Why is Coding Important for School Students to Learn?

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 has been beautifully illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Accompanying podcast episode:

As a teacher or a parent, you’ll likely have an interest in the subjects that children are learning in school, especially newer subjects like computer literacy, robotics, coding, or even game development. And while some parents and teachers might be worried that children already spend too much time on tablets, mobile phones or laptop computers as it is, the good news is that all of these subjects are likely to enhance the learning of more traditional curriculum areas, such as mathematics and English.

Coding, in particular, is quickly becoming a key skill that school students must achieve basic competency in before they graduate. In August last year, for example, former President Uhuru Kenyatta presided over the nationwide rollout of Kenya’s first ever coding curriculum in primary and secondary schools. This made Kenya the first African nation to create an official coding syllabus to be delivered in schools.

Today, I’ve invited Kat Sarmiento (content writer at Katreena’s Content Studio) to share her thoughts on why coding is such an important subject for students to learn.

Kat Sarmiento

In this digital age, when technological advancement continues to transform our lives, learning coding is crucial, especially for school students. Because if you think about it, the apps and websites children use all run on code. Thus, it’s vital for them to learn and understand the basics of coding to make the most out of the apps and websites they visit and utilize.

Image source: Pexels

As you may be aware, in the current curriculum, students in classes 11 and 12 are taught fundamental programming languages, such as C, C++, Foxpro, and more, while sixth-grade students and up learn computer basics. And as online education came to light, more and more students eagerly took online tuition coding classes to test various programming languages.

Given this situation, education professionals must also understand that teaching coding is as important as teaching sustainability at school. It offers numerous benefits for your students – from academic excellence to better career opportunities. To explain it further, we’ve listed down the reasons why coding is essential for students. Let’s get started.

#1: Coding improves critical thinking skills 

One of the many reasons why learning coding is important is that it can help students improve their critical thinking skills. A 2014 study actually demonstrates that the five brain areas associated with language processing, working memory, and attention are activated when people work with source code. Because besides memorizing various programming languages, students will also need to understand how to use them correctly. But to do that, it will require them to think differently. 

Dealing with codes requires you to break down problems into smaller and more manageable pieces to understand what happens next. This strategic problem-solving technique is called computational thinking. Coders must examine the data, assess the situation, and decide which course of action will help them achieve their objectives.

In light of this, students who learn how to code can improve their problem-solving/critical-thinking skills by figuring out the best solution to a problem at hand.

#2: Coding boosts creativity

Aside from honing problem-solving skills, coding also fosters the creativity of students. It gives them the opportunity to express themselves, experiment, and be creative. They can design websites, apps, or games in a fun and exciting way.

“But how does coding help with creativity?“, you may ask.

Well, while you learn various programming languages and techniques to create various programs, you always need to start building from scratch. For instance, when students are tasked to make an animated object, they have to think about what it should look like and how it can be presented on the screen. This is when they need to use their creativity and problem-solving skills to achieve what they picture.

#3: Coding teaches patience and persistence

Learning how to code is similar to how we learn a language. The only difference is we use programming languages to communicate with the computer. So, typically, we start by memorizing the alphabet, some words, and phrases before we begin creating sentences for use in conversations. And, of course, we will inevitably make mistakes along the way. It’s the same scenario in coding.

As you might already know, coding is complex and can be frustrating. But it teaches us patience and perseverance. Because to be successful, one must be able to experience failure and bounce back from it. It will take some testing and troubleshooting before the codes work effectively.

Students can use this process of trial and error to their advantage as they go through life, helping them to understand that perseverance is often necessary to find solutions to many difficulties.

#4: Coding improves communication and teamwork

Coding also teaches two of the best things students can use when they enter the real world: communication and teamwork. Most of the time, teachers assign students to work in groups when developing projects. That requires them to communicate with one another and make collaborative efforts for a successful program. But, even if they’re working on individual projects, they can still seek feedback from their classmates. Thus, by teaching coding to students, they’ll develop their communication skills and learn the importance of teamwork.

#5: Coding creates career opportunities

Finally, learning to code opens up many career opportunities. Considering how technology continuously advances as time passes by, coding is an extremely useful skill to possess. Computer programmers, web developers, and other IT jobs are now in demand because of the increasing number of businesses relying on code. And it’s not just those in the technology sector, but also those in finance, retail, health, and other industries.

If people learn to code at a young age, they’ll have the advantage of having better career opportunities in the future. Not to mention that the salary can be at a high level for those qualified, talented, and experienced IT people. 

The bottom line

There are many reasons why coding is important for school students to learn. Besides learning how to build websites and apps, they also learn valuable skills and lessons they can use in the real world. Not to mention that you’re also bringing them numerous career opportunities in this ever-growing digital world. And if they grow interested in developing more advanced and amazing software, they also contribute to our future.

Kat Sarmiento

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The A.C.E. Method of Post-Pandemic Teaching

Written by Richard James Rogers (Award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Accompanying podcast episode:

How many of us are fully aware of the damage caused to learning by lockdowns and school closures?

For me personally, I was surprised to learn that K–12 student learning was significantly impacted by online teaching, with students being on-average five months behind in mathematics and four months behind in reading by the end of the 2020/21 academic year (according to McKinsey Insights).

When we think about this in real-terms, for instance, many of our students experienced their last ‘normal’ academic year in 2018/2019. Many schools have seen their teaching disrupted for at least three academic years. This has hit some students harder than others – many Year 13 cohorts in British schools this year, for example, have never had an external examination during the whole of their high school education to-date. This is truly unprecedented.

Now that our students are, for the most part, back in school and should be learning on-site for the foreseeable future, it is important that we somehow ‘plug the holes’ in our learners’ incomplete knowledge and understanding. This extends to skills such as problem-solving, critical-thinking, metacognition and manual dexterity expressed through subjects like Design Technology, Science, Textiles, Electronics and Home Economics.

This brings me on to a pioneering strategy for facilitating the transition from online to hybrid to on-site learning which I believe should be aptly named the ‘ACE Method’: Action, Collaboration and Exploration.

Part One: Action

Our students have been stuck in front of computer screens for so long. Now it’s time to get them moving!

There a number of spatial learning strategies we can use to engage multiple areas of the brain. Activities such as the Human Graph and True or False Walls (please see the illustration below) are just two examples of simple things we can do in the classroom to turn everyday content into fun, interactive games that involve the students using their bodies in creative ways.

I wrote a separate blog post about spatial learning activities here. All of the activities described in that blog post can be applied to any subject area and require little-to-no resources and/or planning time.

In addition to spatial learning activities, think about interactive games which are not screen-based that you can implement. Such games are the tried-and-tested traditional teaching activities that have been around for decades. My personal favourite is ‘splat’, which is outlined in the illustration below:

You can watch a quick video of me playing splat with my students below:

There are many learning games we can play with our students that simply break the lesson down into fun, engaging ‘chunks’. These games combat boredom and act to improve knowledge retention.

