DEAR MA’AM/SIR

Reaction to the reading of the same title: Can a civics teacher teach math? There is such a thing called acquired taste. That means, we might not actually like or love something during the first time, but by giving them a chance, we’d like it eventually.

  1. I realised from this article that students are keen observers and they are the most reliable source of information to improve the teaching-learning process. Example is the guy who mentioned that he cares whether the teacher cares, if the lesson is taught well, or actually taught at all. Next, I learnt that students gestures can be an informative source of how to manage the classroom effectively. Since the teacher is the manager, s/he must be keen that fiddling a pencil case means something, as much as wrinkling of the forehead suggests something. Lastly, I learnt that a teacher is accountable to broaden his/her experiences in order to connect lessons to real life. Vicarious experiences extracted from reading, listening, and viewing also counts well.
  2. Issues left unclear to me are: how much control the teacher need to exercise inside the classroom; how could an pre- or in-service teacher’s training prepare them to become a holistic teacher who has got preparation, management, passion and significance; and how much content must the teacher teach, when the students could eventually find those themselves when they are trained to become self-directed learners.
  3. As a student, I used to think that Math is really boring; that strict teachers make the most impact in the lives of students; and that teachers must be well versed with a subject area. But then, I realised even more that Math become boring because the teacher made it so, probably lacking enough experiences to create a reali-life learning context where I could have connected ideas clearly. I realised that really strict teachers make the most impact, though it may take some few years before a student notices it. And lastly, I realised that a teacher need not to focus on one area. As much as the learners are diverse, s/he must also be able to connect information from other disciplines.
  4. Questions left hanging in my head would probably be about how come the author’s students’ reflection about their teachers exist in the classroom, where in fact those issues could have been outrightly dealt with during college? Does this mean that graduates of teacher education are mentally equipped but lack the due skills of practice when they enter classroom? They are probably theory-laden and substantial, but gets frustrated when the actual scenario extracts the idealism out of them. And so, is that the student/graduate’s fault, or the university, or the age-old education system itself?
  5. In my 6 years of handling classes, I conducted surveys to improve my craft. When I felt the need to analyse which I am good and weak at, I surveyed my class about the aspects of my teaching. I did it yearly, and I found out interesting perceptions from different cohorts of students I handles. When I felt the need to know what kind of teachers student listen to, I asked my students to interview their schoolmates. I even asked them to observe their other teachers.
  6. Let me make a critique regarding the pre-service education/training of teachers and the way they are given licensed. Probably not obsolete, but I think it is primeval! While Singapore, for instance, reformed drastically their educational system since 1997 with their Learning Schools, Thinking Nations national framework, ours just started. Talk about an abstract nationalism that hindered our nation, especially our people, to have inclusive opportunities.
  7. Anyway, as I was saying, teachers’ preparation is largely content knowledge-based. First, the curriculum laden with facts and theories to memorise, but not fully understand or grasp because there is no real-life connection. If there is, it happens during few semesters of college. Second, the items in the licensure examinations may go through all critical levels of knowledge taxonomies, but then again, the measure is entirely knowledge-based. Can a paper actually measure classroom skill that may be enough to merit one  a license? And lastly, not all who take teachers education would end up teaching. Economically speaking, that is a whole lot of resources wasted and opportunities missed. That is because, the students enter college early and would only end up deciding what they want to do in life 2 years later or probably more.

My radical idea would have to be devolve to state universities the granting of license for teachers based on a two-year full experience in the ground level: the classroom. This way they get real-life exposure as para-teachers; and they get to be coached and mentored by professional teachers. An assessment will be probably be helpful at the end to see the level of achievement of that teacher. The result shall show an entry-level assessment for schools so they can accommodate well the needs of that teacher or if the strengths of that teacher suit the school’s need. Whatever s/he lacks will later on be dealt with as s/he pursues masteral and doctoral degrees.

CHED issued a memorandum ordering HIEs or SUCs to shift from traditional modes of learning and use outcomes-based education. As early as 2006, DLSU has shifted to this mode; while Mapua Insitute of Technology got a US-based recognition for this. When we put a teacher aspirant into that context of real-life, real workplace scenario where s/he can make sense the content knowledge and theories, before licensed is given, that is outcomes-based.

