Promoting Sustainability as a Teacher

richardjamesrogers.com is the official blog of Richard James Rogers: high school Science teacher and the award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management: 45 Secrets That All High School Teachers Need to Know. This blog post is illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is defined by UNESCO as a pathway that allows “every human being to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to shape a sustainable future.” It’s importance has been officially recognised by the Council of the European Union, who state that “ESD is essential for the achievement of a sustainable society and is therefore desirable at all levels of formal education and training, as well as in non-formal and informal learning.” Today, I’ve invited Kat Sarmiento (content writer at Katreena’s Content Studio) to share her tips on how to teach children and young people about the importance of sustainable development.

If there are things all schools worldwide need to include in their curriculum as soon as possible, it would be sustainability. While ideas regarding the preservation of nature are touched upon in several science subjects, they fall short in hammering down the importance of sustainability in children.

Climate change threatens all of humanity, but it’s the children who will bear the brunt of it. When the current generation of adults and leaders passes, it’s the children today who will need to face potentially the worst of times. While we can still achieve a lot in terms of reversing the effects of climate change or slowing it down, it’s essential for the next generation to know how to build a sustainable future and why they must do it.

Sustainability might not be officially taught in all schools in the world today, but teachers can still promote it in a lot of ways. If you’re a teacher passionate about sustainability and want to go the extra mile to share your knowledge with your students and inspire them to fight for a healthier planet, we’ve got some pointers for you. But first, let’s define sustainability.

What is sustainability?

According to the University of Alberta’s Sustainability Council, sustainability is “the process of living within the limits of available physical, natural and social resources in ways that allow the living systems in which humans are embedded to thrive in perpetuity. This definition explains that sustainability doesn’t just deal with natural resources, but also social and economic resources, as those are also vital for the survival of future generations. Expanding on this definition, we can categorize sustainability in three ways: Environmental, Economic, and Social. Environmental sustainability is achieved when humanity consumes natural resources at a rate where they can naturally replenish. Economic sustainability is achieved when people are able to remain independent and have access to resources: financial or others. Lastly, social sustainability is achieved when people can attain all universal human rights and basic necessities.

Make your lessons eco-friendly

Teaching children sustainability means little to nothing if you don’t practice it in the classroom. Among the best ways to promote anything is leading by example. Ultimately, sustainability is spending your resources wisely, and you can show this by ensuring you don’t waste resources in your lessons. You can use recycled or eco-friendly materials in creating your teaching props, and if you can’t avoid using plastics, you can demonstrate the importance of recycling by reusing them in the next classes.

Don’t overwhelm your students

Discussing current and future environmental crises can be too much for your students to handle. They are young, and while you want them to learn young, the immensity of the problems humanity faces and the difficulty of solving them can be overwhelming. When students are feeling overloaded with negative emotions such as dread, they may disengage from the discussion, impeding learning.

“An AMAZING book!”

The key is not to focus on the problems alone. Make sure to discuss environmental success stories from time to time, to show that people are working hard to solve the problem and they are succeeding. You may discuss environmental policies, movements, campaigns, and other projects worldwide that have seen success. These stories will show students that our efforts do matter and theirs will, too. It will inspire students and give them the hope and enthusiasm necessary to face the seemingly overwhelming problems we face.

Tackle quality of life issues

Part of discussing sustainability is the idea that people need to consume less and live simpler lives, making students feel like their lifestyle is being threatened. If educators take an unyielding, self-righteous approach, the students will feel even more threatened and can end up abandoning learning about sustainability entirely. The technique is to engage the students by discussing their definition of happiness and quality of life, and whether their lifestyle correlates with overconsumption. You can discuss studies that show how the pursuit of material things doesn’t exactly correlate with happiness and satisfaction, providing a good starting point for discussing alternative lifestyles.

