felt like I was drowning in “academic depth”. I wanted more practical experience … far more!

The Solution to the Disruptive Student Has Arrived: Body Language Classes

July 2, 2012

If we trained doctors nearly as badly as we trained teachers we would all refuse to get a check-up.

The latest experiment is to get trainee teachers to undertake body language classes in order to deal with disruptive students:

Trainee teachers are to be coached to use their voices and body language to control disruptive pupils.

The Government’s school behaviour tsar is concerned that troublemakers scent weakness and start playing up when teachers lack an authoritative presence in the classroom.

Charlie Taylor, who advises ministers on tackling indiscipline, says that teachers’ voices often become high-pitched when they are tense and agitated, giving away their nerves.

Many also underestimate the importance of body language and posture and instead hunch their shoulders or fidget.

I can just hear them boast now:
“If it wasn’t for my improved posture I wouldn’t have been able to handle children who throw objects and make threats. Thank you so much for the body language lessons!”
Then again, even if the skill isn’t useful in the classroom, they may improve your poker game.

Do Experienced Teachers Give Enough Back to the Profession?

May 21, 2012

Although I have not had this experience myself, I have heard many young teacher talk with exasperation about their experienced colleagues. These teachers, looking for mentorship, problem solving methods and simple direction and assurance from their older and more confident co-workers, have complained that they are often left to their own devices. They claim that experienced teachers tend to find a comfortable groove and are reluctant to do any more than absolutely necessary.

Whilst I realise that this characterisation of experienced teachers doesn’t reflect all who fall into that category, I wonder whether teacher burnout as well as the fact that experienced teachers have reached the peak both in status and salary, are contributing factors to this likely scenario. Since these teachers have devoted decades to what is a challenging and physically taxing profession, the job of mentoring a new teacher can often be too much of burden.

If this is correct, it is quite unfortunate. Our young teachers, in my opinion, are poorly trained. Our teacher training courses are high on useless theory and low on practical instruction. I have never met a teacher who considered Vygotsky’s theory of proximal development of greater use to their day-to-day teaching than the precious but fleeting weeks spent visiting schools as a pre-service teacher.

There clearly needs to be a greater incentive for experienced teachers to help new teachers settle into their role and adjust to the dramatic change from student-teacher to actual teacher.

Last year I formulated a two-tiered approach to making best use of experienced teachers:

1. Experienced teachers who are deemed to be excelling at a certain standard are offered a mentoring role for higher wages. If accepted to take on that role, these teachers would offer new teachers the chance to spend a few days in their classroom, let them observe their lessons, give them access to the their planning material and be someone out of that teacher’s school environment who can deliver advice and guidance via email and phone. This challenges the mentor teacher to strive in their new position as well as their underling.

2. For the second category of teacher, I recommend that newly retired teachers, who have left the profession with a wealth of knowledge and an eagerness to maintain links with the profession, be paid to mentor and assist teachers who have not been performing at the required benchmarks. Instead of firing teachers in the first instance, I propose that these teachers get the opportunity to improve with a greater deal of support and collaboration.


• Provides the opportunity for excellent teachers to be better paid;

• Allows retired teachers to maintain links with their profession and share their wealth of experience;

• Gives new teachers greater confidence and a non-judgemental mentor who they can approach; and

• Allows teachers currently not working at their premium a second chance that may reinvigorate and refresh them.

If Teachers Were Paid More I Wouldn’t Have Become One

March 20, 2012

Another year, another impending strike. I know I am a lone voice on this  one, but I find the notion of teachers striking very distasteful and selfish. The job of a teacher is to support and nurture their students. When a teacher decides not to front up to work, they are robbing children of a day of school.

I have never met a teacher that went into the caper for the money. It is a well-known fact that teachers don’t get paid vast sums of money. Partly, this is due to tradition and partly it is due to the fact that Governments simply cannot afford to offer large pay increases across the board.

