7 Best EYLF Practices for Parents and Teachers to Know

Effective teaching practices which are suitable for the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) include creating a play-based learning environment, observing and responding to each child’s individual needs and interests, building positive relationships with families, and using intentional teaching strategies. Play-based learning allows children to explore, discover and learn through hands-on experiences. Observing children and responding accordingly allows educators to tailor their teaching to the needs of each individual child. Building positive relationships with families fosters a sense of collaborative partnership in the child’s learning journey. Intentional teaching strategies involve planning and implementing purposeful learning experiences that promote children’s knowledge, skills, and interests. These teaching practices support the holistic development of each child, including their emotional wellbeing, social skills, language development, and cognitive growth.

Today, I’ve invited Jessica Robinson, educational writer at The Speaking Polymath, to share her insights and tips for implemeting best practice when delievering the EYLF.

The environments we expose our children to during childhood play a part in their brain development, learning experiences, and overall life. When children are exposed to positive learning environments, they attain a widened mindset about life.

Parents and teachers play a vital role in a child’s learning experiences. Moreover, it’s the parents that cultivate a firm foundation for their children’s learning. Science also asserts that brain development in children is almost complete by the age of five.

This means that when children are provided with a positive environment, they are more likely to thrive and develop reliable life skills. These range from curiosity, independent thinking, creativity, problem-solving, and many more.

A good learning environment during childhood also enlarges a child’s mindset. It helps him or her remain open to learning and develop competencies for every study area. Many children have trouble learning, it is sometimes because they received no reliable support while growing up

However, a supportive learning environment helps a child develop an interest in certain subjects that are seen as complicated by other kids. For example, many students hate science. Not because they are dull, but because they weren’t provided a positive environment to learn. On the other hand, some children are able to perform exceptionally in class because they receive the support they need, both at home and school. 

If you’re a parent, you might be thinking of how to provide a supportive environment for your child’s learning and cognitive development. Or perhaps you’re a kindergarten teacher who wants to provide meaningful learning experiences for young kids.

The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) details a range of pedagogical practices that educators and parents can leverage to promote early learning. The framework emphasizes three aspects vital to children’s upbringing and learning. These include belonging, being, and becoming. It is designed to inspire conversations, and improve communication. 

The EYLF learning outcomes also help children develop a strong sense of identity, understand the world they live in, and develop the desire to learn continuously. However, for children to dimensionally benefit from the framework, their parents and educators must identify children’s strengths, weaknesses, and interests.

This helps them choose appropriate teaching strategies and design the learning environment accordingly. In this blog, we look at some of the best EYLF practices that can support children’s learning and development. Let’s get started.

The 7 Best EYLF Practices for Parents and Teachers 

#1: Holistic Approaches

Gone are the days when children’s learning mediums only emphasized intellectual development. The modern world is changing at a great speed and learning these days, exceeds that. Precisely, children need more than intellectual stimulation and good scores to thrive in life.

They require a set of skills that range from critical thinking, independent thinking, emotional intelligence, and problem-solving skills among others to succeed in life. Implementing holistic learning approaches helps children to dimensionally be prepared for life; i.e in school, workplace, and homes.

Holistic learning practices can be incorporated into a child’s daily life to foster emotional, social, physical, and intellectual development. In this case, parents and teachers can consider;

Stories and songs

These are very effective in promoting cognitive development in children. They stimulate a child’s awareness and also improve emotional and self-regulation capabilities.

Games & Play

Provide a child with indoor materials to play with and you can also take a child out to playgrounds. These mediums help in the development of sensory organs, limbs, hand-eye coordination, and gross and fine motor skills. They also help a child develop physically.

Additionally, consider taking your child for walks, and shopping, or let him or her play with others. Exposing the child to the natural environment helps them grow mentally. You can also consider other activities like gardening where they directly come into contact with the earth.

Painting

This is one of the best early childhood activities that promote cognitive development. Painting, coloring, colored objects, and music allow children to develop and use their senses. They also help children express their emotions and convey ideas. Above all, they increase their imagination. 

#2: Responsiveness

During childhood, children are very sensitive and if not attentive, parents and teachers are more likely to misinterpret children’s feelings. During this phase, children ask many questions and when provided with a positive learning environment, their love to learn and evolve is fostered.