Discuss the Precautionary Principle

One of the most important principles discussed to understand in learning about sustainability or environmental science is the precautionary principle. The principle states that if an action risks causing harm to the public or the environment, and there is no scientific consensus that it is indeed harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action. Tackling or debating the principle serves as a good starting point in discussing how people can make decisions when faced with uncertainty. In addition, it’s also an opportunity to discuss policies regarding resource use and the balance between potential environmental harm and economic or political benefit. 

Let the students analyze

Most of the time, students are only given the results of analyses instead of dealing with empirical data themselves. Students will not always be equipped with the knowledge and skills to understand empirical data, but if they are, they should be given the opportunity to do so. Being able to get a closer look at the data themselves, students are bound to learn more. The experience they will get from analyzing data will also allow them to scrutinize environmental issues with more insight.

The road to net-zero emissions is a long and strenuous journey. It will require the efforts of the entire world, the current generation, and the next. Sustainability as a topic of discussion is becoming prevalent in the education system and while it’s not globally standardized, there’s nothing stopping educators from teaching it to students. There are plenty of tricks teachers can use in promoting sustainability in their schools, but the ones above should give you a good start.

Kat Sarmiento

Kat is a Molecular Biology Scientist turned Growth Marketing Scientist. During her free time, she loves to write articles that will bring delight, empower women, and spark the business mind. She loves to bake but, unfortunately, baking doesn’t love her back! She has many things in her arsenal and writing is one of her passion projects.

We welcome you to join the Richard James Rogers online community! Join us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates, giveaways of Richard’s books, special offers, upcoming events and news. 

How Students Can Help Reduce Single-Use Plastic

richardjamesrogers.com is the official blog of Richard James Rogers: high school Science teacher and award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management: 45 Secrets That All High School Teachers Need to Know. This blog post is illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, at least 14 million tons of plastic end up in our Earth’s oceans every year. Campaigns such as Keep Britain Tidy and the Project Learning Tree aim to inform young people about the environment and the harm that single-use plastics can cause. However, despite these excellent projects, much, much more still needs to be done to bring this critical issue to our students’ attention. Today, I’ve invited Kat Sarmiento (content writer at Katreena’s Content Studio) to share her tips on how to educate children about the dangers of single-use plastics, along with advice on how to utilise sustainable alternatives.

Single-use plastics are a modern convenience, but how much is that convenience costing the environment? The manufacture, spread, and waste of single-use plastic are a major environmental issue that has been talked about yet remain unsolved.

People still openly burn plastic waste and use single-use plastics even when they can not use such things excessively. It has been the great efforts of dozens of organizations to phase out single-use plastics in the industry and replace them with more sustainable options.

Decarbonization always starts on an individual level. The individuals most affected by a toxic environment are the youth who have to grow up in it. But now the question is, where can the youth start on the mission to reduce plastic waste in the environment?

Why Is It So Difficult To Enact Change?

One of the most deceptively simple tasks you can do is actually the hardest. Most people don’t even realize how much plastic and paper they waste. On an individual level, think of how many water bottles you have thrown away in your life.

Whatever the number is, it is most likely too much. Now multiply that number by the population of the globe. This is why it’s so difficult to reduce plastic waste. Most people aren’t even aware of the fact that they are wasting plastic.

Although big strides are being made in reducing the use of single-use plastics in many developed countries, it’s a different story in less fortunate places. Many people fail to consider the necessity of single-use plastics in these areas because of how cheap they are to produce.

Not to mention, the lack of education on the negative effects of pollution is still a real issue. More efforts should be made by local governments to teach their citizens about the effects of excessive waste. Eco-friendly practices, especially the ones discussed in this article, should be commonplace and enforced.

How To Reduce The Impact of Single-Use Plastics

Truth be told, the efforts of the individual do very little in the grand scheme of things. However, it’s important to uphold these practices and share them with as many people as possible.

The more people learn from your example, the better your chances of making a difference. Here are some of the practices you should follow:

#1: Start Reusing More Often

While you cannot stop the production of single-use plastics on an individual basis, you are still capable of going against its intended purpose. Single-use is just a suggestion, not a feature. Things such as plastic bags, cups, bottles, utensils, and food packaging should be repurposed in some form.

