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It is universally recognized that the teacher is the key person in an education system. 21st century teaching carries with it a complicated mix of challenges and opportunities. The following paper will examine the teachers of today-who they are and what they need to do and know. The central theme of the paper is what makes an effective teacher. It will also provide specific examples examining a range of ideas such as; professionalism and ethics, classroom management and organisation, promoting a positive classroom environment and self reflection.
Teaching has had dramatic changes over the past 40 years. Between 1950 and 1970, it was common to find teachers in classrooms with two-year degrees, no behaviour management training, and little knowledge of learning disabilities. There were often no televisions in the classrooms. No one even dreamed of computers, copiers, portable calculators, or telephones in the classroom. A classroom consisted of desks, black chalk board, chalk, books and a record player. Today teaching is a demanding academic field which requires discipline, commitment and a passion for learning.
Teachers of the 21st Century:
spend an average of 50+ hours per week on teaching duties, including non-compensated school-related activities such as grading papers, bus duty, club advising, fund raisers, phone calls at home, and evening activity supervision.
teach an average of 21 pupils at the elementary and 28 at the high school level.
spend an average of $443 per year of their own money to meet the needs of their students.
make an average starting salary of $31,704 per year.
73% enter the teaching profession because of their desire to work with young people.
When referring to the teachers of today it is important to consider the central notion of effective teaching. The classroom, school culture, community, educational system and students can all significantly influence the effectiveness of a teacher. A teacher who may be effective in one context may struggle in another.
Effective teachers are nearly always good planners. They do not enter a room late, after noise and disruption have had a chance to build. They are waiting at the door when the children come in. starting from the very first day of school, they teach the rules about appropriate student behaviour. They do this actively and directly, sometimes they actually model the procedures for getting assistance, leaving the room, going to the pencil sharpener, and the like, the more important rules of classroom behaviour are written down. Below is a model of the foundation of what makes an effective teacher. It is divided into four sections;
Discipline knowledge: The first "honeymoon" encounter between the teacher and the students is when they formulate their impressions of the teacher. Students within a week will begin to test the waters to see what they can "get away with". It is during this period that the effective teacher will establish the expected ground-rules for classroom behaviour.
Personal knowledge: The teacher's personal qualities are recognized as being influential in the overall picture of an effective teacher. Two components of personal qualities are: a moral code of behaviour such as honesty, and integrity, and the teacher's personal philosophy and self-belief, which is best described within a motivational framework. Understanding the role personal qualities play and how they interact with other characteristics of effective teaching addresses and provides insight into the "who question" on teacher effectiveness. The behaviours most cited as reflecting effective teaching and leadership are honesty, and integrity. In combination these behaviours provide the foundation for a trusting relationship between the teacher and his or her students.
Pedagogical knowledge: Effective teachers display a wide range of skills and abilities that lead to creating a learning environment where all students feel comfortable and are sure that they can succeed both academically and personally. This complex combination of skills and abilities is integrated in the professional teaching standards
Knowledge of context: First and foremost, teachers must be knowledgeable in their area of study. In truth, if a teacher is not enlightened in their subject matter, then any hope of effectiveness goes right out the window. Students will know right away if their teacher is not up to speed on classroom material, and they will likely lose respect for their educator. How can students be expected to follow instruction if the leader of the classroom is trying to muddle through right along with them.
The following characteristics are ones that accompany effective teachers, and guide them and their students toward a successful educational experience;
Ability to manage: Effective teachers have appropriate classroom management skills. They must find a balance between being friends with the students, and running a totalitarian classroom. Appropriate classroom management involves asserting authority, while at the same time being approachable and relatable.
Capacity to connect: In order to be an effective teacher, one must be able to make connections with the students. This is a twofold process. First, teachers must be willing to listen. If students feel that they can't ask questions of their teacher, or if students feel that they can't address the teacher regarding a matter in the classroom, or at home, then that teacher is not being effective. Second, teachers must be able to relate to their students. An effective teacher will be able to connect classroom subjects with scenarios relevant to their students' lives, a.k.a. using real-world examples.
Has high expectations: An effective teacher will believe in his/her students. Setting challenging, yet attainable goals for students is essential to maximizing their potential. When children feel that someone believes they can succeed, they are willing to work that much harder.
Be disciplined: On day one, students should learn about their teacher's rules, consequences, and regulations. When it comes to discipline, an effective teacher will not waiver from their principles. How else will students be able to take their teacher seriously? Effective teachers will ensure that their students know what to expect of themselves, and from the teacher at all times.
Have contact with parents: Having regular interactions and conversations with parents is another characteristic of an effective teacher. At the beginning of the school year teachers should send a letter to parents detailing their expectations. They should also issue another letter at the end of the year discussing the student performance. It is also important for teachers to make themselves available during parent/teacher conferences, so that parents can get accurate reports of their child's progress.
As stated earlier the central themes behind the notion of effective teaching incorporates the following;
Effective teachers and leaders are driven by a strong and coherent philosophy, and influenced by their self-efficacy beliefs. Not unexpectedly these teachers reveal a holistic philosophy that centres on educating students for life. These teachers also have positive self- efficacy beliefs and are comfortable with innovation and risk taking. Self-efficacy beliefs are powerful predicators of behaviour and explain the choices people make, their aspirations and persistence in difficult situations. Developing positive self-efficacy beliefs is a slow process built up over time through experience, exposure and a deeper understanding of self.