Am I suggesting that teachers should not be paid more? Absolutely not. I think I work hard enough to justify an increase of salary (currently 3% less than a public school teacher). There is enough wasted money spent on education, I think it would be quite appropriate for some of that misspent money to be allocated to teachers.

What I don’t agree with is the argument that teachers should be given a marked increase. If that was to happen before I started my teacher training, I never would have become a teacher. A large wage increase would have led to a greater popularity in teacher enrolments. The flow on from this would have been that to get into a teaching course, the tertiary rank (based on Year 12 results) would have been much harder. I simply would not have had the grades to get a place.

Some would see that as a positive. Teachers should, according to many, posses outstanding academic credentials. After all, the smarter the teacher, the better the teacher, right?

Not necessarily. I was a late bloomer. I struggled throughout school. My teachers found me very frustrating. No matter how much I applied myself, simply passing was a huge challenge for me. And yet, it is this struggle that has made me become a decent teacher. It has provided me with patience and it allows me to understand the struggles of students with learning difficulties and confidence issues. I try to be the very teacher I felt I needed, but never had.

Whilst I believe that teachers do a wonderful job and they deserve to be paid accordingly, I would like to reach that point without strikes and without Education Unions (they shouldn’t be allowed to be called the Education Union – they aren’t representing what is best for education). I would like potential teachers to join this wonderful profession more for the passion and dedication they have for the job than the money.

I expect that I will be critcised roundly for my stance. I look forward to reading your take on this.

Instead of Cutting Teachers, Cut the Bull!

December 7, 2011

Teacher bashing has become the new sport of the day and nobody is better at blaming teachers than elected officials.

The latest politician to lash out at teachers is New York City’s mayor. Michael Bloomberg. He believes that only half of New York’s teachers are effective:

“Education is very much, I’ve always thought, just like the real estate business: there are three things that matter: location, location, location is the old joke. Well in education, it is: quality of teacher, quality of teacher, quality of teacher. And I would — if I had the ability, which nobody does really, to just design a system and say, ‘ex cathedra, this is what we’re going to do,’ you would cut the number of teachers in half, but you would double the compensation of them, and you would weed out all the bad ones and just have good teachers. And double the class size with a better teacher is a good deal for the students.”

If I was teaching an education course in university the quote above would be written on the board for all to see. This is what young teachers are up against. A tirade of simplistic, ill-informed, ill-considered and non sensical ideas that would, if enacted, ruin hard-working teachers’ lives without any benefit to the educational cause.

Teaching has nothing to do with real estate. Politics does. Politicians and real estate agents take it upon themselves to make the gloomy look positive and the impossible seem realistic. Teaching isn’t like that at all. Teachers know they can achieve a great deal, but are also aware that there are many factors that are involved with a child’s education.

Unlike mayor Bloomberg who thinks that education wholly rests with the teacher, teachers are aware that they are one of many stakeholders in the education system. Mr. Bloomberg should consider the following players:

1. Parents – Teachers can not achieve to their potential if parents are against them or uninvolved.

2. Administrators – If school Principals and councils are poor, then schools will be run poorly.

3. Teacher Training – If the teachers are a product of poor training, you can hardly blame them for their output.

4. School Culture – Teachers who inherit poor school cultures are bound to find it harder than otherwise.

5. School Funding – A school that is either underfunded or is a product of wasted or misallocation of funds is at a clear disadvantage.

Mayor Bloomberg’s idea of cutting jobs in half and doubling class sizes is a policy so simplistic that a ten year-old could have come up with better. His love affair with standardised tests is even more concerning.

Standardised tests cause more problems than they solve. Yet politicians love them. It’s the same reason they love to “bash” teachers – it takes the heat off them.

If Mr. Bloomberg wants to cut some thing I suggest he cut the tests.

I suggest he cut the wastage too.

I also suggest he cut the teacher bashing.

While his at it, I suggest he cut his policy advisor.

And most of all, I suggest he cut the bull!

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