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?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.
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:
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.
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.