Tag Archives: education

4 Qualities of an Effective Educator

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Last Sunday, I posted this photo of a Philippine Daily Inquirer article that caught my attention on my Facebook wall. Within 24 hours, the post receive more than a hundred likes. Most of my Facebook friends are former and current students, and of course, fellow educators. I’m no social media sensation, and I would like to believe that 100 likes is above average. The opinion that great (or effective) teachers guarantee education sounds pretty much like common sense among my circle of [Facebook] friends.

I would like to categorically state at the beginning of this post that I am not a Metrobank Foundation recipient of Best Teacher Award, nor any award for that matter. Heck, I did not graduate college and post-graduate cum laude. I did pass the Licensure Examination for Teachers, and my score is way beyond the passing mark, but not Top 10 worthy. The only credential I have is my passion to teach, and a few “Thank You” notes from my students. Take my post with caution. Surely, I will draw some flak from critics who would beg to disagree with my points. Then again, can I not be entitled with my Platonic criteria of an effective educator?

1. Innovative and Creative.

Effective teachers know the importance of engaging students in their lessons. Primary and Secondary education is about making sure our students are learning, as opposed to tertiary education where students are independent and supposedly self-motivated already to learn. We instill more skills (e.g. thinking, writing, speaking, listening, expressing) and fundamental concepts understanding than bombarding them with information.

Lecturing is totally fine. There are lessons that will require a straight-out lecture. In other cases where we can be creative, we ought to be creative. Assessments can be innovative. For example, when assessing students’ understanding of the Shakespearean language, I thought of adopting the #15secondShakespeare where celebrities read lyrics of contemporary songs in a Shakespearean way. After learning the iambic pentameter, I asked my students to create their own #15secondShakespeare. They were to record a video of themselves reciting lines from famous songs in iambic pentameter the best way they can. I enjoyed grading their submissions, and I am quite sure, despite the shame they felt recording themselves, they enjoyed it, too.

Another activity which my students loved was “Mollified Mondays.” They especially look forward to Mondays where I play a relatively unpopular song (usually songs I listened to when I was in high school and college) in class, and they answer five comprehension questions about the song. They loved this! They say they also learned to appreciate [old] songs better through this activity.

Lessons and assessments can be fun, and at the same time educational.

Tip: Never forget your job as an educator. When you go through your social media accounts, read articles on the internet, and watch TV, you will find ideas how to make your lessons more interesting. I got the #15secondShakespeare idea reading feature articles from Mashable. You can also get ideas from Lifehacker. You can also create your own online “magazine” collection consolidating articles from your favorite media source through Feedly

2. Amazing Metacognitive Skills.

Most of the feedback of students of their teachers is that they have a difficult time understanding their teacher. The reason is that these teachers’ metacognitive skills are almost nonexistent. What is metacognition?

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Definition of metacognition according to Google.

Metacognition refers to the awareness of one’s thought processes. An effective teacher can model his or her thinking/thought process. This requires a lot of reflection on the teacher himself or herself understands his or her own lesson. For example, if I am going to teach my students about avoiding Misplaced Modifiers, I will have to model my LOGICAL thinking. This is how I would sound like teaching “metacognitively”:

Joe escaped from the cockroach running toward the door.

  • What is the first thing I need to know? Of course, first, I need to find the modifier. Now, where is that modifier in that sentence? They are adjectives in the sentences, or an additional phrase or clause.
  • Now that I have identified the modifier, I need to know what it is supposed to modify. How do I do that? Let’s turn the modifier into a question. For example, the modifier is “running toward the door.” The question you should ask is “Who is running toward the door? Is it the cockroach or Joe?” I think I have to go with Joe since he is escaping, and if you’re escaping you want to get out through the door. 

You can hone your metacognition skills by “thinking out loud.” Play that Ed Sheeran song please.

