Today being a productive teacher is more challenging than ever. Children are much more used to varied classroom approaches, with the Internet, computers and other electronic equipment becoming the norm. Gone are the days when students sit quietly in their seats while the teacher stands and does mathematics on the chalkboard and reads from a textbook.
I believe I am well prepared to meet this educational challenge. I know it is important to make my class interesting and enjoyable, so the students look forward to acquiring new knowledge. I also learned through individuals such as Greenway -- a specialist in areas such as experimental learning, accelerated education, team building and personal development -- ways to improve my teaching style. Rather than seeing teaching as a standard and traditional process to be regimentally followed, Greenway calls it an art form. "Learning is a creative process. Facilitating learning is at least as creative. It is an art," Greenway stresses. Each educator will find his or her own unique and productive ways of facilitating the learning process.
Greenway points out, for instance, that it is not helpful to make learning easy. One of his colleagues once rightly told him, "Our job is to make it difficult to learn." That is, "It is questions and curiosity that drive learning. Once learners think they have the answers, they stop asking questions and soon stop learning. As facilitators of learning we shouldn't let certainty or complacency stifle curiosity. We shouldn't provide ready-meals of learning in easily digestible chunks. Our job is to ensure that participants are fully engaged in the process of learning. The more that participants work at their learning, the more they will learn ... The more they put in, the more they get out ..."
Other ways of improving the learning process include 1) enhancing the learners' skills and abilities, by raising their awareness levels in the classroom and making it easy for them to communicate their experiences during reviews; 2) developing the learners' own reviewing abilities, initially by encouraging and helping them reflect on their experiences from a range of different perspectives; and 3) improving the learners' understanding of their own learning processes, so that they become better experiential learners (Greenway).
One of the ways that I will expand the students' interest and experiences is through the use of audiovisuals and electronic equipment such as computers. As a science teacher, I will be able to use the Internet and videos, for example, to enhance their learning. Although I do not believe that technology is the silver bullet that can solve all the teaching problems and stand alone without other more traditional teaching approaches, it is often very helpful when used properly. Research shows that students who used technology in conjunction with hands-on instruction increase their knowledge and improve their attitudes about science and mathematics (Gardner, Simmons, & Simpson, 1992). The key is that it must be used properly. The technology should enhance the learning. Often educators get so caught up in the technology that they loose site of the content they are trying to teach.
Flick and Bell (2000) proposed a list of technology guidelines for science teachers.
1. Technology should be introduced in the context of science content.
2. Technology should address worthwhile science with appropriate pedagogy.
3. Technology instruction in science should take advantage of the unique features of technology.
4. Technology should make scientific views more accessible.
5. Technology instruction should develop students' understanding of the relationship between technology and science.
Educators recommend many different ways to capture, maintain and enhance student interest and involvement. For example, on his website, Malouff, from the University of New England, in Armidale, Australia, offers 50 different problem-solving strategies to facilitate training. These are based on input from such individuals as D'Zurilla and Fabian. Students, especially those in the younger grades, have difficulty making decisions because they are overwhelmed by the extent of a situation. However, if they are taught to break the problem down into smaller steps, the larger pieces become manageable.
Similarly, it is often possible to make a problem simpler to solve by attacking one part at a time. For instance, adds Malouff, if students are discussing how to reduce international conflict in the Middle East, it is easier for them to choose two countries with continuing conflict and focus on them first. If a country wants to send a human to Mars, send and retrieve information-gathering robots first. If a person desires to improve his/her personality, pick one characteristic to better at a time, starting, for instance, with being more outgoing.
Students are used to doing this in math, but not in real-life situations. For example, says Malouff, if someone wants to solve an equation (a squared -- 2a + 1) = 0, it is necessary to simplify it to (a -- 1) squared = 0. Or, if an individual needs to determine how far it is possible to drive on the fuel remaining in the car's tank, he/she can estimate the amount of fuel and divide by the estimated kilometres per litre. To simplify the task, round the amounts. Likewise, if a group of students are debating how to protect a country from terrorist attack, it helps considerably to identify the nations most likely to aid the terrorists and defend against the potential methods of those countries.
During my teaching experience, thus far, I have found my own unique ways to improve the learning environment, as well. Once when I was student teaching an 8th-grade science class, the pupils were having a difficult time understanding the subject matter. I was trying to teach them the particulars about Newton's third law of motion in the field of physics -- for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Even individuals who feel comfortable with science and mathematics sometimes have difficulty studying this topic.
My challenge was to come up with a unusual, yet informative, way to teach this often-dry subject. The traditional teaching methods were just not working. Many of the students were beginning to daydream and yawn. Others were becoming frustrated. During the lunchtime period, I asked a number of the students what topics interested them most in the sciences. A number of them, about half the class, were intrigued with astronomy and space travel.
After giving their input considerable thought, I added a few new concepts. I brought in a video, the movie The Right Stuff, and a couple of experiments such as taping a straw to a balloon, placing the balloon on a piece of string and having the students observe the balloon shoot out like a rocket. This activity worked out better than I could have imagined. The students finally understood the law and did well on the end-of-the-week exam.
Classroom discipline is becoming increasingly difficult as children become more independent and also expect more from their teachers. It is up to the teacher to make his/her curricula interesting and enjoyable, but not losing control of the students. An excellent way of establishing and maintaining behaviour management is by having the students line up outside of the classroom, until they calm down and are quiet. The teacher should then ask the students to arrange themselves into two lines before proceeding into the room. Through following this procedure, by the time the students are sitting in their seats, they are already in a learning mode. This is an easy yet effective way of keeping the students disciplined and ready. It also provides for the maximum amount of teaching time, since no precious time is lost once in the classroom by getting settled.
In every class, there are students who are going to kid around. This is true no matter who the teacher is. When a student starts acting up and gets the others involved, I simply stand at the front of the room without saying anything: My body language states it all. By doing this, the class easily comes under control. If I yelled instead, I would have to be louder than the students. We would both continue to escalate and it would be chaos. This way, everyone quiets down and we can proceed in a calm manner.
I have also found that randomly asking students questions keeps them under control, because they have to continually be alert and pay attention to what is being said. No student likes to be laughed at by the others in the class. If someone is caught daydreaming it can be embarrassing.
Similarly, I find that it is important to elicit input from a number of students on an open-ended question. This adds variety to the class, encourages acceptance of diverse backgrounds and experiences and allows the students to openly express their personal opinions without fear of bias or incrimination. Just as important, this simple technique also offers the pupils a lot more information than they would obtain from a book, especially if the students are from a variety of different cultures. In addition, by adding interest…