I’ve written a separate blog post with descriptions of my top ten favorite games to play with students here. As with the spatial learning activities described earlier, these games can be applied to any subject area and require few-to-no resources and very little planning time (i.e. they’re awesome!).

One final thing to consider is ways to get your students gathering data and investigating things. Every subject can include some investigative work, even if it’s just carrying out surveys and interviews with other students. Such activities really do help to facilitate deep learning.

As a Science Teacher, I am used to guiding my students in the investigative design and data collection processes. Investigations in Science are basically a way to ‘test’ if the theory in the textbook is true, or false. Think of ways in which you can get your students to test the subject content you are teaching – you’ll often find that this is a very fun process. Better still – ask your students to come-up with ways in which they could test the central dogmas of your course.

Part 2: Collaboration

Whilst online systems like Google Meets did attempt to solve the student isolation problem during lockdown (e.g. via Breakout Rooms), no computerized system can fully replicate the experience of being physically in the classroom, working with your peers in a small group.

It’s important that we now start including even more groupwork activities in our lessons. Tons of research papers and top universities sing the praises of collaboration in the classroom, including the Eberly Center at Carnegie Mellon University, who state that:

Properly structured, group projects can reinforce skills that are relevant to both group and individual work, including the ability to: 

  • Break complex tasks into parts and steps
  • Plan and manage time
  • Refine understanding through discussion and explanation
  • Give and receive feedback on performance
  • Challenge assumptions
  • Develop stronger communication skills.
Eberly Center, Carnegie Mellon University, 2022, ‘What are the benefits of group work?’.

In fact, when students work together on a task/project that is well-planned and carefully executed, a large number of incredible things can happen:

It is very important to stress again, however, that group tasks must be very well-planned, otherwise they can “frustrate students and instructors and feel like a waste of time” [University of Waterloo].

I’ve written a separate blog post containing ten groupwork activities that can be applied to any subject area here. These activities have creativity at their core, and have all been field tested by me many times over (so I know that they work). However, as well as planning our group tasks/activities carefully, we must also consider a number of additional problems that may arise:

  • Most classes of students contain ‘cliques’/friendship groups, and it’s not uncommon to find that some children have few, if any, ‘friends’ within the classroom. This is one reason why I almost always choose the groups for the students – usually by lining the students up and numbering them in random ways in order to group them together, This removes the natural stress that comes when students are asked to create their own groups.
  • If you know your students really well, then you can group them by ability. If they need to present some slides at the end of their project, for example, then make sure that there is at least one good orator in the group. A tech-savvy student placed strategically in a group of students with weak IT skills may also be appropriate, for example.
  • Think about the classroom space and simple things like how your tables are arranged. You might need to push tables together to encourage students within groups to actually face each other and talk, for example. It might be appropriate to allow groups to work in different areas of the school (make sure you have permission!) if what they’re doing is very active/loud, for example.

Part 3: Exploration

One key message I want to get across in this article is that it’s not always necessary to know everything about your subject, especially if you’re new to teaching it. When I first came to Thailand in 2008, for example, I was much less knowledgeable about Chemistry than I am now (I was a Biology Teacher in the UK). The strategy I adopted back then was this – I will learn with the students

And that’s another key point that needs to be raised – it was difficult to encourage deep exploration when students were learning online – not least because the task outputs would often be handed in late, not handed in at all, be of varying quality and we could never be sure what kind of conditions the students were doing this work under at home.

So, get some fundamentals under your belt and think of ways to get your students to explore the topics they are learning. Get your students to use source material to:

  • Create Google Slides presentations (these are great, by the way, as multiple students can work on the slides in real-time)
  • Create a class quiz (e.g. a Kahoot!)
  • Create infographics (don’t go with ‘posters’ – they’ve been done to death)
  • Create a website or blog (Google Sites is brilliant for this, and is yet another reason why schools should take on Google Suite)
  • Create models of the concepts (simple materials are all that’s needed – bottle caps, plastic bags, cardboard boxes, etc)
  • Create a table display (e.g. for a Science Fair)

Try the I.E.S. Method for Exploration

Introduce the topic to the students via some kind of engaging starter activity (see my blog post on starter activities for some ideas to get you started). Use the three As (Assign, Analyse and Ask) where possible.

Give the students a ‘menu’ of different ways in which they can choose to explore the topic in a creative way (e.g. by creating a collaborative Google Slides presentation, making a Kahoot! quiz for the class to complete, designing an infographic, etc.)

Showcase the work to the class (or allow students to showcase their own work) so as to provide acknowledgement, a sense of accomplishment and a useful opportunity for class reflection. Do this important step the next lesson if time runs out, Do not skip this vital step. 

Conclusion

It’s vital that we do our best to make-up for the physical time at school that our students have missed so much of. Of course, we’re not miracle workers, but if we can keep just three little words in our minds when we are planning and delivering our lessons then we’re going to make a big difference in our students lives: action, collaboration and exploration.

Simple Marketing Strategies You Should Be Using to Make Your Education Business Grow

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).

This blog post has been beautifully illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati

This article is your guide to implementing straightforward, tried-and-tested marketing strategies that are guaranteed to grow your education business. We will discuss both strategies that you can use personally to self-reflect and thus increase business growth, and more practical, digital-oriented approaches you can take.

Utilise Fast Resources

In business there will be short-term and long-term investments you will want to make in terms of marketing. Long-term will generally be bigger projects, perhaps a grand unveiling of a product. Short-term will more likely be simple strategies that you can do easily that don’t take a great deal of time. For the short-term, it is highly recommended that you utilise the fast online resources that are at your disposal. For example, a Facebook ad template already gives you the attractive basis for your advertisement – all you need to do is fill in the blanks. This is an affordable way to keep your business moving. 

Consider How You Are Learning

This isn’t so much a practical strategy, as a mental refresher course. Perhaps you feel you need to strip back down to the basics. You should really aim to properly soak in the information you are gathering for, for example, your market research. Surface level learning is where you should start on your journey, but to be able to be properly invested, engaged, and reflective with your business and its plan, you must dig a little deeper in order to forward think. Deep learning will have you constantly reviewing your business, in terms of what is going well and what can be improved.

Email Marketing

Because email marketing has been around for years, people may start to believe that it is not as relevant as it once was, and we should think forward to more modern ways of marketing. However, this is not the case. One reason for this is because of email automation tools. Email marketing, after the initial setup, is constantly generated and therefore constantly keeping the interaction with customers to a high level through newsletters, information on new products, etc. Email marketing also specifically reaches your target audience, meaning that your business is actually being promoted to those who are interested. Thus, the people who are more likely to purchase. 

