Monday, May 30, 2011

What Makes a Good Teacher?

By Sean Scarpiello

As teaching gradually becomes a popular profession, more and more people are looking to be teachers. We currently have the highest number of people qualified to be teachers than ever before. Although there is such a large amount of people to pick from, most of these people would probably be terrible teachers. Even of all the people currently employed as teachers, a lot of them are simply poor educators. It takes a special kind of person to be a teacher. A good teacher needs to have a particular personality and qualities. So what kind of qualities make a good teacher?

We have all had bad teachers. They come in all different forms. There are the popular teachers that everyone likes, but cannot teach their subject. Likewise, there are extremely well educated teachers that cannot get their point across. These teachers just do not know how to teach. Many teachers do not pay much attention to their lesson plan and curriculum and that is very obvious to the students. Good teachers do not get enough credit for the hard work that they do put into their time in the classroom. Good teachers are able to put themselves in the mindset of their students whether they are in 2nd grade or seniors in high school. A lot of critical thinking goes into teaching. Many teachers either underestimate or overestimate the intelligence of their students. Many high school teachers are notorious for overestimating their students’ intelligence. For example, many math teachers have several struggling students a year. In math, many students forget some of the basic principles which direct complex math equations. While a handful of teachers assume all the students remember their basic math skills, good teachers take some time during class to review these simple concepts.

Finding this balance in each class is difficult but the best teachers always find this point in their students’ intelligence. The good teachers are also able to stimulate the brains of the smarter students while still being able to attend to the students that have a difficult time learning. Too many teachers pick one of the two extremes of students to target. Often, teachers target the smarter students in the class and cause even the average students to become lost. Some teachers which target the students which learn slower find just as many problems as teachers which focus on faster learning students. The smarter students quickly become bored because they are not being challenged. Therefore, many students lose interest in the subject being taught and even the smarter students' grades begin to drop because they put in less effort.

Everybody has also had a teacher being unfair, unreasonable, or one that just cannot be pleased. These are probably the most frustrating teachers to have as a student. More often than not, students struggling with C’s or D’s in a class are putting in more time than students with A’s. It is extremely difficult to be a student these days and students put in more time into their studies than it may seem. The best teachers recognize this and motivate their students to keep up the good work. Many teachers call home if there are problems in class. What teachers should do is call when students are doing a good job. As a student, it feels good to know that your hard work and effort is not going unrecognized. Even if the student has a less than spectacular grade in class, a phone call home telling mom and dad that there is an obvious increase in effort will motivate the student to keep working hard. Even in high school, students like to have their hard work recognized by both their teachers and their parents.

One last key quality which good teachers possess is respect. This means the teacher respects the students and the students respect the teacher. If the teacher respects students, teachers will have a better time teaching. They will quickly learn the strengths and weakness of their students and help each student work to fix their weaknesses. Students will recognize this and will become motivated to work harder in school to prove to themselves and others that they can improve. If students respect their teachers, teachers will be taken seriously and will have more authority in class. Many substitute teachers have a tough time demanding respect from students. Thus, they are taken advantage of and walked all over whether they realize it not. It is rare that a substitute teacher comes into class and has even a little control over the class. Substitute teachers need to lay down the law quickly in the beginning of class and set the tone for the rest of the time in class. This is easiest if the substitute knows the classroom policies and implements them right away.

These are only a few of the key differences which set the great teachers apart from the average teachers. From a student’s perspective, these aspects are very important because students like to have attention and feel important in class. Many students also like to be motivated and need an authority figure to push them to reach places that they once thought impossible.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Friday, May 20, 2011

Reaching Out to Others to Save Money

By Sean Scarpiello

As the government continues to cut education funding, schools are forced to come up with new ways to save money. School administrators in Waco, Texas have reached out to the parents of students, as well as the rest of the community for ideas to save money. People could submit their suggestions online which were then categorized and counted. There ended up being 115 different suggestions; both good and bad ones. Currently, the school district’s financial advisors are reviewing this list to see whether or not any of the ideas could be implemented in schools.

