Magazine article Momentum

Teachers Are Students, Too

Magazine article Momentum

Teachers Are Students, Too

Article excerpt

Much time and energy have been spent studying what works in the classroom.

But have enough time and money been spent on the ones who are supposed to make it all work?

Education has been a topic for discussion and debate ever since Sputnik. As a result, educational programs and curriculum have been reevaluated continually to assure that students are given what they need to be successful. As we move further into this new century, educational programs not only are examined to find the best teaching strategies for content, but educators are expected to teach the whole child as well. Strategies for helping the exceptional learner, the high achieving student and die regular student who are all in the same classroom are the focus of teacher-training programs today. Social issues, emotional issues and physical handicaps need to be understood so they can be approached appropriately.

Classroom management techniques and teaching strategies must respond to the whole child in order to help each student achieve the success in life that an education has promised. As a result, much time and energy have been spent studying what works in the classroom.

But have enough time and money been spent on the ones who are supposed to make it all work in the classroom? Great expectations of improving the educational system demand great preparation for teachers as well. Professional development programs need to provide the educational backbone that will teach and renew the whole teacher so that the teacher in turn can teach the whole child.

Teaching the Whole Teacher

On the bulletin board of most faculty rooms, announcements and flyers of upcoming workshops and conferences are posted as they filter in during the school year. Teachers peruse the selection for interest, time involved and cost. Pairs or groups of teachers pick a workshop to attend with the hope that the presenter will be dynamic and the information inspirational. Unfortunately, often this is not the case because these workshops tend to fall short of what was promised or the teachers' good intentions of incorporating new ideas into their teaching never happen. This is not a criticism. This is just the reality. But "Why?" is the question that begs to be asked. If teachers need support, need to keep up with the latest educational findings, need to find a spark to ignite a tired lesson, why are the processes of professional development not fulfilling this mandate? The answer may have several layers.

Standards, Standards, Standards

To begin, Thomas Guskey in his article "Five Key Concepts Kick Off the Process" in the "Journal of Staff Development" focuses on the standards that are the basis for what teachers teach (Winter 2005). He emphasizes that these standards must be understood so that teachers will have the knowledge and skills to "reach the high levels of learning" with their students that the standards prescribe. He suggests five understandings that, through professional development, will "improve [educators'] capacity" to help all students. Guskey believes that professional development can be a means by which teachers can achieve an understanding of what "goals are being sought" as stated by the standards, an understanding that standards reflect the "shared vision" of all involved in the educational process, an understanding of the terminology used in the standards, an understanding of the procedures for implementing the standards at the school level and, finally, an understanding of how to implement the standards at the classroom level.

Guskey knows that most teachers are given copies of the standards, but they rarely are read and often end up in desk drawers. Guskey, on the other hand, sees "powerful professional development" making a difference by helping teachers understand the standards so that they become a tool for successful learning rather than taking up drawer space.

What Does Powerful Professional Development Look Like? …

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