However, when parents and teachers fail to understand children’s questions, their emotions, and act accordingly, children are discouraged from many things.

With that, take note of their emotions, thoughts, words, and actions and ensure to remain responsive. Responsiveness is key to promoting learning and also helps teachers evolve with the changing learning environments. For example, when it comes to teaching diverse classrooms.

“An AMAZING book!”

Consider leveraging inquiry-based learning, open-ended questions, and problem-based learning. Questions like “I wonder why babies cry” help children to think about the question, analyze it, and offer answers depending on what they think. 

Also, consider extending parent or teacher talk time. The more you’re available to a child, the more it cultivates trust. These learning mediums also help children to think out of the box and put themselves in that position. This helps improve EYLF outcomes as children are able to relate to the questions. 

#3: Playing

Playing during the early years is associated with a range of benefits. Streaming from physical development, motor skill, cognitive, and social skill development, playing caters to emotional well-being. Therefore, as a parent, guardian, or teacher, ensure to provide safe playgrounds for children.

Playing caters to learning in many ways, especially outdoor playing. Outdoor activities like running, building, catching the ball, and hide and seek are immersive learning experiences. They not only help children to put their creativity to use, test out ideas, and build new understandings, but they also help children to break free.

Playing conforms to the aspect of being as it helps them enjoy their childhood and build relationships. It also exposes the children to nature which helps them learn more about their surroundings. Besides that, children are able to realize the diversity of the world we live in. For example, the different cultures, plant species, and races among others.

Other mediums to promote playing among children include providing them with play materials for example crayons, fabrics, blocks, and any other materials that can help them use their creativity. All round, playing contributes to sensory, cognitive, linguistic, social, and emotional learning. 

#4: Promote Positive Learning Environments

Environments make a lot of difference during learning. Precisely, they can either break or make a child. During the early years, children are entirely new to everything, and the environments they are exposed to play a big role in their cognitive and personality development. 

As a parent, consider providing a safe learning environment for your child. You can consider indoor play materials or online STEM apps. Play materials and learning apps help children to develop curiosity and to use their free time productively.

Stem resources have proven to help children develop an interest in science subjects. They also help them think critically, analytically, and creatively. Parents can also consider leveraging teaching mediums for example storytelling, singing, and playing. 

On the other hand, teachers can leverage a range of teaching mediums, for example, outdoor activities, group discussions, and classroom lessons. These learning experiences foster a positive learning environment that promotes holistic development in children. 

Generally, children are able to play, test ideas, share thoughts, and explore. These help them to develop emotionally, physically, socially, and personally. All in all, positive learning environments comprise social interactions and safe spaces that also cater to cultural diversities.

#5: Intentional Teaching

Intentional teaching mediums are deliberately designed to help children learn specific things. It can be a subject, an activity, or a test. For example, if you want a child to learn the habit of sharing, you will have to directly tell the child to share with others.

Intentional teaching may also involve intervening with a child when doing something to correct them. For example, asking a child to explain what he is doing. A child will have to stop and think about his or her actions in order to provide an answer.

Other intentional teaching mediums include striking meaningful conversations with children. For example, talk about your father. Other ways include creating opportunities for a child to take initiative. Other considerations are active learning strategies like peer teaching.

All these avenues allow a child to think independently, evaluate scenarios, and develop new perspectives. Additionally, intentional teaching helps children reflect on their actions, behaviors, and emotions. However, a parent or a teacher must be strategic. 

First and foremost, recognize a child’s unique strengths and weaknesses and then tailor learning experiences accordingly. You can consider purposefully choosing activities that foster EYLF learning outcomes.  For example, painting to improve imagination, and playing to boost interpersonal skills and communication. 

Besides that, help them develop their interests and hobbies. For example, once you notice that your child likes music, start playing songs and watch his or her reaction.

Also, you can motivate, recognize, and praise. Praising children encourages them to keep learning and trying out new things. 

#6: Enabling Transition

Any positive learning environment caters to smooth transitions. Learning evolves and children must develop such a mindset while still young. Besides that, children go through significant transitions in the early stages. These can be within the home, community, or on a bigger scale.

Parents and teachers must foster mediums that enable children to transition seamlessly. For example, explain to the child why he or she needs to shift to another bedroom. Or, you can explain to a child why he or she needs to stop eating a lot of candies. 