Tip: You can read this article on Edutopia to give you ideas on how to develop metacognition among your students, and perhaps yourself as well. Here is a good article on Metacognition 101

3. Patient.

Teachers are known to be patient because effective teachers are patient. Give me a name of a teacher who is impatient with his or her students, and I can tell you straight that he or she is not an effective teacher. We educators do not teach the already intelligent. The intelligent students learn concepts in no time. Authentic educators teach those who do not understand because that is where learning happens. Here are some ways to start a patient teacher revolution:

  • Patient teachers do not hold recitations. He or she intentionally calls those students who appear to be confused. When you spend time to teach one confused student, you teach the rest of the class as well. You won’t bore the intelligent students because you will be asking their help to explain it. Classmates are great teachers because they can explain concepts using their language.
  • Patient teachers painstakingly correct misconceptions on written assessments. As an English teacher, I spend time letting out the Grammar Nazi in me–striking down every grammatical error, sentence error, and mechanical error with my trusty colored pen. In Maths, you could do the same by looking for the spot in the solution where the student made the mistake and bring it to his or her attention. Why I do this is because I learned to write a thesis paper in college because of my patient teachers who took time to edit my papers.
  • Patient teachers do not laugh at students’ wrong answers. As educators, we do not assume that students already know what they know. We have to be always open to the possibility that not all students know what they ought to know. This is why you are their teacher at that point in time–it is your duty to inform that student, it is your duty and mine to educate that student, and not to laugh and humiliate him or her.
  • Patient teachers know to scrap out topics to focus on more important ones. I had always believed that content is more important than mastery until I realized that mastery of skills is more important as I matured as an educator. With information accessible more than ever with just a simple Google search, the teacher’s role is not anymore to teach as much, but his or role is already to teach with depth. This means that we teach learning skills. They can use these skills when they self-study.

Tip: Pray this:

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4. Humble.

An effective educator is humble. Student feedback is just as important as your immediate superior’s feedback. Where I work, students are asked for feedback in the middle of the academic year. Teachers do not get to read these comments until the end of the year for fear of taking negative feedback against one’s students. I strongly believe, however, that a humble teacher will not react this way.

I take time to ask my students for feedback and encourage them to give me ways I can improved my teaching. I have had comments like I have favoritism, or my lectures are boring. It takes me years of practice to get rid of these impressions. I tried to be creative in my presentations and really put my heart into them. I place funny comics, grammar nazi jokes, and even created a fictional character Gen. Guidelines. (I hope you got the joke. Did I mention I was corny?)

A teacher never takes a negative comment from a student personally. It is a feedback. If we assess our students regularly, our students also assess us. We are all hardwired to evaluate. Our students also evaluate each time how well we are teaching them. They know the best way how they should be taught. Getting their feedback is gold. We should make it a habit to ask them once in a while, even in the middle of the class, to give us feedback, because again the point is for them to learn.

Because of traditional teaching methods and classroom culture, students have become afraid to admit that they do not understand. A learning classroom encourages students to be simple enough to say they need further clarification on the lesson. This will only happen if we do not punish lack of understanding, if we do not punish low scores, if we do not punish wrong answers. Both students and teachers should be humble. For the former, humble to admit a lack of understanding; and for the latter, humble to accept the reality that you failed to make that student understand.

Tip: Constantly remind yourself that you are not perfect, but you can only achieve perfection thanks to feedback. Watch this video. The context is improving the company, but you as the CEO of your own classroom, you can also adapt the same concept. 

Last words.

All these four qualities are offshoots of one sole goal of a teacher: To make the students learn, understand. If all teachers have this one same goal in mind, I believe quality education can be achieved. Students stop becoming just another statistic, or just mere names in a list. Students start becoming persons we need to take care of. All these for the achievement of common good.

If there is anything that Teacher Education Institutions need to revamp in the formation and education of teachers is to add 3 units on “Qualities of Effective Teachers,” the other side of an amazing educator. Values? They don’t teach these anymore.

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Common Sense School Leadership

I don’t have a Masters degree in Educational Management or Leadership or any similar-sounding degree, but I would like to think that I have developed my management style by experience and by common sense.