Remain Focused

If you are feeling here, there, and everywhere, this hectic mindset can reflect on the way that you advertise your business. Have a clear-cut objective when you set out to market something; a simple approach with a touch of creativity is better than something that results in a chaotic, discernible mess. Maintaining a level of focus in your own mind means that you can concentrate solely on creating something for your business that speaks to you and the brand.

Search Engine Optimisation

Having knowledge of search engine optimisation (SEO) is the top rated strategy in order to increase website traffic. Through strategically chosen keywords and phrases, your website can rank higher on a search engine results page. This means the customers who are interested in the goods that you sell will find your online business due to their internet search matching up with what you are offering.

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How to Manage a Hybrid Classroom Effectively

Hybrid teaching is here to stay – at least for the time-being (and probably long into the future). It is therefore crucial for educators everywhere to keep their hybrid-teaching skills in tip top shape.  Today, I’ve invited Kiara Miller from The Speakingnerd to share her excellent suggestions on how teachers can effectively manage their hybrid classrooms.

Kiara Miller

The pandemic, coupled with technological advancements, have set new terms for the education landscape (whether we like it or not). A lot of educational institutions worldwide are now switching to remote or hybrid teaching models in conjunction with face-to-face methods . With all the changes being embraced in the education sector, it is blatantly apparent that educators are trying to create an all-inclusive learning culture.

Through virtual, synchronous, or hybrid models, students who can’t afford to join an in-person class due to unavoidable circumstances can be accommodated. It’s also an attractive model for learners who wish to physically come to school for only a few days per week. Research shows that up to 82% of students opt for a hybrid learning environment over a traditional one. The research further goes on to indicate that 94% of teachers are in support of hybrid learning as long as they have proper resources and a suitable curriculum to follow.

The hybrid model is becoming common in both the education and workplace environments, but when it comes to education, it manifests a unique set of challenges. Teachers must manage students (in-person and remotely) in a way that ensures that they actively participate in class.

Teachers must also ensure that students stay engaged and get the proper support whenever needed. With all this to consider, it is essential for teachers to find ways of managing hybrid classrooms effectively to optimize student participation and academic performance. What follows are some of the approaches to look into.

#1: Use the right technology

First and foremost for an effective online class to take place, both teachers and students must have the right technology in place. Teachers may have no influence on what type of technology or software students can use, but they can guide them when it comes to choosing the right learning software. Having the same or similar learning devices allows effective collaboration. The teacher will not struggle to connect with the remote students or assign tasks to them when suitable hardware and software being used universally and consistently.

As a teacher, the aim is to connect the remote students to the in-person classroom. Here you will need a range of things in place such as cameras, screens, monitors, projectors, smartboards, and microphones, among others. In most cases, it’s essential for the remote students to turn on their cameras to help you monitor them or allow effective interaction. Remember to teach your students how to participate in-class using video conferencing tools since this may be new to them.

Please note that it is important to continue operating as per the traditional classroom management principles. This means that the teacher will only look out for add-ons that can help in the proper management of a hybrid classroom. If you require your students to be in class at the same time as with the synchronous learning model, it’s essential for them to be on time, participate and submit assignments like other students.

#2: Plan and organize every lesson thoroughly

We all know how teaching is a challenging profession and now that it’s going virtual, teachers are expected to handle more duties and responsibilities. As a teacher, you must know that there will be moments when you have to spare time helping the remote students to connect or use any tool. You will have possibly have to intervene in a student wrangle that may break out in physical class among others, or deal with other behavior management challenges (such as low-level disruption).

Richard’s bestselling book for teachers.

Similarly, you must ensure that your teaching devices are in a good condition before a lesson and that they are connected. Also, ensure that your teaching resources and materials are in place. You may have to plan effectively by prioritizing topics and deciding those that you would handle in-person or remotely. This will help you create a perfect balance between remote learning and in-person instruction.    

Consider talking to the remote students about how to create an ideal learning environment that is free of noise and other distractions. A disorganized classroom will divert students’ attention and affect their engagement in the various activities. It is essential to know that managing a hybrid classroom will always require more time as you have to focus on both in-person and remote students.

#3: Create a sense of community

Although you will have to teach two groups of students (in-person and remote) it is very essential to create a sense of community. Do not let physical boundaries create a gap between students. Creating a sense of community will help you promote an ideal learning environment. Even though studying remotely, let them know that they are part of the class. Create time and allow students to interact in order to build their social skills or bond. Turn your camera around to the physical students to show their faces in the virtual classroom, for example. Get the students who are learning online to way hello and goodbye to the in-class students, and vica-versa, if you have time.

You can also bring up a topic and ask for everyone’s participation for students to learn beyond the already-set curriculum. You can also model the ideal code of conduct that you want your students to follow. All these engagement tactics will bring students closer, increase morale and it will help them feel psychologically safe.

#4: Ask questions to keep students engaged

Instead of rushing through the syllabus, it is important to weigh the engagement level of your students. Ensuring that your students (both in-person and remote) are engaged will require paying extra attention to them. In the case of remote students, it’s so easy for them to get distracted from the class due to technical issues or other emergencies. Some students may also be passively attentive (hence the earlier suggestion of asking them to keep their cameras on).

Experiment with ways of keeping your students engaged. Engaged students tend to be actively involved in classroom activities and show more interest in every idea brought forward. For that matter, ask questions frequently to know whether your students are attentive or not. Assign teamwork to increase collaboration and sharing of knowledge. Use live-quiz apps, hybrid-teaching apps and play learning games

All this will help students set common SMART Goals and will also teach them how collaborative efforts can bring dreams to reality. Avoid assigning different topics to students simply because they study remotely or because they might find it hard to access the material or resources.  

#5: Manage your time wisely

Proper time management is associated with a range of benefits when it comes to hybrid classes. As a teacher, you must remember that you will have to race with time whether it’s about completing the syllabus, creating extra time for your students, or when it comes to your mental health.

First and foremost, the synchronous model where students are in class at the same time, although in different locations, ensures that you and your students are on the same page. It also helps students obtain the same experiences since classes are conducted in real-time. All these offer assurance that your efforts for students are fully optimized for their academic excellence.

Whether it’s conducting a lesson, monitoring an examination, or switching between classes, managing the available time is key to getting things done smoothly and effectively. There is a range of time tracking tools that teachers can utilize to track time and students’ performance.

On the other hand, you can also provide learning materials (online and offline), use past exam papers, or encourage learner-to-learner interactions and discussions to speed up classroom tasks. Through this, you will have provided all-round assistance to your students and will help you create time for yourself to reduce burnout chances. 

Conclusion

Summing up, more education institutions are embracing the hybrid teaching culture since it is all-inclusive, flexible, and seen as a reliable approach to extending education to millions of students. However, with it comes, a range of concerns that educators and instructors must look into if they are to provide constructive lessons.    