Change shouldn’t be drastic and children should be given time to adjust. Therefore, parents and teachers can consider mediums that gradually introduce children to change. These can be providing learning spaces that cater to change and continuity. Also, parents and teachers must leverage teaching mediums that help children attain the necessary flexibility. 

#7: Assessing & Monitoring Learning Progress 

It is important for parents and teachers to monitor, document, and evaluate children’s learning outcomes. Evaluating children’s learning outcomes helps parents and teachers identify learning gaps and develop personalized teaching mediums. 

For example, when a mother realizes that her child’s cognitive development is lagging, she can decide to see a doctor. However, this is possible when a child is monitored as per the baby’s development stages. 

She will also leverage teaching models that help a child improve speech, numeracy, social and literacy skills. Therefore, as a parent or teacher, ensure to track children’s learning outcomes to identify delays or upgrade teaching mediums.

Bottom Line

The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) is a curriculum designed to support the development of children from birth to five years of age, or before starting primary school. The framework can be adopted by mothers and educators as a way of providing a firm foundation for children’s learning and development.

The framework details outcomes that children are expected to attain when leveraged effectively. With that, parents and teachers must consider activities and lesson plans that foster learning outcomes such as social skills, and intellectual capabilities among others. 

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Proactive vs. Reactive Classroom Management: 3 Simple but Powerful Tips Guaranteed to Improve Your ESL Classroom Management 

Good teaching is built upon the foundations of effective classroom management. Most teachers recognise this, and I believe that’s why my 2015 book, The Quick Guide to Classroom Management, became an award-winning bestseller within a very short timeframe. We know that order must be maintained in the classroom for deep learning to take place, but how do we maintain that order in a way that is not confrontational, or stifling, for our students?

Thankfully, we have the wise words and fresh perspective of a great expert to guide us today. I’ve invited Mitch Metzger from Destination TEFL, Bangkok, to share his top tips for using proactive and reactive classroom management strategies with our students.

This blog post has been beautifully illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati

Let’s face it, classroom management is the hardest part about teaching abroad.

Managing a classroom in ANY country is an immense challenge. It requires emotional intelligence and a deep understanding of human behavior. It involves aspects of psychology, educational pedagogy, and even philosophy.

Managing a classroom abroad means doing all of this on TOP of the fact that your students don’t speak your language!

ESL classroom management is a unique and, honestly, daunting challenge. Even with all of the right books and the best TEFL training, it can still take years to truly master managing student behavior. 

But there are simple mindset and habit changes you can make that will immediately improve your ability to manage a classroom abroad. Mastery may take years, but applying what you learn in this post can have you managing like a pro in a matter of weeks. 

ESL classroom management is a challenge, but it’s also an incredible opportunity. An opportunity to improve your EQ. An opportunity to become an expert at body language and non-verbal communication. An opportunity to learn transferable professional, personal, and leadership skills that will change your life even once you move on from the classroom.

Studies have also shown that these skills in teachers have a direct and significant impact on student achievement. At the end of the day, it’s all about our students. 

Working to change their lives is what truly changes our lives.  

So grab a notepad and pen (or, let’s be real, your phone), and let’s dive into some strategies that will put you on the path to classroom management mastery!

What is Classroom Management, actually?

Before we get into the secret sauce, it’s essential to first understand what we’re actually talking about when we say “classroom management”.

Because it’s not what most people think it is.

For many people, those words elicit memories of teachers yelling, sending kids out of the room, and otherwise strictly enforcing a set of rules “because I said so”. 

Think about it, how did most of your teachers enforce classroom rules when you were growing up? Yeah, ours too…

Unfortunately, monkey see monkey do and we’re just really smart monkeys. Many of us, myself included early on in my career, fall back on the same disciplinary tactics of our teachers. 

But that’s not what classroom management is supposed to be. At least, not great classroom management!

Great classroom management is about getting the most out of your students. Creating a safe space where they can make mistakes and try again. Developing deep bonds and trust with your students. Helping them to create a better vision for their own futures.

Most of all, it means being a true role model. We can’t expect students to do as we say and not as we do. After all, did we when we were young?

So how can we change the paradigm of classroom management? Good question, probably a bit too big to be solved in a single blog post (I smell a series). However, there is one simple shift that can make an immense difference.