  1. A leader’s goal is to mentor his/her subordinates to be better than him/her. Leadership is not in the hands of the few that continuity is sacrificed. Continuity is important in any organization so that leadership is given to a good mix of the “old” and the “new” generation.giphy
  2. A leader has to constantly give feedback without sugar coating. Honesty is important. Everyone wants feedback. They look like they don’t, but do not underestimate those under your care: They actually want to know whether the paper they sent you is okay or not okay. Don’t delay the feedback; they appreciate hearing soon despite their nervousness to hear what you will say to them.tumblr_inline_nbcmfqkFpa1smnrq8
  3. Constantly receive and demand feedback from them. It’s not easy to take in negative feedback, but this is essential for your growth and theirs. As constructive criticism becomes an internal culture, everyone in the team grows—your members and you. A nice by-product is the elimination of backstabbing culture.tumblr_m4u0y3jd391rwcc6bo1_500
  4. You are not perfect. Apologize. In relation to the previous item, always remember that you are not perfect—that I am not perfect. The superiority complex of thinking that you are always right destroys the culture of openness. It doesn’t just destroy openness, but also creates a wall between you and your members. Your degree is just on paper; don’t throw your weight around. Learn to say “sorry” to those you have offended, or embarrassed.tumblr_n2pm6kcasL1rcny7ko1_500
  5. Empower those in your care and train reflective leaders. Know your people. Discover their talents, their interests, and strengths, and tap on them as need be. Even if you can do it yourself, delegate the task. Allow them to make mistakes, so that they can also learn from them. When you mentor them, you can train them to be reflective leaders, capable of identifying their own errors and correct them accordingly. In this way, you don’t even have to be the one to tell them; they will tell you.i-made-a-terrible-mistake-and-i-need-you
  6. Respect others’ expertise. Key to a united team is not to trump others by questioning their decisions on their expertise. Maybe you just don’t understand their field that’s why you can’t see their point. Your Doctors degree does not negate another person’s expertise. Remember, too, that expertise is not necessarily just determined by educational attainment.thatsamazing
  7. Be a good example. As you try to train future leaders (because we know that some leaders are not born, but made), it is important that you serve as a model for what and how a leader should be. inspire
  8. There’s a time for everything. There is a time to laugh with your team members, and time to be serious. Know when to be friendly, and know when you need to put your foot down.Batman-Robin-Green-Arrow-Laugh-In-Old-School-Cartoon-Gif
  9. Think like a parent and friend. See your members as your own children. You cannot play favorites. Scold them when they need to be scolded. Comfort them when they need to be comforted, treat them to a simple meal (food always marks celebrations and sharing), cheer them up, surprise them with little things. See them as both as a parent and a friend.giphy-2
  10. Empathize. Do what they do. Put yourself in their shoes. It is important that you know where they are coming from. Be sensitive to how they feel when you scold them (maybe you misjudged them), when you joke around with them (maybe it was a bad joke), when you give them a task on top of their workload (maybe you have given him/her the same task every time), when you play favorites especially to your friends.tumblr_ml690vnsO91r3q8v7o1_500

I am not a perfect leader, but I believe that these are the things I thought an effective school leader should be. I could be wrong. I drew these from my experience of being under a superior, from hearing complaints of colleagues, and from seeing how other leaders are. I may not live by these principles 100% of the time, but these guide me in my leadership.

After you have trained them to be better than you, what’s next? Let go. Let go of your position, so that there will be a free spot on top for them to fill. Sense of fulfillment—priceless.

Common sense leadership? In the end, it might not be as common after all.

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Loyal Teachers, the pearl of great price

Schools are also embattled with disgruntled employees. Teachers, in pairs or in droves, would prematurely leave their current employer for several reasons. It could be an unexpected hiring in a foreign school with a different school year, or because of their lack of trust in their superior. Whatever it may be, hardly will there be a reason that can justify a teacher’s leaving without having to call the act selfish.

The teaching profession is a different specie. It’s not that easy to just leave the teaching job in the middle of the school year.

Consequences of leaving mid-year

Some, perhaps, are not aware of the dire consequences of making this decision to leave mid-year. Allow me to enumerate:

  • First and foremost, the students suffer. Students are affected when a teacher leaves them suddenly. They are very perceptive. Grade 3 students are also perceptive.
  • The grades of your students will be greatly affected if two teachers will compute their grades. Maybe it’s not too much of the computation of grades since there is a formula, but the type of tests that the new teacher will make will be different. It may be easier, or more difficult than the last one. Students will again have to adjust.
  • Your co-teachers will take your 21-unit load. Not everyone can teach the subject you gave up, so maybe only 1 or 2 teachers will share your 21 units. If these teachers already have 21 units, then they will have additional 11 units. Teachers will become more stressed despite the overload pay, and will eventually resign.
  • If you are a class adviser, you have already betrayed your students. Classes have become more “possessive” these days of their adviser. They feel that their adviser is the one who understands them the most and would be their strong defender. Then, their adviser leaves them behind.
  • Overall, students’ learning is compromised.