If we do not reform, we sink because “the education landscape did not change since the colonial days” (Bautista, et. al, 2000). In fact, the results of the 1925 Monroe Survey do not differ with the state of Philippine education in the 1990s.

 

Reference

Bautista, Ma Cynthia Rose, Allan B.I. Bernardo, and Dina Ocampo. 2000. When Reforms Don’t Transform: Reflections On Institutional Reforms in the Department of Education

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Love Your Students

“Love is the not easy. But for teachers who truly want their students to learn, there is no other choice.” So ended the author of the book Dear Teacher on his/her seminal article “Love Your Student.” Knowledge and Love are two important things that teacher must have. “What is your philosophy of teaching,” s/he asked.

  1. In this article, I learnt that a teacher’s love for students is operationally defined as work—work out knowing and work out loving learning. I learnt that there is always “something new-a new way of approaching teaching and learning.” I learnt that love for students is felt strongly in the most extreme situation as students talking at the top of their voices, going to class without assignments, and totally unappreciative of what teachers are doing. Most of all, I valued my teaching-learning philosophy, even more. I strongly believe that no teacher must be allowed to stand in front of his/her student without a worldview of his/her own; whilst a teacher who holds on a philosophy without changing it must be guillotined.
  2. I honestly do not have anything I do not clearly understand. I guess the author sums up well the National Competency-Based Teachers’ Standards—knowledge (of curriculum, planning, assessment, and reporting), learning environment that is sensitive to the diversity of learners, and the social regard for learning.
  3. As a student, I used to think that education is framed by spoonfeeding the textbook content. As a beginning teacher, I struggled teaching to finish the contents of a book in order to quantify learning and justify teaching. And as a person, I used to think that changing my principles in life is changing who I am. So I’d rather not change at all. But then, the article made me reflect on the rudiments of these ideas and how I have changed to be that person the article refers to. As I self-studied about education, joined seminars, workshops, and conferences, downloaded iTune University, TedTalks and other webinars and videoblogs; stuff my player with podcasts on education, I began to realise, teaching is creating your own style in teaching changing contents. The textbook must not define the teacher. The teacher does, as much as he is shaped by his/her context. What quantifies learning and justifies teaching are the learners themselves being considered in the planning, and even them deciding where to begin the teaching-learning experience. Lastly, I could change my principles in teaching, and I can do it as often as possible, with the learners in mind.
  4. Probably not with the article itself, but I’d like to look into the concepts of knowledge and love. How much amount of knowledge are we to input? How much should be left for the learners to do by themselves? Is love so difficult to actualise in the classroom? Although content knowledge is important, a teacher who has depth and breadth of knowledge is someone who just not propel the top ten into superior level of achievement but also the bottom ten to have a level of achievement where they can have a sense of pride. At that moment they achieve it, it might not be very high, but the progress they made is significant enough for fireworks. I do not think loving learners is difficult. It is hard if you look at teaching as something that puts food in the table; if you look at teaching as a business transaction; mostly when you are not a disciple of christ. It is the last one that makes you love students as you love people, genuinely.
  5. A good study may focus on evaluating teachers who are already in the field against the NCBTS, and measuring the perception of undergraduates towards NCBTS. The first is to check whether a teacher is aligned or not with the NCBTS; while the second is to imprint the significance of the principles in the NCBTS in the minds of would-be teachers. A survey about teacher’s personal philosophy may also be a good one, and its practice inside the classroom, with actual responses from the students to validate
  6. As a matter of learning from this text, let me just for a moment. On one hand, if we look into the system of public schools, the upper sections’ needs are met way because the most intelligent teachers are more likely to land there. But that is a minimal percent. Let’s admit that somehow school culture are exclusive, favoring the so-called intellectual sections. Meanwhile, the lower sections are more in number. Aren’t supposed the smart teachers staying teachers in the lower sections and taking the challenge to help these kids gain the confidence in a level of achievement they could be most proud of? Then we ask ourselves, how come we produce substandard HS graduates, not actually fit for college tasks? If the norm lies there and we don’t do something about what data shows, are we not who Einstein refers to when he said insanity is doing the same thing for over 100 years and expecting a different result?