The concern with single-use plastic is less about the material itself than the excessive use of it. Plastic wouldn’t be such an issue if there wasn’t so much of it all around the world. However, many supposed single-use plastics are quite handy as use for containers and makeshift tools.

Just make sure the types of plastic you are reusing don’t start leaking the chemicals used in their creation.

#2: Replace Single-Use Plastics With Sustainable Options

That being said, switching to more sustainable materials is not a bad idea. Whenever possible, look for cost-effective alternatives to the usual functions you use single-purpose plastics for:

  • Instead of having them bag your groceries, ask if you can have them put in cardboard boxes instead. Cardboard boxes are much less impactful on the environment and offer far more utility in a home.
  • Alternatively, bring your own cardboard boxes and eco-bags. Eco-bags are one of the handiest grocery things you can have.
  • Instead of buying plastic cups, just shoulder the admittedly less enticing washing of extra glasses. There are several cheap reusable cups in the market that you can look around for.
  • Store your lunch in jars or bento boxes instead of Ziploc bags.

#3: Push Organizations To Value Eco-Friendliness

For a more significant dent in the use of single-use plastics, the best thing students can do is make their voice known. Kids, teens, and young adults are huge demographics for many companies.

If enough of them start caring and demanding products that maximize recyclability and reusability, companies will have to listen. The businesses to start with should always be on a local level because the transport of plastic goods is just as intensive as using it.

Also, push for businesses to consider the impact that end-of-use products have. They should have professional recycling or disposal plants on call for their waste.

Schools are also subject to this. Encourage your school to go green by doing all of the above in their daily routines. Schools often go through a lot of single-use plastics, especially in cafeterias.

Another great way to reduce both environmental impact and printing costs is to print only what’s necessary. For example, some events hand out paper cups with custom-printed logos that won’t last the day. Instead of doing that, just encourage students to bring their own thermos or tumblers.

Kat Sarmiento

Kat is a Molecular Biology Scientist turned Growth Marketing Scientist. During her free time, she loves to write articles that will bring delight, empower women, and spark the business mind. She loves to bake but unfortunately, baking doesn’t love her back. She has many things in her arsenal and writing is one of her passion projects.

We welcome you to join the Richard James Rogers online community! Join us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates, giveaways of Richard’s books, special offers, upcoming events and news. 

The Value of Fresh Starts in Education

richardjamesrogers.com is the official blog of Richard James Rogers: high school Science teacher and award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management: 45 Secrets That All High School Teachers Need to Know. This blog post is illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

When students underperform in some aspect of their schooling (whether that be behaviour, attainment, progress or something else) a fresh start can often be a useful way to draw a line in the sand and leave the past behind. In today’s exclusive guest blog post, Tayla Reynolds shares her ideas on the how, what and why of fresh starts for teachers. Tayla is a second year Geography teacher in the UK. She writes about the realities of teaching and how to overcome the daily challenges from a practical but realist standpoint.

Tayla Reynolds

One of the most surprising things about the teaching career for me is perhaps the constant changeable dynamic of it all. For some, there is an assumption that once that initial teacher training phase is complete, you evolve as a fully fledged professional, but in reality it is a career full of reflection, mistakes and fresh starts.

I think that these may be my favourite parts of the profession (aside, of course, from the multitude of personalities and events you may face in a day, or even a single lesson). It is the constant opportunities for fresh starts. There is nothing quite like the excitement, nerves and potential of a new September, that new year feeling you really can’t explain. But in reality, that feeling comes several times a year, after each seasonal break, each half term, each Sunday night and for those harder groups, after each day.