There are other consequences that probably don’t matter to the resigned, but they are worth mentioning as well:

  • Administrators will have a difficult time looking for a replacement teacher in the middle of the school year when most teachers are already employed.
  • It’s a lost investment. The school has trained you during in-service trainings, sent you to attend seminars, mentored you (if any), and took care of you.

If someone resigns despite knowing these consequences, there are will only be two reasons:

  1. The teacher has really urgent concerns that are a matter of life and death, or an issue that affects her immediate family members.
  2. The teacher is just simply, well, to put it bluntly, selfish. He/She wants a better paying job. He/She has disagreements with his/her superior. He/She has complaints against the institution he/she has not voiced out.

“This is very good!”

Fr. Bobby SDB celebrated mass at our school and his homily tackled this mantra that up to now rings inside the classrooms being blurted out by our students: “This is very good!” He maintains that every seeming evil situation brings with it something very good as well.

What is very good, then, about cases like these that haunt your institution?

  • Opportunity for administrators to reflect and re-evaluate the organizational structure that may have contributed to higher rates of premature resignations.
  • For all we know, it is/was a good riddance.
  • (Possibility of) Hiring of a better teacher, a more loyal teacher.

Last words

I could be wrong. I could be right. These are just my observations, and I don’t mean to make this sound research-based at all.

A great teacher is a loyal teacher. He/She doesn’t have to be loyal to the institution — it is enough that his/her loyalty to her students keep her until the end of the school year. If a teacher does exactly this before he/she applies, administrators should fight to keep him/her because he/she knows what teaching is really all about: about education. Truly, these are pearls of great price. Definitely worth keeping and fighting for.

…and the irony is that the resumé that qualified the teacher in another institution is printed using the school’s colored laser printer.

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A Decade of Educating: Reflections

I have spent the longest time in my current academe employer than any other job I held. In these more than 10 years teaching, I was never the same teacher when I first entered my first class — no one should ever be.

I had the honor to be able to speak to future educators this afternoon. It was more of an honor for me to speak to them than the other way around. I don’t get the opportunity like this to inspire them and keep the passion and idealism in them. The talk I had with them was equally inspiring. It gave me the chance to reflect on my 10 years of teaching. To be honest, it wasn’t difficult to answer the questions they posed to me. I could easily summarize my answer to just this: Please only God.

Some people have wondered and admired my confidence and my peace. These people ask me how come I don’t have any hang-ups. It’s because I learned to only please God when I work, when I decide. I don’t try to please anyone with the way I work. I don’t teach with the goal in mind that I want my students to love me; that I want to be the most popular teacher in school. As long as you know you are doing the right thing and what ought to be done knowing that these will please God, then there is nothing to fear. There is no reason for us to complicate our lives.

Complaints? Sure I complain about many things at work, but I always go back to the fact that no institution is perfect, because it is run by people who also commit mistakes, myself included. I am not perfect. I am not the perfect teacher, nor a perfect friend. If I want a perfect boss or even a perfect colleague, only God will fit the bill. And if complaints need to be addressed, I talk to the right person who can address these concerns. Complain not with anger, but out of concern always. In this way, you also achieve peace.

Anxious about getting promoted or demoted? I have no qualms about losing my position, because I never asked for it. I see my special role in school as a privilege, not as a right. If we start seeing them as a right, then that’s when we start being anxious about losing our post. I don’t work to get promoted. I work solely because I want to please God, to show my appreciate for the One who gave me the skills and the talents. Promotion? A mere consequence. In fact, in the academic setting, it’s an extra task that your superiors think you can  handle. More than a promotion, it’s an additional burden.

Stop looking at other people at work, at your boss, and begin looking at yourself more — how you do your work, how you inspire other people through your work.

Life is simple. You can live a life without hang-ups, worries. You can achieve a lot of great things without directly wanting them, but by achieving as a mere consequence of only one thing: to please God.

Ten full years I have already spent teaching, and many other things in between, and doing only one thing consistently, it is enough to make God smile with my efforts. If God allows that I see the fruits of my labor while here on earth, I thank God for these bonuses.

