Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What to do with a poor quality teacher?

What to do with a poor quality teacher.
“a lot of people who have been hired as teachers are basically not competent.” Al Shanker

There is no doubt that the most important element to a child's learning experience is the teacher. Great teachers have an impact on the child's academic achievement. A great teacher will ensure the learning experience is a quality learning experience. Great teachers can only survive in schools which have great leaders. Great leaders enable leadership and innovation. Teachers who are leaders and are innovative are great teachers. Great leaders, great teachers equals great students. Tax payers contribute to a system which should be a quality education system employing quality educators.

A poor teacher actively damages the student's learning experience. Poor teachers are a power-base of mediocrity that is resisting changes in the teaching profession. Poor teachers fabricate excuses. They are not responsible for their outcomes. They are not responsive to their students. If the classification of poor performances are a consistent average across workplaces at least 25% of teachers are poor performers. Poor teachers not only sponsor poor performances of their students but they effect leadership and the quality of teaching within their school. Poor teachers do not look for opportunities. They are safe remaining in the same classroom, teaching the same subject to the same students within the same program and from the same textbook. Whilst there are identifying features of bad teaching they seem to be protected by ineffectual methods for removing them from the system.

Poor quality teachers can be identified!
-> They rely entirely on a text book for content and activity.
-> They do not link learning to the students knowledge base.
-> Relying on hand written notes from the whiteboard.
-> Not allowing sufficient time to copy down notes from the white board.
-> Teacher dominating all verbal content.
-> Narrow use of technologies.
-> Authoritative demonstration.
-> Students do worksheet after worksheet.
-> Create a confrontational environment.

Poor quality teachers are chocking the overall quality of teaching. They are managing an effective mediocrity against change and innovation. The poor quality teachers are actively removing quality and innovative teachers from the system. Once in a permanent position a poor quality teacher is hard to remove. Is it worth paying poor quality teachers to stay out of the classroom or are the numbers so large that this would shut down a school? Should a school cover a vacant position until a quality teacher can be identified? Decisions need to be made if education is to regain its rightful place in society.

There is not a number of poor quality teachers that match the benefits of one great teacher? Poor quality teachers are ineffective. Great teachers are effective. Multiply ineffective teachers all you like but it doesn't match one effective teacher.

Teachers, students, parents and school executives know who the poor teachers are, but poor quality teachers remain in force. If the system and the leaders of a school can't remove poor quality teachers who can? Should it be up to students to file complaints? Should parents organise and actively identify poor quality teachers? The present situation portrays a 'fear of complaint'. Quality teachers leave the school in pursuit of a 'better' school. Rebellious and or disengaged students face punitive punishment, drop-out or move schools. Parents go in alone and request class changes or move their children to another school. Shall the local high school remain overwhelmed by the mediocrity and incompetence of poor quality teachers?

Mediocrity and incompetence will trump the present needs for change and innovation whilst leaders, parents, children and employers remain passive towards poor quality teachers. Little will change whilst poor quality teachers remain in the system. Whilst they remain data and more data will be collated for minimal effect.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Social Networking and Teaching

Social Networking is big business. Social Networking holds a significant skills set which is increasingly becoming an important part of contemporary life. Students need to learn how to effectively and efficiently employ the tools for their working life. How do students gain the required skills set whilst advancing the required subject knowledge? Social Networking has added a complexity to the teaching environment. It is not a question of open exploration, suck and see, or for the teacher to step aside and assume the role as a friend. The interconnecting role of a teacher and student should not be compromised. Teachers are the experts who set standards, who hold the knowledge required, who provide an instructional environment that enabled clarity of purpose. This is not the era for teachers to provide a fuzzy environment where students have to guess what they need to know or are graded without a knowledge of standards. Today and tomorrow demands logical and analytical communication within a fast changing scientific, mathematical and technological environment.

Social Networking is the buzz agenda for innovative teachers, however innovative teachers will always be a minority within the teaching profession. A minority of teachers have an understanding of social network technologies and are enabling an integration of the technology within the present day classrooms. Are the innovative teachers successful? Do they provide more certainty as they bend, adapt, integrate social networking technologies within the industrial built classroom? Overall there is a dis-function between schools and 21st Century social and working environments.
Schools were designed and constructed for processing. They were constructed as filters for what was required in the later industrial age: Blue collar to the left and White collar to the right. There was certainty. Students could leave in year 9 and 10 with the required skills to work on the farm, in a factory, labouring in the open air or get an apprenticeship. 25% could go onto University. There was certainty and schools supported this process with a degree of success. Teachers, administrators, curriculum and the physical classroom supported the functional environment. The requirements have changed and the functions have not. The circumstances have made schools dysfunctional.
Can industrial style classroom physical environment benefit from social network technologies or do they need to be revolutionised from what is generally accepted as a classroom (door entry, teacher at front of room, whiteboard at front of room, timetabled to subjects, many students and few computers)? If classrooms gain one PC, laptop or hand-held per student how do teachers modify the walled and timetabled classroom environment to enable an on-line social network environment? How do education leaders support teachers to move from traditional teaching methods to a social networking model. Should new schools be constructed to enable an on-line social network environment? The complexities of change is not fully addressed or understood.

There are few teachers skilled to a level to successfully operate in an on-line social network environment. Teachers cannot afford to replace one tried and tested method of delivery for another one of which they have little knowledge of. Good teachers are critical for student success. Bad teachers are detrimental for student success. Good teachers have a comprehensive knowledge of the subject matter they are teaching. Good teachers have a command of methodologies. Good technique enables a good results. Bad teachers do not know their subject matter or have a good teaching methodology. Curriculum statements have changed little and they best suite traditional teaching methods. Learn the text book, follow the formula and a good result is possible. Students do not learn required knowledge in spite of having a bad teacher. The question is; how can a teacher who has a strong understanding of their subject matter and a strong teaching methodology (in a tradition manner) move into a collaborative Social Networking methodology without lowering the quality of instruction.

Teachers need to understand and employ Social Networking to a sophisticated level that will enable professional interaction. If social networking is seen as a toy or a play thing there will be no benefits gained. Teachers need to employ the tool on an authoritative level with clear aims and objectives. The tools need to be employed as were the traditional tools; that is to enable the students to gain the standards of exception.

Teachers need to address their on-line presence as a professional identity.
> Understand the affordances and limitations of the chosen technology.
> Social networks need to be critically integrated within assessment tasks.
> Student groups need to be organised with analytical care for social and cultural sensitivities.
> Provide direction with clarity of objectives.
> Enable directed investigation.
> Enable skill development within the employed technology.
> Teachers need to partake within the activity as a facilitator, trainer, network administrator and instructor when and where required.

It is important that teachers do not entwine their effort is constructing a complex, sophisticated on line experience that covers all. It is important that it is the students who value add the Social Network. The teacher needs to construct the instructional direction.