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5 Ways Teachers Can Prevent Burnout While Teaching Online

It is no hidden fact that teaching is a stressful profession. From managing students to maintaining multiple records, teachers have a lot to deal with on a daily basis. Moreover, if stress remains unmanaged and unnoticed for a long time, it can even lead to serious burnout. Today, I’ve invited Jessica Robinson, educational writer at The Speaking Polymath, to share her insights and tips for maintaining a stress-free life as an online educator.

Accompanying podcast episode:

In modern times, where digitalization was supposed to take the burden off the shoulders, more stress was somehow added on to teachers. Moreover, it even led to serious burnout situations for some. If you think that these are just random verdicts of ours, let’s have a look at some of the statistics to back up these claims:

  • The world’s largest teacher burnout survey concluded that almost 65% of teachers are facing burnout in their jobs. Additionally, 85% were recognized as working “unsustainably” which led to a significant impact on their mental and physical health. 
  • As per the survey of March 2021, 42% of educators have considered retiring or quitting their current position last year, and they say it happened because of their shift to virtual learning or COVID19.
  • Almost 40% of the teachers believe that they are less productive when they are under stress.

These statistics are evidence enough that some teachers are still not comfortable with the virtual model of learning. Moreover, they are finding it hard to cope with the burnout occurring while teaching online. If you are a teacher, then there are chances you could have related to one of or all of the above-given statistics. Moreover, we understand how difficult it can be sometimes for you to handle so much pressure and still have a smile on your face while delivering the lectures.

That being the case, this blog will effectively highlight the top 7 strategies that can be utilized by you to prevent or deal with burnout while teaching online. 

5 Strategies For Preventing Burnout While Teaching Online

#1: Take the 4A’s approach

One of the most effective and efficient forms of preventing burnout is using the approach of 4A’s of stress management given by Mayo Clinic. To elaborate, 4A’s stand for Adapt, Alter, Accept and Avoid. A detailed elaboration of all the 4 A’s with respect to the teaching profession is presented below

  • Adapt – During online teaching, you may have to deal with different kinds of students and various situations regularly. Adoption of new things and changing your standards of dealing with things according to the virtual environment can lead to eliminating the scope of stress and burnout in different situations. 
  • Alter – When in a stressful situation that cannot be avoided, try altering your behavioral traits and communicating better. It is no hidden fact that during teaching we have to deal with a lot of stress associated with various types of work. Moreover, the link of physical communication is often broken in online classes. In such situations, try communicating openly with higher authorities about the problems you are facing. 
  • Accept – We often find it difficult to deal with situations when we are not ready to accept them. We can not deny the fact that virtual learning is the new normal. In order to accept the situation, first, you need to identify the stressors and then react accordingly. 

Identification and acceptance of stressors is the most important strategy in stress and burnout management. For instance, some people get stressed about teaching in front of a screen, while some feel burned out when it comes to grading papers. When you know and accept what you are stressed about, it becomes easier for you to respond to the situation.

  • Avoid – Believe it or not but there are situations where you can simply avoid the situation to reduce the risk of stress. You might have different tasks to perform within two days and the ideal way to deal with a situation is to plan the important things accordingly. 

#2: Set firm boundaries

One of the biggest issues teachers come across while teaching online is the lack of maintenance of work-life balance. Lack of work-life balance not only impacts your mental health but if continued for a long time, it can lead to serious burnout. Hence, it is really essential for you to set firm boundaries between your professional and personal life.

That is the reason many prominent people have explained why it is important to learn how to say ‘No’. This not only simplifies your life but also gives you enough time to relax and start your new day with a positive attitude again. 

In the scenario of online teaching, you can decide not to work after the classes which will give you enough time to plug out from the hectic schedule of virtual classes. This will assist you in maintaining your mental peace and will assist in regaining your energy back.

In order to effectively manage your time and set boundaries, you can use the Pareto principle to meticulously manage your time and get positive results.

#3: Try different stress-releasing activities

In online classes, teachers often feel burnout because the link to the physical world is broken and they get less time to focus on themselves. However, we need to always remember that self-care is not selfish. On the contrary, it’s about knowing the correct time to take some time off. This break will assist you in giving the time you deserve to maintain that mental peace.

While teaching online, you can just adjust your lectures with frequent short breaks which will give you enough time to regain your energy and relieve yourself from stress. In such situations below mentioned are some of the stress-relieving activities that you can try:

  1. Get away from your screens and relax your eyes
  2. Try meditation
  3. Drink your favorite tea or coffee on your balcony 

Moreover, did you know that taking a 30 minute walk can help in dropping your stress levels?  It’s not important to take a 30-minute walk at once, just divide your time and complete different sessions at times. This will assist in lowering your stress levels and can prevent burnout in a long run. Along with this, these activities will also contribute to your self-improvement.

#4: Give positive affirmations to yourself

Saying a mantra, such as “I know how to do it and I will do it” is an example of a positive affirmation that you can say daily. Positive affirmations will not only help you to reduce stress but also help in maintaining calmness in handling all of the challenging situations that arise throughout the day.

As per the article by Cohen and Sherman, affirmations are related to one’s identity, efficiency, and productivity. Psychological studies say that there are many changes that occur in the brain with self-affirmations.

For instance, when you are in an online class dealing with disruptions and you feel students are not under control – at that point various positive affirmations can help you. It will assist in calming you and release you from the stress of handling chaos in classrooms. This will also contribute to making you a happy teacher

#5: Delegate classroom responsibilities

In virtual classrooms, there are many responsibilities that need to be taken care of but can be performed without your supervision. In such scenarios, you can delegate the responsibility to your sincere students. Examples of such responsibilities may include:

  • Verbally reporting about the progress of the group they are working in
  • Creating, sharing and monitoring the creation of project work (e.g. Google Slides, Sites, Docs, Sheets, etc.)
  • Uploading project work to the relevant place (e.g. Google Classroom)

Conclusion

To encapsulate, nobody is denying the fact that teaching is not an easy profession. Moreover, virtual learning even made it tougher for teachers to cope with their stress. In that situation, the need is to effectively manage your mental health and try the above-given strategies to prevent burnout and embrace the changes that are happening in the education sector in the form of virtual learning. 

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Hybrid Teaching Apps, Ideas and Strategies

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

Many schools are now facing an unprecedented challenge as the world learns tolive with‘ COVID-19: the need to teach students who are in-school physically and online at the same time. This is called ‘hybrid’ teaching.

I was surprised to discover during my research for this blog post that hybrid teaching has been around for quite some time – decades before the novel coronavirus even surfaced, in fact. In addition, the practice was initiated in a sector outside of education – business. As far back as 1993, astonishingly, companies around the world were holding seminars, workshops, meetings and training for employees who were both on-site and online at the same time.

