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Showing posts from 2015

The Teacher's Gift - Chapter 1

Chapter 1

The Calling

The teacher’s “calling” is that driving need that she has to embark on a course of action as her life's work and that deep-seated belief or acceptance that she has about the “rightness” of that course of action on which she has embarked. And, having embarked on this course of action, the teacher feels a sense of satisfaction in tackling the demands of this course of action, in spite of the challenges.

The course of action that she feels compelled to take, to teach, is her calling. It is from this calling that she hopes to achieve her livelihood.

The teacher believes that teaching is her calling, whether by choice or by circumstance. She knows that in spite of her motivation for entering the teaching profession, she has a responsibility to her students to, among other things, help in guiding them in becoming the kinds of citizens that society, through the policies of government or through its norms and mores, expects them to be. The teacher realises that this…

What goes around comes around - Lessons about Management and Leadership from the Man in the Street

Life is a great teacher and what is certain, if we have thought about it, is that each day will bring with it a new set of lessons for us, and we do not know in what way these lessons will be packaged, who will deliver them and how they will be delivered.

What we do know is that we have the responsibility to recognise each moment that we share with others as an opportunity to learn something. This "something", we may already be familiar with, but the perspective from which it is being presented to us may be new and, we find that we are being challenged to examine this "something" in new ways.

Recently, I had the pleasure of a chance meeting with the man in the street. He is a cab driver. I needed to get to several destinations as soon as possible and he agreed to transport me to those destinations, for a fee of course.

We made our first stop at one of my target destinations, a business situated in what could be described as an industrial complex. This is a sprawli…

Quality Education Enhancement

I have a deep interest in developments in the education industry. The education industry, like all other established industries, has tried from time to time to reinvent itself. As such, we have witnessed changes in many aspects of educational enterprise. The following list is not exhaustive:

the content of curriculathe methodologies of delivering that contentthe job descriptions of teacherseducational technologiesthe widespread privatisation of education in some areasthe mode of government provisionAnd we have seen the introduction of buzz words - the need for better school governance or the need to improve governance structures, or the need for effectiveness, efficiency and economy in the management of schools, or the need to improve the educational outcomes of students. ... you know them! But, for the most part these buzzwords have remained just that - buzz words, because the education industry seems to lack enough of the human resources who are capable of providing committed vision…

Teachers: 6 ways to maintain a "good" relationship with your students

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You are in a noble profession, or so you've been told. Your job is very important. You are charged with moulding young and not so very young minds to accept and nurture what is "good" and so be a credit to society. Because, society needs "good" people if it is to surge upward in its development. 
You're supposed to achieve this noble goal, in spite of whatever resistance/challenge that you meet in the classroom - students who are aggressive, disrespectful, resistant to learning what you are teaching them in the classroom...

Some days the challenge of finding the right balance between allowing your students to be students, thus keeping them always happy, and getting them to perform up to the standard that you know they can perform weighs heavily on you.

I have been a teacher for more than 25 years and I have survived many of these days. On one such day, I thought up this "tongue in cheek" list, intended to stir reflectio…

How to work well with the selfish colleague

We are working in an environment in which we often hear the buzz words: team, teambuilding, collaboration and their synonyms.

The experts have urged managers in organisations to work collaboratively with their  teams to achieve the objectives of the organisation.

However, in many organisations - educational, non-educational, governmental or non-governmental - there is at least one worker who scoffs at the idea of team work. This colleague exhibits the following behaviours:

1. She is not interested in briefing sessions or any other form of staff meeting. This person attends these meetings but when she does, she stares blankly at nothing, seeming to be in another place at another time, or is obviously annoyed by the goings on, from time to time muttering to herself or rolling her eyes as the team leader outlines the tasks to be completed that day.