In general, I feel that this is a great idea. It is a very wise move for administrators to reach out to parents and the community for a number of reasons. First off, some parents may have good ideas for cutting costs but simply cannot have their ideas heard at the district’s board meetings. The school district really has nothing to lose because of the 115 suggestions a few of the ideas should be able to save money. It also takes some pressure off of the administrators because parents will then realize just how difficult it is to come up with creative ways to save money. This process gives everyone a voice, so there really is no excuse for parents whining how they cannot make a difference when they have good ideas. In reality, most of the ideas are probably useless because they are either impractical or simply cannot be executed without a decrease in the quality of education. It is vital that the district has the ideas reviewed by its financial advisors because most of the good ideas that seem to work still may be unable to be implemented due to several reasons.

More school districts across the country should also try this technique to gather ideas for cutting costs. They may be surprised to discover that there are some good suggestions out there for saving money. One other way districts could look for crafty ways to reduce costs would be to look at the ways other school districts all over the country are finding ways to save. Schools all across America have faced cuts in federal funding and if school districts can learn from each other, then they can get more bang for their buck.

It will be interesting to see if any of the 115 suggestions can actually be used in the school district. I feel that the results will be promising. At college, professors and courses would always be graded at the end of each semester in order to make changes for the next year. The college used the feedback given by students and courses would be restructured then every few years to ensure a high quality of learning. It is good to see how other institutions are adopting the same technique of reaching out to others for ideas to improve. This should definitely be practiced more in the education field and schools all over should by saying, “Help us to help you.”


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Keeping Cursive in School

By Sean Scarpiello

There has recently been a running debate among educators on the usefulness of teaching cursive in elementary schools. Everybody remembers spending countless hours in second and third grade perfecting their cursive. Today, teachers are thinking about cutting it from the curriculum for several reasons. Educators are not calling to question the importance of cursive, but some feel that it isn’t worth it. There are several pros and cons for educating today’s youth cursive.

First, the major problem that arises with teaching cursive is the opportunity cost. Teachers ask, “What else can I be doing in class during the time that it takes to teach second graders cursive.” This question makes many teachers think because there is a large chunk of class time dedicated to teaching cursive. Students practically are relearning the alphabet in a more fancy and complicated style. This means they need to spend a lot of time constantly writing out their cursive over and over again. For me, cursive was practiced first thing each morning for about an hour over a time span of about three to four months. Each hour of dedicated to cursive can add up over time and this time could have easily been elsewhere.

Another problem that accompanies the instruction of cursive is that cursive is a dying art as technology is quickly taking over. Many argue that people never use cursive to write letters as email has taken over. Even in the workplace, documents are typically typed and if not people just print because it is easier. Therefore, it seems preposterous that schools spend a lot of time on cursive when it is used little, if at all, in the future. This especially holds true when teachers see that time teaching cursive can be changed to time teaching students to use computers and other technology. In the long run, it would definitely serve students better if they were taught to use the computer and type rather than learning to write in cursive.

On the other hand, there are still many arguments for keeping cursive in school. For one, students need to learn it for signing signatures in the professional world and even in their daily lives as adults. Cursive has always been regarded as professional and practiced only the well-educated individuals in society. If there is an end to cursive, many people would come across as being flat out dumb. Even today, too many students do not know how to professionally sign a letter or signature. It is still important to not completely cut cursive from curriculums.

The best alternative to this problem would be to assign cursive as homework. Also, cursive could be done independently over summer. This would give teachers more time in class to teach other important things that may be overlooked when trying to squeeze cursive into a full curriculum. An advantage to cursive is that it easy to learn and can easily be picked up by students on their own at home and independently. This advantage should be taken advantage of by teachers. Especially when there are subjects taught in classes that are not as easy to grasp for second and third grade students.

Monday, May 9, 2011

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