It is not the United States that we must look into in terms of rudimentary school reforms. It is Finland. Topping International assessments like PISA is a feat, but when you learn that they do that unintentionally, be astonished. Finland simply have high achievement through its strong support system: teaching is not just a noble, but highest paid and most respected profession. In fact, the smartest ones becomes the teacher. They do not assign numerical grades but rather checklist and rubrics of student achievements. They do not prepare to test and for test but lifelong learners by exposing students to reading for variety of uses, skills practices not rote memorising contents, and the 21st themes and skills alignment.

A Radically Different Approach to LifeCollege Management

ImageBakke (2005) outlined a management principle and work ethos that structurally (or un-structured, really) fits a 21st century workplace.

That is, to say, a deviant from the industrial revolution scheme where there are outdated procedural  manuals who nobody really cared to read; people boxed into organizational charts with detailed job descriptions; and because of lack of freedom and accountability, shift supervisors are assigned and wired to be skeptical.

Interestingly, Bakke modeled the approach to our tiny friends who brings delight to afternoon teas–the Bees and their Honeycomb.”Each of these bees can fly individually up to several miles from the hive to the fireweed on that recently logged mountain. They independently collect nectar and make the trek back home. They return to the hive with nectar, which others in the hive use to produce this wonderful honey we use on our toast.” (Bakke, 2005, p.87)

I guess, it is high time to review the processes inside the school’s organisation and see what befits our context against this new model. Interestingly, our goal seems simple, but the tasks so daunting. The goal is to deliver each task that our stakeholders require in the most effective, efficient, and economic manner.

Here are the principles we need to consider to make work fun for every LifeCollege person or people (in contrast to LifeCollege partners- stakeholders).

1. Every person, a business person – a business person is defined as “someone who must steward resources (money, equipment, fuels) to meet a need in society while balancing the contributions and needs of all the stakeholders in groups” (Bakke 2005, p. 88). In other words, every employee is a business person who ensure the best balance of interests among all the persons in the organisation.

2. Every person, a part of a team – The whole company is organised in teams, working groups, or ‘families’. Each family is self-governing and would be responsible for the budget, workload, safety, schedules, maintenance, compensation, expenses, purchase, quality control, hiring, and most other aspects of their work life.  (p.88)

For the most part, they are also responsible for day-to-day operations, investments, maintenance, schedule, long-term strategy, hours of work, hiring and firing, education, safety, environmental management, risk management, budgeting and economic performance, quality control, charity giving, or community relations. (p. 90)

The grouping into multi-skilled and self-managed teams is normally according to expertise: finance and budgeting; long-term planning; safety issues; human resources and the like. (p.90)

3. Every leader exercises participatory management style – That is, the leader would seek out advice from knowledgeable colleagues before making a decision. Suggestions are welcomed and rewarded, but the boss still makes the final decision. In this way, the group either vote among themselves or discuss the matter until they had a consensus.

4. Every person, a learner – Whilst every teacher devotes 80% of time working on the primary tasks: syllabus writing, lesson planning, test writing, checking attendance, recording and grading achievements, and organizing parents-teacher conference, and class team building, 20% of their time must be spent on participating in special tasks, giving advice, learning new skills, working on projects not necessarily related to their primary responsibility.

5. Every person in the central staff group, a servant – The primary task is to bring fun and fulfillment in the workplace. No matter how tedious that task seemed as taking charge of the values, financial modeling, strategic planning, teaching, leading teams and task forces, and participating in the advice process. People here are the most selfless, humble, and willing to delegate. They delegate because they believe that (1) people are always wiser than how executives think about them; and (2) if these people make a wrong move, they will have satisfaction and will grow because they make it.

6. Every person involved, a decision maker – Every person is a proactive contributor in terms of ideas and solutions to problems. Once this person made a decision, the group, the team, and the entire company take responsibility for it. A person may be asked to decide because he is the one greatly affected, or the one who initiated the idea, discovered a problem, or saw the opportunity. He may not be the official leader but he seeks advice from leaders and from peers.

Implications to LifeCollege 

As we claim to become 21st century learning hub, we now move towards analysing our own system and processes. We look at how the current practices and realities may or may not fit the direction we are going to. Hence, we are ready to adopt and we seek opportunities to adopt.

