EDITOR: Education is a fluid, evolving, continually changing landscape and teachers have to keep in step with that process. Thus, the critical need for ongoing professional development (PD) for teachers, perhaps presented by master teachers in each school.
While this training must focus on the latest pedagogy it must not ignore other factors that impact the teaching/ learning dynamic. For example, the two biggest strengths of ‘awesome’ teachers are their capacity to develop emotive connection and build trust with their students. Thus, teacher training must include emotive connection and trust building as well as empathetic communication, which is critical to both.
As well, PD would ensure that teachers are staying abreast with whatever schools and the system introduce at any and all times – instructional methodologies such as the workshop model, for example; differentiated instructions to ensure the needs of all students are met during instructions; types of assessments, beyond standardized tests; classroom management without corporal punishment et al.
In fact, it is highly recommended that all teachers must do basic education courses to be adept with learning/teaching styles, (John Dunn), multiple intelligences (Gardner), differential cooperative group learning, curriculum based assessment skills to continuously measure learning, especially of the slow learners, to share with parents. Teachers must not only be fluent with the cognitive taxonomy of objectives of Bloom, but also with the affective domain to effectively define instructional objectives (scientifically) according to cognitive and emotional level of students. And there should be teacher training in violence prevention, conflict resolution, psycho-social skills (at the levels of teachers and students), social problem solving, social and emotional learning, role-playing, supervised interactions, student-centred instruction, basic learning disabilities such as dyslexia, modelling and reinforcement exercises.
Mentoring is another critical need. Experienced teachers can allow into their classrooms, other teachers, especially inexperienced ones, as observers, with each such session followed by the exemplary teacher helping the observing teachers to unpack, clarify, seek additional details. The other side of the coin is exemplary and/or master teachers observing the classes of the other teachers and then meeting with them to unpack, guide and mentor.
Additionally, new teachers should be provided by mentors, drawn from either the current teaching staff or retired teachers. No matter what kind of training and skill set a new teacher possesses, it is manifestly unfair to throw that teacher into the classroom without the help of mentoring.
No amount and type of academic training prepares a teacher for the real life classroom experience.
Periodic meetings of teachers according to grades (continuous improvement teams) are necessary to discuss grade level practices, instruction, effectiveness of instruction, student growth, team policies, behaviour, and areas/needs for improvement as well as to share best practices, develop new strategies and address any deficits. Grade level teams help to ensure consistency in instruction (academic, behaviour, and social), by allowing for all teachers of a particular grade to share and bring successes and challenges to the table, reduce teacher stress and burnout, invite the expertise of each individual person on the team to present itself as a resource for addressing challenges to maximize capital, problem solve, share best practices and plan according to identified student needs.
Teachers must also meet across subjects to analyse students’ performance data and come up with instructional plans based on such analyses. This fosters the process of evidence based teaching and also creates scope to group students according to needs and offer related assistance as well as determine areas of weaknesses that would need reinforced teaching and infer strategies to do so.
At the personal level teachers should play a part in curriculum design, especially with respect to goal settings and standards to be met; be provided with an annual stipend for classroom supplies, and paid for after school teaching – evenings, weekends, holidays.
Consideration must also be given to teachers being provided with skills to address the various issues they come up against in the course of each working day. Thus, for example, why not provide anti-bullying training directly to teachers, perhaps using the Olweus Bullying Prevention Programme – the most researched and best-known such programme? Of course, a psychologist in each school would be the best way to go.