This person usually separates herself from other colleagues, and if she is prodded to come closer, she reluctantly does, but stays at the fr…

The school principal as human resource manager

The school principal is employed and given a mandate which is explicit, either being outlined in a job description, or implicit as evidenced by the utterances of the political head of the education system, to raise the performance of his/her school. This usually means that the principal must ensure that the students in his school perform to meet or exceed the national average of performance that students have set.

To ensure that he/she achieves this goal, the principal has to work with a team - senior teachers, teachers, students, administrative and ancillary workers,  parents and other stakeholders achieve his/her goal.

How does the principal do this? He/she has to be a human resource manager. That is, the principal has to devise policies and strategies to motivate the human beings whom he/she manages to work towards contributing to the goal that the education directorate has set for schools generally and his/her school in particular. This is part of the thrust of human resource man…

How you can make knowledge relevant for your students

I watched about five minutes of the recent Oscars presentation on television, not because it wasn't a good show but because I had things to do that I considered to be more important than watching the spectacle.

In the five minutes or so that I watched, I learnt much, not from what was going on on-stage, but from my viewing companions. From them, I learnt the names of some of the guests in the audience, I learnt about the actors who were nominated in the category of "Best Supporting Actor" and I learnt about my companions' opinions of the movies and actors nominated in this category, as well as their views on who should win and why they should win.

This was information that was new to me since I cursorily follow the goings-on of pop culture. In five minutes, I got a lesson on an element of pop culture. From this lesson, I came to a realisation about the process of learning in schools, colleges and universities and all other places in which learning takes place.

We ha…

The future of teachers in the classroom in developing countries

The change in the educational landscape with the most far reaching effects is the adoption and use of Information and Communication Technologies in classrooms. Of course, these effects may be more visible in the developed world than in the developing world, which for the obvious reason, are lagging behind the developed world in the wide scale adoption and use of technology in the classroom.

Michael Godsey in an article in The Atlantic asks the question: When kids can get their lessons from the Internet, what's left for classroom instructors to do? In this article, he presents his vision of the future of education and the role of the teacher in his envisioned future educational landscape. Read God set's article here.

For many teachers today, their role in the classroom is unambiguous. They see their role in the following light:

to physically attend school each dayto prepare lessons before handto deliver these lessons face to face to their students, to assess their students' …

The School and Society

Education officials question the quality of the output from the schools, colleges and universities. They also take issue with the quality of the teachers in some of these places of learning and their ability to effect learning in students.

The business community questions the quality of the output from the schools, colleges and universities. Members of this community also take issue with the quality of the teachers and their ability to effect the kind of learning that they would like to see students exhibit.

Teachers question the ability of some of their students to learn as well as their motivation to learn. In addition, they question the role of parents in their children's learning. They also take issue with government's provision to the education sector.

Parents see their children as the smartest and most capable students who have ever graced the walls, virtual or otherwise, of classrooms. Therefore, they believe that their children can learn much and if they do not, it is…

Honesty is the best policy, is that so?

The word honesty denotes truthfulness, integrity – positive, admirable values. Should honesty always be a guiding principle in our lives?

A student, several years ago, in responding to the essay topic: Honesty is the best policy opined that honesty is not always the best policy. She illustrated her answer with the example of examinations.

According to her, a person will find herself/himself in situations when she/he has to cheat. If passing an examination well meant that a person would get into the best schools, and getting into the best schools would determine that person's successful future, (a belief in her culture) then it would be all right to cheat.

She did not examine the consequences that a person could likely face if caught. The potential benefit of cheating, to her, it would seem, far exceeded the costs.

The nature of the environments in which we work

We are working in environments in which governments and businesses have been trying to cement what is often referred to a…

Are you a professional?

I am hearing the resounding "yes" of most of you who are reading this article. "Of course we are professionals!"

But, what exactly makes you a professional?

I can still hear you. Your responses are many and varied. Some of your responses are coherent. You know exactly why you are a professional. Some of your responses are incoherent. You believe that you are a professional but you are finding it difficult to articulate your reasons for your belief.