And it is these fresh starts where teachers can evolve the most. When teaching, planning and behaviour management is becoming frustrating, unmanageable and overwhelming, then slowing down should be the priority. Which I know is a lot easier to say than do, and unimaginably hard for those with growing families and other commitments. But those should always come first, you cannot give your best, to anyone, if you’re running on fumes. And for that to happen, sometimes something has to give, and some weeks that might be marking, and for others that might be all singing and dancing lessons you want to create. Because those take time, passion and energy.

So for me, fresh starts are all about restoring, reflecting and prioritising. Immediately restore that overwhelming feeling, spend your time wisely and how you want to. There should be no guilt in putting yourself first. People are often quick to mock the amount of holiday time within the teaching profession, but the days and weeks go quick and you are expected to sustain a very high level of energy and enthusiasm, toppled with early mornings, late nights and a never ending to-do list. It is one of the most physically and emotionally demanding jobs, so take the time to fill your cup back up. Fill it until it overflows, fill a bucket or a bathtub if you need to! For me that is switching off from work: I close that to-do list and relegate that to Monday morning’s problem. I go out and meet friends if I want to, other times I shut myself away and recharge my social battery. For you that could be family time, walks outdoors or losing yourself in a game or book. Who cares, you do you!

“An AMAZING book!”

Now for reflection, what are you happy with? What are you not? I always try to think of a singular thing I want to focus on. Is it that one group (you know the one I’m talking about)? Is it that one unit you’re putting off, or maybe one new thing you’d like to try? It can be the simplest and smallest things, because it is those small habits that will be the most effective. It is always in the small things, because they are the most effective and consistent to maintain. So my advice is to simply choose one thing, big or small is up to you. Will you focus on more restorative language, or positive behaviour management with those students or perhaps introducing a new habit to your lesson routine such as retrieval or reviews?  That decision will be based on what you want to focus on the most. But just pick one, there will be plenty of opportunities to try everything else. 

And finally, for a fresh start to be as effective as possible, you need to prioritise. No one can do it all, so let’s stop pretending we can. What needs doing first? What is absolutely a necessity to complete? That’s where you start. Yes, sometimes it is easier to do the quicker stuff, but that is the reality of procrastination and quickly encourages your full bucket to spring a leak. Next, use your working time as well as possible. Use absolutely any spare time, is a group completing a test? Use that time to get one of those quick jobs done. Use those planning periods for marking, and take those quick to-dos home. For me, this has meant that I spend two nights a week doing around 45 minutes of work, rather than bringing books and exam papers home for hours of marking. This works for me, but might not for you, so think about how you want to use your time. And try to stick to it, but always be ready to accept that life may get in the way of this but it is important here to simply go with the flow.

Fresh starts are a really valuable tool in the teaching profession, and that is because they serve as opportunities for teachers and school staff to restore, reflect and prioritise. You cannot spend time and energy on developing better lessons and improving learning when your cup is empty. See every break as an opportunity for a fresh start. Bad day? Prioritise yourself, not your to-do list. Chaotic term? Focus and prioritise on what will really create the impact you want, and stick to those small, effective habits. Teaching; it’s a marathon not a sprint. So let’s treat it that way. 

We welcome you to join the Richard James Rogers online community! Join us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates, giveaways of Richard’s books, special offers, upcoming events and news. 

Common Challenges Teachers Face in The Era of Online Learning

richardjamesrogers.com is the official blog of Richard James Rogers: high school Science teacher and the award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management: 45 Secrets That All High School Teachers Need to Know. This blog post is illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

The past two years or so have been interesting for teachers to say the least! Most of us have dealt with sudden school closures, the challenges associated with remote-teaching and the complications that come along with delivering a blended learning/hybrid teaching programme of study. This week, I’ve invited Kat Sarmiento (content writer at Katreena’s Content Studio) to share her thoughts and tips on the challenges teachers face when delivering lessons remotely, and how those challenges can be overcome.

Kat Sarmiento

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, online learning has become a necessity for many schools and colleges across the world. While some institutions have been able to quickly adapt to this shift, others are still grappling with how to best deliver content to students while maintaining safe social distancing guidelines. Many teachers face certain challenges given the shift from traditional classroom settings to virtual ones. What follows are some common challenges they may encounter.

