What makes a good teacher?

From my observations + research

  • having routines
  • being firm and able to control a classroom
  • joking with students/ having a sense of humour
  • knowing what’s going on in the class
  • caring about the education of students
  • not embarrassing students in front of peers
  • having clear expectations of behaviour
  • being clear with your instructions
  • being a story teller + making it relevant
  • builds on knowledge obtained previously
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Week 1 already gone.

I’ve just finished a really fast paced week on my first professional experience. I’ve started a “get to know you” profile that the majority of students have responded well to. It’s just a really quick and easy way for me to find out a little bit about my students and it makes it much easier to remember their names which, if our education at uni is anything to go by is one of the most important things you can do in terms of behaviour management.

What else am I learning? How to use an interactive white board. That schools don’t really focus on contexts as they told us to in method (although I’m sure that this would still be vastly more enriching way of learning curricula – see my future post on Big History).

I’m learning that a lot of students actually live at the boarding school and that the majority of them have parents who live in rural areas. The school has a really great culture. There’s A LOT going on.

I’ve come to really appreciate the time my teachers put in to see my during recess and lunch as a student. I’ve come to also realise in a shocking way the importance of planning ahead. Last week I was kind of thrown in the deep end. But as I sit here today on Sunday evening, having lessons up until Thursday planned and ready to go I feel pretty good about myself. Certainly much more in control than last week.

I’m learning that teachers keep on learning for the rest of their lives and that if you’re passionate about it – there’s always someone to talk to. The science staff at this school are so great. They really are very kind and supportive and genuinely seem to care about me. Which is really nice.

I’m learning how important it is to BE VERY VERY CLEAR with students. Every activity can be interpreted in a different kind of way unless you plan for it. Even having extra boxes that needn’t be there confuses students so get on top of that.

I think the students are really liking the mini whiteboards idea that I’ve introduced them too. It gives a chance for even the most shy students to participate and I really like that because sometimes classroom can be dominated by few students and you never really get to know what everyone is thinking. There is a problem with this though because the students still tend to copy each others’ answers. But I mean at least they’re writing it down and thinking about the questions right?

I’m also really learning the features of great teachers which I’ll put in a separate post. Really exciting stuff.

First Week of teacher school

The 3rd of March marked by official beginning as a trainee teacher. While I’d been teaching at university all of 2013 casually around 20 hours per week, this was officially training to start off my career as a high school science teacher. I was excited to say the least.

I met some amazingly enthusiastic people also doing the MTeach/ GDE course at UNSW. Everyone came from such different backgrounds. Unlike my undergrad degree, there were a lot more mature age students which I was really happy about – we can learn so much from them! They came from backgrounds of clinical research to music composition, all looking for a change in career to teaching. I wonder why? It’s great don’t get me wrong – but why now? Did they want to rustle up some experience before teaching? Did they want to fulfil some life long goals they had set up for themselves? Or is it that teaching would fit into their lives better now? I don’t know really but whatever it is the students of those teachers are going to have an experience that I myself cannot share. It’s different to have dabbled in your field and then go teach it. I think it gives a deeper quality of learning – if used correctly that is. My high school chemistry teacher, while being a chemist for a while before becoming a teacher was totally out of sync with how education had developed. So hoping these guys in my course aren’t on that page.

I’m also living the teaching. Yesterday in a lecture they talked about teaching being a vocation not a job and I already totally agree with that. It’s encompassing my life. I have been thinking and talking about teaching all week.

Everyone is also very opinionated and I love that! Yesterday in my favourite course the Science Method course taught by Judith Morgan of Caringbah High School, she asked us if science required experimentation. While I originally thought (in my biology way of thinking) yes of course! That’s what distinguishes science from other disciplines. We later got into a discussion where another student said, quite rightly, that epidemiology exists through observation not methodical experimentation – it is seeking to observe trends in populations because it is illegal to experiment on humans. On the other hand, archaeological discoveries in palaeontology cannot be reproduced, there is no such experimentation that goes on. So perhaps we should say methodical observation is a type of experimentation. But then what about thought experiments? Where do they come into it? It’s all very exciting talking to these people.

Another thing that stuck with me last week was about motivation. Basically this is the scenario: people were given the task of completing puzzles. In one group they would get a monetary prize for every puzzle they completed and in the other group they were told to complete as many as they could. Both groups were given 30 mins to complete the task. After the half hour, the examiner returned and said Okay now I’m going to go get the results of the experiment and you can be on your way. He then left for 10 mins or so. In that 10 minutes the group which had the monetary incentive DID NOT complete any more puzzles. They just sat around. However, the group without the monetary incentive DID complete more puzzles. What’s really interesting about this is that giving someone an incentive for doing something other than the “be the best you you can be” might actually undermine their own motivation. Why didn’t they complete more puzzles? Well as I was thinking about this I thought perhaps they thought that it might be cheating if they completed more puzzles when they weren’t supposed to. A way around this would have been to count the puzzles before the examiner went to get the results, and then if they still didn’t do any more puzzles after that I would be satisfied with the validity of these results. On the other hand, even if the examiner didn’t count the results before leaving, the person being tested could’ve still done more puzzles and just told the examiner to exclude those in the final count to be fair. I don’t really know because I didn’t read the article yet. When I do I’ll edit this post. Got me thinking though.