In today’s blog post I’ll be drawing upon some of the hard-earned expertise that has come from the business sector when discussing some practical strategies for making hybrid teaching clear and effective. In addition, I’ll be describing a number of apps that I am currently using to great effect to keep my online and on-site students focused and stimulated. And the best part – all of the apps I will describe can be used at high functionality for free!

Hybrid teaching apps

  • Nearpod: This is one of my all-time favourite hybrid teaching apps. Nearpod is basically a very interactive slideshow application in which the teacher can add various activities, such as drawing tasks, multiple choice questions, fill-in the blanks questions, picture/word matching, a noticeboard and so much more. Moreover, it takes a matter of minutes to upload a slideshow to Nearpod (multiple file formats are accepted) and add the various activities. Once your lesson is ready, students simply go to join.nearpod.com and type in a code that you have shared with them. As a bonus – when the teacher moves from one slide to another, all of the students’ devices will show the slide transition too! It really is an awesome app, and one of the most popular among teachers who I deliver workshops to. Check it out!
  • Classkick: One of the most irritating things I find with using Google Docs/Slides with students is that the teacher cannot see all of the students’ work in real-time, in one place – you have to go into each student’s work separately to see what progress is being made. Well, some good news – Classkick solves this problem. Students log in to a classroom with a simple code and within seconds they are given a blank sheet in which they can add pictures, text, drawings and even voice clips! Additionally, as a teacher, you can see every piece of work in one place, in real-time, and can therefore easily see which students are not doing the work, or are working too slowly. It’s a great app for any kind of creative project that you would like your students to do, such as infographic creation, cartoon storyboarding, revision summaries or anything else that comes to mind.
  • Whiteboard.fi: Another legendary app that’s very simple to explain – it’s a virtual mini-whiteboarding app in which the teacher can see all of the students’ mini whiteboards in one place. It’s super cool, and again – students are able to log in within seconds by typing in a simple code.
  • Kami: This app turns static documents (e.g. pdfs) into interactive documents. Again, this app is super simple to use – the teacher uploads a static document, such as a revision booklet, and students can log in with a simple code and write all over the document. One amazing feature of Kami is its text-to-speech function – students can highlight any words within the document you’ve uploaded and the app will turn those words into an audible computer-generated voice. This is great for students who are learning how to verbalise key vocabulary.
  • Padlet: This is a very well-known and respected app for a reason – it’s simple to use and very customizable. Padlet is basically a noticeboard in which students can quickly log in (again, with a simple code) and post answers to a question, a summary of what they’ve learned that lesson, or anything the teacher chooses. Students can even post comments on each other’s posts (if that functionality is activated by the teacher). Filters for profanity can be activated and teacher-approval can be set up so that all posts can be checked before publishing. Check out the little-known ‘Shelf’ function on Padlet – this allows the teacher to post a sequence of questions or activities that students can complete at their own pace during a lesson. Here’s a screenshot of a very recent Padlet I created for my Year 11 Physics’ class – in this case I asked students to post a summary of what they had learned that lesson:
A recent Padlet I used with my Year 11 Physics class

Practical hybrid learning tips (from the corporate sector)

This great, free pdf book outlines some logistical enhancements that can be made to hybrid learning classrooms:

  • Remove background noise: Be aware that if your system isn’t on mute then eveyone can hear you rustling through papers, typing on your keyboard, drinking/slurping coffee, coughing, tapping on your desk and a variety of other noises. Some video-conferencing apps do have noise-reduction features built-in, so definitely activate those features if available.
  • Prepare: Do a test-run before the lesson begins. Make sure you know how to use the technology/apps you want to implement. Do you have a back-up plan in case something doesn’t work?
  • Consider lighting: Avoid bright background light (which can make you look like a silhouette on-screen). Test the camera to make sure that your students can clearly see your face.
  • Default to mute: Keep your microphone on mute, and unmute just before speaking, to avoid unwanted audio feedback.
  • Think about your location: Your desk space, background and location may be on display when you are video-conferencing, A messy space can reflect badly on you, so consider using a custom background image or moving the camera to a more favorable location.
  • Adjust your position accordingly: Make sure your head isn’t ‘cut off’ in the camera frame – position the equipment so that your face, neck and shoulders appear in the middle of the frame (if at all possible).

Your questions answered

Question about Nearpod from Mirian (via Facebook):

Sorry to ask but Nearpod seems to be really useful. Is it an app I have to download or a webpage? Because I logged in but then I couldn’t create my lessons or it didn’t generate a code for my students. Probably I didn’t do things properly 

Answer:

It’s a website. You’ll need to create an account, upload a slide presentation (as a pdf – just click ‘save as’ on your ppt and convert to a pdf.). Once your slide show is uploaded and saved (Nearpod will ask you to choose the subject and age level), you then need to click on ‘Live Lesson’. This will generate a code. Share the code with your students and you are good to go.

I have made a video describing how to create an awesome, free Nearpod lesson here:

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5 Smart Benefits of Using The Pomodoro Technique in Teaching

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. This blog post is illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Have you heard of the Pomodoro Technique, and how it can be applied to your lessons? I hadn’t – that is until I invited Jessica Robinson, educational writer at The Speaking Polymath, to write this excellent blog post for us today. Enjoy, because you’re in for a treat!

I am of the strong belief that time management is complementary to classroom management. Having said that, teachers have to be on the top of their time management game at all times. I am of the opinion that how we, teachers, manage classroom time directly correlates with our students’ success. This is why a lot of educators are interested in exploring various time management tips for teachers. Besides, education is evolving at a swift pace in this digital age. This paradigm shift calls for greater innovation and outside-the-box thinking on the part of teachers.

In the ultimate sense, the success of every time management strategy depends on how well a teacher executes it. I have seen some of the simplest techniques producing great outcomes because of meticulous execution. On the other hand, I have seen some of the most popular classroom management tactics failing in the absence of planning and implementation. However, the bottom line is that we need to keep discovering new ideas for classroom management. Also, these ideas have to be relevant to the new dynamics of education and remote learning.

One excellent classroom management strategy I have discovered is the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique is basically a time management technique. But like I mentioned above, smart time management facilitates intelligible classroom management. The application of this strategy in teaching is still unexplored to a great extent. It is rather a strategy that finds greater application in the corporate world. That does not mean we cannot use it in teaching!

I have been using this technique in teaching for more than a year now. What is noteworthy is that it has always inspired great outcomes. This is an innovative approach in teaching that I would recommend to all teachers. Do you struggle to manage your time and drive positive changes in the classroom? If you do, this outside-the-box technique can be the perfect solution. There are multifaceted benefits of using the Pomodoro Technique for teachers as well as students. Before I shed light on that, it is vital that we understand what Pomodoro Technique is and how it works.

What is the Pomodoro Technique of time management?