To God be all the glory.

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Realizations on my encounter with the Poor

Yesterday, the members of the faculty had a Parmenie Encounter Program organized by the Lasallian Mission Office. We went to Balibago Complex and we were supposed to interact with the poor there. I was privileged to talk to a 9 year-old and a couple.

The 9-year old “Gina”

I began my conversation with Gina by asking how she was. She said she was okay, but a little tired because she just came from playing with friends in the street. I asked further about her parents, what they did for a living. She said that her mother is a labandera and her father was a janitor but recently lost his job because he frequently absented himself from work. I continued getting to know Gina. I asked if they were able to eat at least 3 times a day, she said, “No.” Sometimes they only eat once. Her father just told her that morning, “Anak, pasensya muna ha, kasi hindi tayo makakain ngayon.” What struck me was her answer when I asked her what she does when she is not able to eat: “Tinitiis ko na lang po. Pero di po ako nagru-rugby kasi masama daw sa ulo yun. Ayaw ko nun.” I just had to ask this follow-up question because I wanted to know their source of income:

“Eh ikaw, nanlilimos ka ba sa kalsada?” 

“Hindi po ako pinapayagan ng tatay ko kasi baka makulong daw ako.”

After this conversation, I realized that even the poor are capable of teaching their children values and living these values. They very well need the money, and could very well ask their children to go to the streets and ask for alms. But no. They love their children no matter what. They won’t put them in harms way. No electricity, no money, but will not impose the burden on their children. Exception? Yes, perhaps. But a good example of the poor to be capable of exercising virtue.

The street couple with 2 children and 1 on the way

They say that the poor only makes babies. This family is another exception. The mother is 26 and the father is 29. Their eldest is 8 years old, followed by a 3-year old and 1 on the way. Family planning? Yes definitely! They were able to space their children in these long year gaps! Contraceptives? Pills? I don’t think so. The Barangay health center even refused to entertain her since she’s not from the area. My colleague had to buy her P100 pregnancy test at the health center (binibili pala itong mga ito? Di ba dapat libre?!?!?!) to check if she was indeed pregnant. Do we still expect that a health center gave this couple pills? They knew they had to space their children. Poor, living in the streets, sleeping on kartons. The mother was a dispatcher, and the husband earns a living doing “pangangalakal” or junk trading.

The poor can’t do self-control? Of course they can! They are the same as us who have jobs and shelter, and more than we need. We are just clean, and they are covered with the street’s dirt. We distributed the binalot to our poor partners. At first, I was just given one set, and I gave it to the mother. The mother instinctively gave the food to her 3-year old daughter. I was so impressed that I told the mother:

“Bilib naman po ako sa inyo, ‘Nay, kasi ibibigay niyo ang pagkain ninyo sa anak ninyo.”

“Alam mo, wag na kaming kumain mag-asawa para makakain lang anak namin.” She continued, “Hindi pa nga namin naaayos ang birth certificate ni Dimple eh. Gusto namin siyang ipasok sa eskuwelahan eh kailangan ang birth certificate para makapasok.”

Education. Education. Education. The poor hold on to education as a means for them to rise out of poverty not contraceptives, pills. That’s what the poor wants and cry for! They know that they can get better jobs if they are educated! What does the government think about contraceptives and pills as a solution to poverty? Ask any child, they know that they will become richer with education.

What stops them from going to school?

“Wala pa po akong bag pampasok sa school.”

“Wala na po kaming pera para sa pagbili ng school supplies.”

Why can’t the local government do anything about this?

What the barangay did to help a couple with 21 children

A colleague was sharing that a barangay health official pitied this couple who lives on a kariton, but has 21 children, and ligated the mother. Did the ligation make them richer? No. They still have 21 children and they still live in that kariton. How elitist this thinking is! Why can’t the barangay give the father a decent job, or a livelihood? What is the barangay planning to help the poor in their area? None. They have none. They excused themselves from making programs for the poor saying, “They don’t belong to our city. They are not our constituents.” What they don’t realize is that these poor that we are talking to are actually their constituents. It speaks of the laziness of these officials to even just survey the streetchildren in the town.

These government officials need to do their own Parmenie Encounter Program.

Sigh.

Education and employment. Where are you?

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