Just last school year, we started revising our organizational chart and make it a circle, representing clear family relations lines, the top management are inside while the frontliners are outside, as they are the window to the world. Levels are categorised into teams as K1-G1, G2-G4, G5-G7, G8-10. Each team has an assigned team leader and is being trained to handle other tasks for that level. The underlying principle here is to connect the learning areas into 21st century learning themes and let each level teams discuss, decide, and decipher the age-appropriate and level-appropriate knowledge, skills, understanding, and products/performance to be used inside the classroom.

At the end of the day, if we say that learning is fun-filled experience at the college, then the workplace or the work environment must also be fun and fulfilling for every LifeCollege person.

Reference:

Bakke, Dennis W. 2005. Joy At Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun in the Job. Seattle: PVG

The tasks ahead

Being a young executive in education, all I have are dreams and visions where to go—unadulterated, raw, and organic.

How I’d wish I have this small amount of wisdom I’ve gained, several years back. I could have implemented them right away. I could have been earning the fruits of those seeds of innovation sown.

But that couldn’t be the case. Even the Scriptures says, we grow not in a day but daily.

Daily it is to

1. Practice brain switching and not just multi tasking. Less is more, and less is digestible. With so many things going on around, I need to see what needs to be done first, who do to do it, and until when are they going to do it.

2. Empower through delegating tasks to appropriate people. ours has a different setup because we have different calling. Each day, our vision grows stronger so the pressure to accomplish things, even in sizable amount, tremendously increases too. More people are needed, more task must be filled in, in lesser amount of time.

3. Think about so many things all at the same time and manage crisis and dead ends. The questions I have to face each day are become real more than ever:
a. How do you ensure that the 700 lives inside the classroom is safe every single day?
b. How do you ensure that they learn while having fun and have fun while learning?
c. How do you ensure that they understand the rules more than following them? People who lacks knowledge of where to go, cast off restraints.
d. How do you ensure that the teachers are always in a lifelong learning mode?
e. How do you ensure that we are instruments for nation-building and that we contribute to the larger sum of forming a collective Filipino consciousness?

4. Build relationships through all possible media. I am impersonal. And I need to learn more to become a people person. But amidst these, I have to show that my lines, Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn and all are available as much as everyone can talk to me.

5. Create networks and utilize these networks to deepen knowledge, skills, and attitude transfers. Our playing field will be asia. We are producing, preparing, and prepping up our students to take in roles into the ASEAN sphere. I need to know people more. Communicate with people I haven’t met yet. Pool all resources available and be always above what I have previously accomplished.

6. Supervise macro details and scrutinize micro details. I admire my President/CEO for juggling so many things at the same time, I always tell myself, he could preach at least 3 services on Sundays, do management and visioning all at the same time.

7. Prepare the “toppings” and “icing” while ensuring that the cake’s texture is consistent and it tastes well. We are scrutinizing our curriculum content. We are making sure that or assessment and instruction are embedded to a level-appropriate and age-appropriatecore curriculum.

The tasks that lie ahead does not call for one man to accomplish bit for a group of people who have the passion to go beyond themselves and push for reforms today so that the future may gain.

Excited about SY 2011

The Honors Society.

Despite the fact that I am being overwhelmed with frustrations over The Helix, LifeCollege Student Council, and FACES 2010, here I am trying to find the real niche where I should be handling at my best even at the littlest effort exerted.

The Helix remained a blueprint of the schools could-be Print Media. I envisioned it to become like The Varsitarian or Gideon. It was supposed to be a News Magazine that everyone could read on and relate to. The group should have also been the hub for language training both in writing and speaking. We started out training for debate and speech. We continued producing dummies for the paper. But I guess, that will remain to be a far-fetched dream until there are students who are very eager to explore the boundaries of their talents.

The LifeCollege Student Council remained a name. I envisioned it to become the council that listens to and responds to every issue that students face. It is supposed to develop servant leaders at best, and self-led, needs-sensitive, and creative individuals. Until leadership workshops are conducted, outside conferences are attended, and community exposures are tried out, the values that I want to see will remain just but a dream.

FACES 2010 remained in a halt. The supposedly launching pad for role models and ambassadors has been placed in a halt because the focus shifted. Still, the faces and talents are there buried inside the ground and waiting to be uncovered.

And here I am, excited to start again and willing to set things right and straight.