Let me make it clear that the Pomodoro Technique is not an innovation of the contemporary world. In fact, this methodology of time management was discovered in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. The crux of this methodology lies in breaking down work or tasks into short bursts of 25 minutes each. These spans of 25 minutes are separated by short breaks of 5 minutes. To use it to the best effect, a timer is used to keep track of time. Are you thinking about how this technique is beneficial for teachers? Let us find out how it can be a breakthrough addition to your teaching and classroom management strategies.

Advantages of using the Pomodoro Technique in teaching

#1: It can facilitate short-term goals in the classroom

As I see it, the short goals of classroom management are of utmost importance. The Pomodoro Technique gives you the perfect opportunity to set short-term goals in the classroom. In fact, you can set one goal each for every Pomodoro session. In this way, one classroom session can be divided into multiple short-term goals. 

These goals can relate to classroom management or academic objectives for students. In this way, the culmination of short-term goals can lead to the efficient accomplishment of larger objectives of classroom management. It can make learning more wholesome for students. Furthermore, it can help you in drawing more productivity in your teaching. I personally feel that this technique incredibly adds to my work efficiency. I am sure it will work wonders for you as well. Worth a try for sure!

#2: It promotes better student engagement

It is critical for teachers to evolve student engagement and active learning strategies in a continuous manner. Teachers need to look for creative ideas to keep students engaged, be it in remote learning or a traditional classroom. Having said that, I think the Pomodoro Technique is quite a creative way of driving high student engagement.

The first reason why it is a great way to engage students is that it does not make students feel worn out. They know they will get a short break after a twenty-five-minute span. Hence, they can dedicate complete diligence and motivation to their learning in those twenty-five minutes. It helps them sustain their learning motivation more effectively. Moreover, in those short breaks between consecutive Pomodoro sessions, you can initiate interactive classroom discussions. These discussions can be about anything and everything in the world. In fact, these discussions can be a great opportunity for students to express themselves and rejuvenate their minds. Also, these breaks can be utilized for feedback sharing and clearing doubts to further add to student engagement.

#3: It paves the way for better stress management

Teaching is a stressful and draining job which is the reason why this profession has high turnover. As much as we love to teach students, be a part of their journeys, and lead them to success, stress keeps pulling us down. In my experience, teachers are as successful as their stress management skills. For me, it is a prerequisite for all teachers. When teachers are not able to manage their stress, they face burnout situations. More than the impacts on their careers, it affects students’ learning as teachers begin to disengage.

The best thing about the Pomodoro Technique is that it has a great scope for teachers’ stress management as well. In the short breaks between two Pomodoro sessions, teachers can relax and feel at ease. Short sessions of twenty-five minutes with a five-minute break after each session is a fair deal, isn’t it? Of course, long teaching sessions and a typical workday can make us feel exhausted and stressed. But doing it the Pomodoro way is a great escape from stressful and burnout situations. It will give you enough breaks to remain sane and reboot before the next session. It will help you in keeping the classroom environment positive and help you manage workload better. Having said that, it can prove to be an amazing stress management tip for teachers. 

#4: It can be a perfect time management model for students

By using the Pomodoro Technique for classroom management, teachers can model a great time management strategy for students. The students can learn about the working of this technique and implement it in their homework sessions or while preparing for exams. In this way, students can meet their learning objectives better and make classroom management easier for teachers.

I have seen students take a lot of interest in this technique. They feel that it is a perfect way to support their learning objectives. Also, it can help them to keep mental or physical fatigue at bay. Effective time management and stress management are as vital for students as for teachers. So, when your students learn this effective technique from you, they can use it to their advantage. The Pomodoro Technique can be a great way for students to enhance their productivity, academic results, and time management skills.

#5: It assists in improvised classroom planning

With the Pomodoro Technique, you can plan your classroom sessions in a better way. You can break down the lesson plans into smaller sessions to inspire maximum concentration among students. I feel that this technique has empowered me to plan classroom sessions and activities in a much smarter way. I can break down a big lesson into smaller bursts using the Pomodoro Technique. This ensures that students learn in an effective and conducive way. Otherwise, long sessions may be exhausting for them with the little accomplishment of the learning objectives.

This is why I suggest that this is a great way to facilitate improvised classroom planning. Teachers can plan the curriculum in an organized manner. Also, by breaking down a classroom session into small spells, a teacher can plan for adding various learning dimensions. You can make every classroom session far more worthwhile with this excellent technique from the 1980s.

Can you think of any more ways in which the Pomodoro Technique can be added to teaching proficiency? Teaching is the right balance of effective time management and also patience. For me, the significance of patience in teaching is immense. In the new age of digital learning, you have to keep adding diverse teaching methodologies to your capabilities. But time management and patience will always be the foundation of excelling in teaching. Given that, the Pomodoro Technique can be a vital and valuable addition to your teaching style. With this technique, you can drive positive outcomes in your career as well as for your students.

An ardent writer, Jessica Robinson, works for ‘The Speaking Polymath’. She uses this platform to weave her magical words into powerful strands of content and share with her readers.

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. 

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10 Groupwork Activities That Can Be Applied to Any Subject Area

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

When students work together on a task/project that is well-planned and carefully executed, a number of incredible things happen:

It is very important to stress again, however, that group tasks must be very well-planned, otherwise they can “frustrate students and instructors and feel like a waste of time” [University of Waterloo].

So, the next question has to be ‘What types of group activities are most effective, and, ideally, won’t cost me too much planning time as a teacher?’. Well, I’ve got some good news for you – I’m going to pretty much answer that question in today’s blog post. As a high school Chemistry teacher, I’ve had the opportunity to try and test a large number of group-based activities over the past 16 years. What I present here will be my distillation of the top ten that work the best.

#1: Podcasting

Podcasts are all the rage at the moment, and have been for some time. In addition, forecasts by eMarketer, Grand View Research, and many others predict huge growth in this sphere for at least the next several years, and probably much longer.

In other words, the industry is literally booming, and getting our students involved in podcasting provides not only a creative output for their research projects, but also equips them with valuable key skills.

As a podcaster myself, I’m delighted to bring some excellent news to teachers and schools everywhere (garnered from lots of personal experience): podcasting is very easy, and virtually free to do.

Here are the steps that I personally suggest students should follow:

Step 1: Record the audio on any device available – a mobile phone, laptop computer, tablet, etc.

Step 2: Save the file somewhere. A .wav or .mp3 is perfect

Step 3: Download Audacity – it’s free sound engineering software that is just literally awesome (I use it myself for my podcast).

Step 4: Import and manipulate the sound file in Audacity (Hint: For podcasts, set Loudness Normalization to -18.0 LUFS, as this will make the voices of the students nice and clear – to do that, just select the audio, then go to Effect > Loudness Normalization, and keep the check mark the box that says ‘Treat mono as dual mono’).

Step 5: Export and save the file. I suggest exporting as an mp3, rather than a .wav, in order to compress the size of the file dramatically. Sound quality is not affected by this.

