Monday, December 17, 2012

Who is a Teacher?

Dear Friends,
     I am taking a departure from my usual posts to this blog.  I'd like to share the following essay with you.  If you are so compelled, please feel free to share it with others.  Thanks so much in advance.


Who is a Teacher?

In the wake of the senseless tragedy in Newton, CT, we as a nation are faced with an array of unanswerable questions, difficult realities and unfathomable grief.  That the lives of 20 innocent children could be taken by such a horrific act is beyond the comprehension of rational people – it was selfish and tragic, senseless and heart-wrenching.

But, there is a truth and a constant that has surfaced in the face of this brutality against the youngest members of our society: the bravery, compassion and unselfishness of teachers.  For it was the teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary School who put their lives between savage violence and the fate of their students.  It was the teachers who acted in the best interest of their charges – without pause, without hesitation.  This had nothing to do with lesson plans or standardized test scores – this was all about compassion and concern, consideration and care…and what was right.

So often, teachers take it on the chin from the media seeking “easy” stories about incompetent educators or the public angered by higher school taxes.  But, at the beginning of each day in this country millions of parents send millions of schoolchildren out into the world and out into the care of trusted, caring and unselfish individuals who are guided by one singular principle – the best interests of a young generation.  For it is teachers who guide, counsel, direct, encourage, challenge, promote…and yes…protect their students so that they might become (as the U.S. Army puts it) “all they can be!”

I have the great honor and consummate privilege of working with a new generation of teachers – a corps of individuals who are committed to youngsters; who came into this profession not just to make a difference in the lives of children, but in society as a whole.  Each semester, as I look out over my undergraduate classes, I am touched by the passion of their convictions, the energy of their desire and the dedication of their purpose in life.  They are the best and the brightest – entering a profession with unparalleled possibilities and incredible opportunities to touch the future.  They are certainly not in it for the money, the latest in classroom technology or long vacations.  They are in it, quite simply, for the kids!

As we reflect on the events of December 14 – both as individuals and as a country – I believe we need to honor (indeed celebrate) the will of teachers – the single-minded determination that doing what is always best for children is one of life’s greatest callings…and most honorable professions.  Certainly, the teachers of Newton, CT unselfishly demonstrated that for an entire nation.
 

Anthony D. Fredericks, Ed.D.
Professor of Education
York College of Pennsylvania

Monday, November 12, 2012

If an administrator visited your classroom, what would she/he see?


Q:       If an administrator visited your classroom, what would she/he see?

     A:   She would see an educational environment where every student is respected, every student is trusted, and every student is learning.  She would see an active classroom – a classroom where students are never absorbing information passively, but are, instead, actively participating in a curriculum that puts a premium on personal and meaningful engagement.  She would see students taking responsibility for their learning through self-established goals, projects and activities that are pedagogically sound and standards-based.  She would see students achieving…she would see students challenged through higher level thinking questions, specific RTI activities, and a teacher dedicated to success.  She would see a classroom that embraces every student’s cognitive and affective potential.  She would see a community of learners!

            The answer to this question should focus, not on the physical environment (“Well all the chairs would be lined up in neat, straight rows and the teacher’s desk would be placed in the front of the room and….”), but rather on your philosophy of education.  This is a question that gets to the heart of what it means to be a teacher.  Here’s where you can let your beliefs and your values shine.  But be careful – this is not the time to ramble.  Be concise and keep your answer to two minutes or less.

Monday, October 22, 2012

How have you handled criticism of your lessons or teaching performance?


     Q:  How have you handled criticism of your lessons or teaching performance?

     A:   My college supervisor sometimes mentioned that I had time management issues – that is, I found it difficult to get everything done that I had planned.  Some parts of a lesson would go too long and others didn’t have enough time to develop.  I learned that this is a common problem with pre-service teachers.  So, I took the opportunity to talk with some of the more experienced teachers in the school to see what kinds of tips or strategies they had that would help me master my time a little better.  One of the best ideas I got was to list my lesson objectives on the board for students to see and then check them off as the lesson develops.  That gave me - and the students - visual proof on how the lesson was progressing.

            This question often provides the interviewer with insight into your accountability and professional character.  How do you handle criticism – positively (as a learning opportunity) or negatively (the reviewer didn’t know what he/she was talking about).  It would be most valuable to take this opportunity to demonstrate (with specific examples) how you were able to use that criticism to become a better teacher.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

What are your plans for graduate school?


Q:  What are your plans for graduate school?

     A:   I plan to devote my time and attention to being the best teacher I can for the first two years of my teaching career.  I want to put all my talents and all my efforts to ensure that I’ve mastered the curriculum, the day to day life of a successful classroom teacher, and the academic success of every one of my students.  When I have that down, then I would like to attend Mount Merry University to obtain my master’s in reading.  I want to learn everything I can about the latest research and latest teaching strategies – particularly as they impact on my students’ comprehension development.  I plan to spend about two years in obtaining my masters.

            Have a plan.  Interviewers want to know that, just like your students, you see yourself as a learner, too.  Consider how a graduate degree will help you improve your teaching effectiveness and make additional contributions to the school.

Monday, August 20, 2012

How would you handle a student saying, “You are the worst teacher ever! I hate you!”


Q:  How would you handle a student saying, “You are the worst teacher ever!  I hate you!”

A:  I would remember to focus on the behavior rather than on the student.  I might say something like, “It seems as though you are upset with me.  Would you care to explain further.”  I learned in my methods courses that when teachers get comments like that, the worst response would be to put the student on the spot.  Instead a conversation is more productive when the emphasis shifts to the actual comment rather than the student’s personality.  I’ve also discovered that sending an “I message” is a very productive way of diffusing the student’s anger.  A message such as, “I understand that you are upset with me.  I wonder if you can tell me why.”  To build up the trust necessary for an effective conversation it’s valuable to let the student vent and then get to the heart of the anger without assaulting the student’s emotions.
            This kind of question is a test of your discipline and classroom management philosophy.  Demonstrate that you are up on the latest behavioral strategies and techniques for handling student issues.  If you were to say something like, “I’d make the student go stand in the corner for ten minutes,” you would clearly show that you do not have the student’s best interests in mind or that you were not aware of appropriate behavior management techniques.  Make sure you can cite a specific technique (by name) and how you would apply it to a specific situation.
A:  I would remember to focus on the behavior rather than on the student.  I might say something like, “It seems as though you are upset with me.  Would you care to explain further.”  I learned in my methods courses that when teachers get comments like that, the worst response would be to put the student on the spot.  Instead a conversation is more productive when the emphasis shifts to the actual comment rather than the student’s personality.  I’ve also discovered that sending an “I message” is a very productive way of diffusing the student’s anger.  A message such as, “I understand that you are upset with me.  I wonder if you can tell me why.”  To build up the trust necessary for an effective conversation it’s valuable to let the student vent and then get to the heart of the anger without assaulting the student’s emotions.

            This kind of question is a test of your discipline and classroom management philosophy.  Demonstrate that you are up on the latest behavioral strategies and techniques for handling student issues.  If you were to say something like, “I’d make the student go stand in the corner for ten minutes,” you would clearly show that you do not have the student’s best interests in mind or that you were not aware of appropriate behavior management techniques.  Make sure you can cite a specific technique (by name) and how you would apply it to a specific situation.