#1: Students’ lack of motivation during distance learning

One of the biggest challenges is that most students do not seem motivated to study in an online environment. This can be attributed to several factors, including:

  • Lack of interest due to boredom or frustration;
  • Poor internet connection quality;
  • COVID fatigue;
  • Difficulty understanding what is expected of them in terms of studying and responding to assignments;
  • Feeling like they are alone when they need help.

To encourage engagement among your students, you should consider implementing specific strategies such as providing additional support through emails or live chats, organizing class discussions via video calls, or using digital storytelling tools. You could also create a dedicated Facebook group where students can share their work and ask questions about assignments.

#2: Teachers’ inability to monitor student progress

The other major challenge faced by teachers is the inability to track individual student performance on their assignments. When working remotely, it becomes difficult to keep tabs on student progress because there is no way to physically observe them. As a result, it becomes challenging to provide feedback on assignments and ensure that students are meeting course requirements.

As an instructor, a good way to address these issues would be to set up a private discussion forum where you can communicate directly with students while keeping all communication confidential. Students can use this platform to get answers to any questions they might have regarding assignments. The teacher can then respond to each question individually and make sure that every student understands his/her assignment correctly.

#3: Lack of technology skills

While many educators find themselves comfortable teaching in a virtual environment, they often struggle to teach effectively without proper training. For example, if you don’t know how to properly use Zoom, you will likely experience difficulties with audio and visual quality. If you are unfamiliar with Google Docs, you will probably feel lost trying to collaborate with your peers. And even though you are familiar with social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., you may find yourself struggling to effectively engage your students using those channels.

If you want to avoid these problems, consider taking advantage of free online courses offered by reputable organizations such as Coursera, edX, and Udemy. These platforms offer high-quality education resources at low costs. You can also take advantage of YouTube videos created by experts in various fields.

#4: Difficulty staying organized

In a typical classroom setting, teachers typically spend more time preparing for lessons than actually delivering them. However, in an online environment, you will need to devote more time to planning and preparation than ever before. To stay organized during this process, try creating a lesson plan template and assigning to keep up with your remote learning sessions. This will help you organize your thoughts and better prepare for upcoming classes. It can also be a part of your self-care ritual to ensure that you remain productive throughout the day.

#5: Inability to connect with all students

Another common problem faced by teachers who choose to teach remotely is the inability to establish meaningful relationships with students. Since you cannot see them face-to-face, you won’t be able to gauge whether they are engaged or not. As a result, you may end up spending too much time communicating with students who are simply checking off boxes on their syllabus rather than engaging in real conversations.

In addition, there are also some students who face internet or connectivity issues. This makes it nearly impossible for them to participate in class discussions online. As a result, they may miss out on important information. To prevent this from happening, consider providing an alternative method of communication so that students can still interact with one another.

#6: Difficulty in enforcing discipline

One of the most challenging aspects of teaching remotely is maintaining order in the classroom. When you are physically present in the same room, you can easily monitor what students do. But when you are working virtually, you will no longer be able to observe everything that goes on. As a result, it becomes difficult to enforce discipline and maintain order.

You can try to keep things under control by making sure that students have access to a quiet space where they can work independently. Or you could assign each student a specific task that requires them to focus on completing it. This way, you can make sure that everyone stays focused and on track. Try establishing ground rules early on so that you can clearly communicate expectations to your students.

Kat Sarmiento

Kat is a Molecular Biology Scientist turned Growth Marketing Scientist. During her free time, she loves to write articles that will bring delight, empower women, and spark the business mind. She loves to bake but unfortunately, baking doesn’t love her back. She has many things in her arsenal and writing is one of her passion projects.

We welcome you to join the Richard James Rogers online community! Join us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates, giveaways of Richard’s books, special offers, upcoming events and news.