Once the sound file has been exported and saved locally, the students can then send that to the teacher in any way that seems appropriate – via e-mail, Google Classroom, uploading to YouTube (which requires another process that the students will have to learn), etc.

#2: Create a short lesson that contains some kind of practical element

Ironically, research shows that one of the best ways to learn something is to teach the topic that you have to learn. So, quite simply, ask your groups of students to prepare a lesson which they must teach to the whole class. To spice things up, the students could build a model, demonstrate an experiment, pass objects around the class or do anything that stimulates touch, smell, and, maybe, taste.

Allowing students to have some creative freedom over how they deliver the lesson should lead to some very interesting and entertaining moments.

#3: Cloud Computing

This is one area of education where Google really has the monopoly – and understandably so in my opinion. Their tools for students are second-to-none. Book the schools ICT lab, iPads/laptops or allow students to use their own devices in the following ways:

  • Google SlidesImagine you’re in a group of 5 people, each working on the same slide presentation simultaneously on 5 different computers. You’re all editing the presentation in real time – that’s what Google Slides is, basically. It’s really powerful, and I’ve found that students never grow tired of working in groups to create beautiful presentations. Get your students to present the slides to the class when the project is done and you’ve ticked so many boxes – collaboration, using ICT to enhance learning, leadership skills, courage, and on and on we could go. Just make sure you’re walking around the classroom to check on the students as they are doing the work, and ask the group leader to ‘share’ the work with you (this involves clicking a button, and selecting the teacher’s school Gmail address to share it to).
  • Google Docs: This is similar to Google Slides, albeit with a slight difference: the students collaborate on a word-processed document in real time, rather than a slides presentation. It’s great for producing leaflets, infographics, reports, booklets, summaries and traditional ‘assignments’.
  • Google Sheets: As the name suggests, this is a spreadsheet application that the students can collaborate on in real-time, in groups. As a science teacher I find that this is perfect for data collection and processing as it can be used to generate graphs and charts. It’s also good for keeping lists (e.g. lists of revision websites).
  • Google Forms: Great for surveys and peer-assessment tasks. Students can create forms for other students to fill in, share these forms with their peers, receive responses and the software will even generate pie charts of the responses for quick analysis. It’s a fun way to use ICT to enhance learning, and a quick way to gather interesting data.
  • New Google Sites: This is Google’s amazing website creation software. In a matter of a few clicks, students can create their own websites that are securely linked to the school’s G Suite server. I’ve just recently used Google Sites with my Year 7 students to create ePortfolios. These ePortfolios act as online records/journals where the students can record their reflections on their work, school achievements, extra-curricular activities and photographs of schoolwork they are really proud of. At many schools, these ePortfolios act as an ‘entire’ record, with students adding work to them throughout their time at school. It’s something meaningful that the students can take pride in, and spend significant time developing.

I’ve written a separate blog post about using Google Apps in teaching which you can find here.

#4: Create a Quiz

Quizzes can be a really fun way to test student knowledge, and when done via a group-creation project they can be much less stressful for students than traditional testing. Furthermore, there are a number of great, free multiple choice and graphic quiz creation tools available on the web:

  • Kahoot!: Students can create an account (Attention: Make sure the students use their school e-mail address for safety) and then create a great multiple choice quiz. Always specify the number of questions you’d like the students to create. When ready, the group can present the Kahoot! to the class, and the students watching/playing will use their mobile devices as multiple choice ‘clickers’. The software comes with music (so use your classroom sound system, if you have one) and shows a running student ranking after each question. It’s great fun, and I’ve never known a student to dislike using Kahoot!.
  • Quizlet: This comes in the form of virtual flashcards that the students create (e.g. key word on one side, definition on the other), but the fun starts with Quizlet Live. Basically, when the group has finished making their Quizlet, they activate Quizlet Live which automatically puts all the students into new groups to compete with each other. Again, music and a main screen showing the real-time progress of each team make for a very lively, active classroom experience.
Quizlet Live teacher screen (showing real-time group progress) and student screens [Courtesy of teachwithtech.com]
  • Wordwall: This app allows students to be more spatial in their quiz creations – offering word-matching, category brainstorms, rank orders and many more activities. You can read more about the wide-range of tasks that students can create with Wordwall here.

Can you think of any others? Please do feel free to comment in the comment box below this blog post.

#5: Marketplace activity

In a marketplace activity, the following steps are followed:

  • Step 1: Students are placed into small groups and given material to learn. They could spend perhaps ten minutes learning about one aspect of the topic you’re teaching (each group can learn a different aspect/sub-topic, or each group can learn the same sub-topic).
  • Step 2: One person from each group goes to another group to teach them what they have learned.
  • Step 3: This ‘designated teacher’ also gets taught by the group.
  • Step 4: The assigned person goes back to their original group and teaches them what they have learned

I have drawn a diagram of the process below (if my handwriting is too small to see on your screen, then please feel free to download the image and zoom in):

You can read more about marketplace activities here.

#6: Model building

Get your students to build things. Materials like plastic bottles, bottlecaps, cardboard, coloured paper, plasticine/modelling clay, straws, shoeboxes and old rope can all be used creatively by students to make models of the concepts they are studying. I’ve used this technique across my teaching in Science to get students to create everything from atomic models to makeshift ‘eco gardens’. Here’s a model atom that one of my IGCSE Chemistry students made out of rudimentary materials a few years ago:

#7: Making videos and stop motion animations

Movies and stop-motion animations are fun projects which can really encourage students to approach a problem from creative perspective. The result? – Memory of the concept is greatly enhanced when compared with traditional teaching methods.

Stop-motion animations do take a long time, and are more suited to processes and systems (e.g. DNA replication, corrie formation, steps in differential calculus, etc.), whereas movies have a wider-range of applications.

You can find out more about how to make a stop-motion animation at this great ACMI webpage here. The students will need everyday objects and inexpensive materials (e.g. modeling clay, coloured paper, straws, etc.) and someone in the group will need to ‘film’ the project. Due to the high-amount of thought and planning involved, stop-motion animations are best suited to complex topics, as the level of thought and immersion needed by the group will lead to useful long-term memory of the concepts.

#8: Create a news report

A suitable example might be a group of three students being assigned the task of creating a news report about a chemical explosion. One student might be the best at art, and could be assigned to produce the graphics. One student might be great at verbal communication in front of an audience, and could be the ‘news anchor’. One student might understand chemical calculations really well, and could provide the script for the news anchor for that particular part of the task.

Students can get really creative with news reports, as nowadays there are so many ways in which they are done:

  • Webpages (e.g. created using New Google Sites)
  • Audio reports (e.g. for podcasting or internet radio)
  • Video reports (e.g. for standard terrestrial TV, internet TV or a Vlog)
  • Social media posts (If you go for this, then ask the students to compile an array of posts – one for IG, one for Facebook, one for Twitter, etc. – and make sure they link to a webpage the students have created)
  • Print media (e.g. a newspaper, magazine article, newsletter, etc.)