A number of scholars in many fields - Education, Business,  Government, among others - for example, Donald Schon and M. Noordegraaf who have engaged with the study of professionalism, have suggested, among other things, that there are some key components of professionalism. These components are as follows:
There is a knowledge component. That is, the area in which one claims to be a professional has some specific knowledge associated with it. Having gained the knowledge associated with our areas of interest, knowledge ac…

New year, same challenges in the education sector, Part 6

Performance of the administrative staff
One of the challenges that the education system faces is that of getting the administrative staff to raise its levels of performance. The administrative staff in schools has very important roles to play in the education system. They, like the principals and teachers, have important roles to play in helping schools achieve their objectives. They do the following:

Provide Administrative Support - First, they provide administrative support to the principals of schools, but they also provide 'policy support' in disseminating the articulated visions of principals for their schools. They do this dissemination of the visions of principals for their schools literally or figuratively through their interactions with all categories of staff, students, parents and the wider community.

Manage Perception - Second, since they, more often than not, are the first link between the school and the wider community - parents, businesses,  civic groups among oth…

New year, same challenges in the education sector, Part 5

Performance of teachers The major challenge with which teachers continue to grapple in the education system is that of helping their students to raise their levels of performance. This is a daunting challenge which has to do with the nature of the students in many classrooms.

In many classrooms, teachers will discover that there are students of mixed abilities and temperaments. For example, in one classroom teachers may discover that they have students who are quite enthusiastic about learning. These students actively participate in class activities and they complete every homework assignment.

However, the teachers may also discover that they have students in their classrooms who seem to have decided that schooling is not for them. They come to school, they find their own space in the classroom and they conduct their own 'lessons' surrounding the things in which they have an interest - pop culture, relationships, games, their plans for that day or the weekend among their other…

New year, same challenges in the education sector, Part 4

Performance of principals What is the major challenge that principals of schools in the education system face in raising the levels of performance in their schools? The major challenge that many of them face is to motivate students, teachers, administrative and ancillary staff to raise their levels of performance. This is a major challenge for principals since they do not all have the same 'winning' personality and level of resources with which to work.

Students, teachers and other workers take their places in schools knowing quite well the reputation of these schools in terms of their performance and the perception that society has of these schools. For example,  some schools enjoy a good reputation based on any or all of the following: their location in the society, their histories, the reputation of their principals,  the performance of their students on examinations which, in turn, cast the teachers' performance in either a good or a bad light, the support that the sch…

New year, same challenges in the education sector, Part 3

Performance of workers in the Ministry of Education
The performance of any system depends on the 'proper' functioning of all of its parts. In the case of the education system, its 'proper' functioning depends on the effort that all of its members - the 'parts' of the education system - are willing to exert in completing the tasks to which they are assigned.

In two previous posts, I have examined the major challenge faced by the education system and the specific challenges faced by the Minister. In this post, I will turn my attention to the workers in the Ministry of education, briefly examining one of the major challenges that they face in being a part of the policy process to improve the performance of the education system, a challenge that will in turn impact the achievement of the desired outcomes from the system.

One of the major challenges that these workers face is that of getting out of the game of 'passing the buck'. For many workers in governme…

New year, same challenges in the education sector, Part 2

The Minister of Education

The major challenge that education systems throughout the world face is that of improving the performance of these systems. The Minister under whose portfolio education falls is tasked with improving this performance. As such she/he has the responsibility to lead the policy development initiatives for this sector, initiatives that they (believe?) will cause improvement in these systems.

The Minister has a slew of policy experts from within and outside of the governmental system from whom to get policy advice. She/he draws on these resources, and let us assume that the Minister seeks the advice of experts who have or have had an intimate relationship with the education system as former or current school managers, teachers, education researchers, education officers, among other such experts.

Having got this critical bit of policy advice for which she/he has searched and found, she/he authorizes the creation of specific policies for the different areas in the …