Professionalism and ethics
Professionalism as it applies to teachers is a life- long commitment to learning. Although there are guidelines and policies that need to be followed each individual person brings with them their own experiences and interpretation of what it is to be a professional. Some factors to being a professional include:
â€¢Conducting yourself in a manner which is appropriate to your role.
â€¢ Being able to react and adapt to ever changing situations.
â€¢ To be able to reflect on past events and be open to change if needed.
â€¢ To consider the wellbeing of others and to do what is right and just.
It could be said that a professional teacher is a person who instructs, that follows rules and standards, possess professional knowledge and engages in professional conduct. A professional is also guided by ethical beliefs. The key factor when defining ethics is to be clear on what your own personal beliefs are and what your boundaries are. It is easier to conduct yourself in a professional manner if you know you can follow clear guidelines set by your employer and yourself and, therefore, be confident in your abilities. Having a solid understanding of what is appropriate such as respecting the confidentiality of students, carers and staff members is vital to promoting a positive educational environment.
Positive classroom environment
The psychological sense that one belongs in a classroom and school community is considered a necessary precursor to the successful learning experience. In an era when traditional sources of belonging have diminished due to changing family and community demographics, the school plays an increasingly important role in meeting this need. Schools can increase the sense of belonging for all students by emphasizing the importance of the teacher-student relationship and by actively involving all students in the life of the classroom and the school community.
Belonging and the Teacher-Student Relationship;
The bond between the teacher and student creates the foundation upon which a sense of belonging can develop. Bronfenbrenner (1979) said that the teacher-student dyad was the primary crucible for learning and human development. Before we can expect children to feel a sense of connectedness with the larger school community they must first develop an attachment with the teacher.
Because teachers often spend more face-to-face time with children than any other person, by default they have become the most significant others in their students' lives and an important source of security and stability. This is especially true for students already burdened by a sense of rejection.
Good classroom management is important for student success. For this to happen, the teacher has to be very organized, and consistent in everything. The teacher must maintain control so that instruction and learning can occur. Much of the control that a teacher has over a class is affected by what the teacher does on the first day of school. Maintaining control during the first week can be an accurate indicator for how well the students will do for the rest of the year.
Effective classroom management means taking the knowledge you have acquired over the years and incorporating it into the classroom. Teaching is consistent and continuous. It means having the patience and the know how to continue working with students when they feel like giving up. A teacher must help students to look inside and find their strengths, weaknesses, passions, dislikes, and their uniqueness. An effective teacher instructs subjects while allowing students to develop personal opinions, and to think creatively. It is also very important that a teacher is able to make learning interesting to the students, and to make education useful.
Good teaching means being open with yourself and the students, so they can in turn be open with themselves. According to Lemlech (1988) classroom management is the linchpin that makes teaching and learning achievable. The author further defines the classroom management using the key components that affect success in the classroom. Classroom management is the orchestration of classroom life: planning curriculum, organizing procedures and resources, arranging the environment to maximize efficiency, monitoring student progress, anticipating potential problems.
To some considerable degree teachers control their instructional effectiveness in the classroom. The passive teacher simply relies on the same old teaching techniques day after day. However, the active teacher who varies his/her day planning different teaching strategic and techniques tends to achieve more success in teaching. Not only does this practice of different teaching techniques provide change for the teacher, it also serves as a motivation for students (Dhand, 1990).
Good managers also carefully arrange their classrooms to minimize disturbances and make sure that instruction can proceed efficiently; they set up their rooms according to the following principles:
â€¢ Teachers should be able to see all students at all times.
â€¢Teaching materials and supplies are readily available.
â€¢ High - traffic areas should be free of congestion.
â€¢ Students should be able to see instructional presentations.
â€¢ Procedures and routines should be actively taught in the same way that academic content is taught.
â€¢The teacher facilitates the learning by encouraging, prompting, interacting, and probing with good questioning techniques such as 'How do you know it's right - can you show me how?'.
Even how quickly a teacher calls the class to order can vary all the way from one to ten minutes. Thus, how efficiently you have your lessons, how long you take to get started, how you handle digressions, off-task behaviour, discipline and how you handle transitions will have an effect on student learning(Walberg,1988).
A teacher is an information provider and role model an assessor a planner and facilitator. All of which can only be achieved if the teacher has a good knowledge base and confidence in their own abilities. Being an effective teacher will leave a lasting impression on the lives of students. Effective teachers can act as both friend and authoritarian, balancing approachability with leadership. They must also be knowledgeable, disciplined and have high expectations of their students. Being an effective teacher is key to creating a successful educational environment.
Students need to learn success and failure in order to grow from it. Students need to be active not passive learners. How well a student learns is a good indication on how effective the teacher is. Teachers play a vital role in today's society. A teacher's role is always changing and duties expanding. Managing these changes is truly a reflection of the role of today's teachers.