This works great when you can provide the groups with a menu, like the one above, from which they can choose what to create.

#9: Create a puzzle booklet

The beauty of this task is that it is both fun and lends itself really well to delegation – one person can create a crossword, one person a word search, one person a fill-in-the-blanks, etc.

Another great thing about puzzle-building is that there are literally tons of free, puzzle building websites out there. Check these out:

#10: Create a classroom display

A warm, inviting classroom that’s colorful, fresh and light can really benefit your students. In fact, expansive research published by the University of Salford shown that well-designed classrooms can improve learning progress in primary school pupils by up to 16%.

This was the first time that clear evidence of the effect of the physical classroom environment on learning was established.

Oftentimes, teachers are stuck with the classrooms they are given. If your furniture is old, natural light is bad or the air-conditioning isn’t perfect, then it’s tough luck. One thing we can change, however, is the quality of our displays. Other aspects of the classroom environment can also be adjusted alongside this (See my article about this here: The Starbucks Protocol), so don’t neglect that side of the equation either.

So what are the best ways that we can create beautiful classroom displays? Good news – I’ve written a whole, separate blog post this very topic (with examples and instructions) here.

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A Teacher’s Reflections on 2020: The Year of the Coronavirus

2020 has been an unforgettable year for the teaching profession. In many countries around the world schools were closed and teachers had to quickly adapt their knowledge and skills to deliver effective lessons remotely. Today, I’ve invited Dr Andreas Economou, Head of Science at The American International School in Cyprus, to share his reflections on 2020, along with some suggestions for teachers as we enter the New Year.

2020 is now gone, and what a year this has been. If you spent some time in social media looking through education/teacher dedicated accounts, you would have been exposed to the perception of the hive mind in this particular year. The consensus is that it was mostly doom and gloom. 2020 was “the worst”, and you will be reminded of the lockdown, all the issues of remote teaching such as the staring at blank screens in the chat rooms, the chronic student absenteeism, the lax in assessment and so on. But, there are those voices that point out that this was in-fact a great year because “we did it”. We all became online instructors overnight. We managed to persevere and provide the best, under the circumstances, education we could, and this should be celebrated.

In a way, perception is key. One of my favorite authors, Nikos Kazantzakis has stated “Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes that see reality” and these words cannot ring truer this year. Both cases described above about 2020 are true. It’s the way that you perceive reality that can make 2020 “the best” or “the worst”.

If we take this a step further, consider, how important is your own perception about your surroundings, and most importantly about your students?

“An AMAZING Book for Teachers”

Setting high expectations signals to your students that you perceive them as able, intelligent and smart. Giving hard tests and challenging assignments signals the same. The opposite, easy tests, low expectations or half-backed lectures instead of a well-planned lesson signals to your learners that you perceive them as less able. And this perception, both by the educator as well as the learners is important. Anyone who has taught an “Honors” vs a “Standard” class in the same year can attest to that. The labeling of the classes as such is a self-fulfilling prophecy because the students perceive themselves more or less able because of it.

So how do we set high expectations? If you are a seasoned teacher, you already know that that this is a delicate issue. Setting the bar too high can lead to disappointment and disengagement. You need to make sure that you know your learners and set the bar a little bit higher day by day. Just enough, so when a student “fails” to clear the bar, he/she feels not disgruntled but instead convinced that they know exactly what they need to do to clear it in the future. And remember to cheer them for doing so. And keep on going.

Will your kids like you for this? Yes, and no. They will dislike every step of it. They are going to dislike the work you put them through, they are going to dislike the feedback demanding more of them, but in the end, when they realize how much they have learned and accomplished, then they will like you. And maybe, along the way, they will also realize the value of perception themselves.

Have a great 2021 every one. Let’s make it a good one!

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Good Teachers Are Also Good Students

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Accompanying video:

I have always loved mathematics, but I’ve not always been ‘good’ at maths. I got a grade A for GCSE Mathematics when I was 16 years old (a grade I worked really, really hard for) but I struggled with mathematics at ‘AS’ and ‘A’ – Level (the UK’s pre-university qualifications). 

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“An AMAZING Book!”

It just so happened that mathematics wasn’t a subject I needed as a prerequisite for my university course anyway. So, in a sense, I committed the cardinal sin of thinking that it ‘didn’t matter’. I was planning to study molecular biology at university, and my admissions tutors were mainly interested in my biology and chemistry grades.

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I achieved my goal of going to uni and doing my PGCE in order to become a fully qualified Science teacher in 2006. I was happy for several years, but my failure to complete my mathematics education at school kept gnawing at me like an annoying itch. I needed to do something about it. 

I decided to complete the Certificate in Mathematics course with the Open University in 2009, after three years of being a full-time science teacher. This course covered everything in my ‘A’-Level syllabus with some extra, university-level topics thrown in. It was challenging and offered me just what I needed: closure. As a distance-learning course, it also offered me the chance to study and work as a teacher at the same time. 

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As I started studying the course and handing in assignments (which had to be snail mailed to the UK  – I was living in Thailand at the time), I began to realise how much I had become disconnected from the student experience as a teacher. It had been around three years since I had ever studied anything seriously, and this mathematics course was teaching me how difficult it was to:

  • Meet deadlines
  • Seek help when in doubt
  • Have the self-discipline needed to study at a regular time-slot each day

These skills were, of course, things I had to do whilst completing my degree course and schooling earlier in life, but it had been a few years since I had been immersed in serious study like this. I was slowly losing empathy for my students: that was until this course gave me a wake-up call. 

Another big thing I took from this experience was just how stressful it can be to prepare for a difficult exam (and to complete it). I had to fly to the UK to take the end of course mathematics exam (a three hour beast), and along with the intense revision that came in the few days running up to the exam I had the misfortune of not sleeping so well the night before the big day. And then, once sat down and actually completing the paper, three hours felt like it went by in an instant.

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I guess I’m trying to make a number of points in this trip down Memory Lane – namely that by immersing ourselves in the ‘student experience’ we can, as teachers:

  • Regain, or enhance, our true understanding of just how many hurdles await our students on their race to the exam finish-line.
  • Learn new skills and concepts that can be applied to our roles as classroom managers, leaders and ‘purveyors’ of specialist knowledge.
  • Build self-discipline, and pass on the lessons learned to our students in our roles as mentors, homeroom teachers, form tutors and coaches.

One final point to stress is that, whilst we can study almost any subject we want via online platforms like EdX and Coursera these days, it’s also important that we take the time to thoroughly reflect on a regular basis. Keeping a journal of things we’ve done well, and things we messed up, can be a great way to have a written record to read over when we want to celebrate successes and remind ourselves of lessons we have learned on our journeys as educators. This video I made a few years ago goes into this in more detail:

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