Simple, but not necessarily easy.

Proactive vs. Reactive Classroom Management

Understanding (and actually creating habits around) proactive versus reactive classroom management strategies seems like a small change. However, it will forever change the way you manage your classroom, especially while teaching English abroad.

The difference is in the fundamental approach you take to potential issues in your classroom.

Reactive strategies involve solving problems that have already occurred. Disciplining “bad” behavior, what most people think of when they hear classroom management, falls into this category.

Proactive strategies are about anticipating potential problems and putting systems in place to prevent them from happening in the first place.

I like to say reactive strategies are putting out the fire. Proactive strategies are not putting a candle near the drapes.

After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

This is all nice in theory, but what do these different approaches look like in practice? What are some concrete strategies you can actually use in the classroom?

Reactive Classroom Management

Let’s start with reactive management behaviors. Now this isn’t necessarily “what not to do” (though some of these definitely fall into this category). Problems will inevitably arise in the classroom, and sometimes you’ll need to ‘react’.

However, these should be more of a last resort. Only leaning on these strategies, or using the wrong reactive strategies, is where problems can arise.

So, let’s look at various reactive strategies and see which might be effective and which should be left behind.

Reactive strategies to avoid

Some habits you’ll want to be careful to NOT get into include:

  • Yelling at students
  • Using shame as a discipline strategy (easier to fall into than it sounds)
  • Removing students from the classroom
  • Getting emotional or visibly frustrated
  • Not checking your biases

Expecting compliance

One thing we always train our teachers to take special note of is this: You can’t expect immediate compliance.

The truth is, respect and trust have to be earned. It doesn’t matter if the people you’re leading are 50 years old or five, you have to do the work to earn their buy-in. 

Too many teachers expect their students to immediately listen to everything they say and get distraught or upset when that doesn’t happen.

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But students are people too, and we don’t particularly like taking orders from people we barely know and trust. Right?

Effective reactive strategies

Like we said, problems in the classroom are inevitable. Occasionally you’re going to have to put out some fires (hopefully not literally), so it helps to have a good extinguisher. 

Some effective strategies include:

  • Practicing patience and empathy, even in stressful situations
  • Having a word or action that refocuses attention on you (e.g., clapping patterns, short phrases, etc.) 
  • Keeping other students busy with a task while addressing issues
  • Having a calming space in the classroom students can go to when feeling overwhelmed.
    • This is NOT a timeout. It should be a comfortable space (seating, plants, maybe even a little fountain) students want to go to, you just have to train them on when they can be there.
  • Listening to both sides of every story
  • Explaining why rules are being enforced 
  • Teaching calming breathing techniques

Adding these strategies to your teacher tool belt will help you solve problems whenever they occur.

Proactive Classroom Management

Now time for the real secret sauce! Proactive classroom management strategies will completely change your classroom when done right.

So let’s learn how to do them right!

Here are 3 simple strategies to prevent problems from arising in the first place.

#1 – Be completely prepared for EVERY class

Let’s be real, it can be tough to prepare 20+ engaging classes per week. As a teacher, it’s easy to slide into a bad habit of not fully preparing for every class.

Whether this is just teaching straight out of the book, or over-relying on worksheets from the internet, underprepared classes are the top culprit for why students misbehave in the first place. We know that young learners (and hell, even people our age) have short attention spans. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that if students aren’t engaged consistently throughout the lesson they’ll lose focus, and this inevitably leads to classroom behavior issues.

So put in the groundwork and prep your lessons.

Work to make them physically and intellectually engaging. Challenge your students. Find ways to make the material relevant to their lives. And most importantly, have all of your lessons fully resourced and ready to go.

Another pro tip here is to work on your transitions. Any ‘gap’ in the lesson is an opportunity for students to potentially misbehave, so filling those gaps ensures students don’t veer off track.

This tip isn’t really fun, because it requires a bit more work on your part. But a bit more work in the preparation will pay off immensely in the form of better lessons, stronger relationships with your students, and better mental health. After all, nothing is more taxing than an ‘out of control’ classroom.

#2 – Get to know your students

This seems like a given, but you’d be shocked (and appalled) at the number of ESL teachers who don’t even bother to learn all of their students’ names.

In their defense (kind of), I’ve had jobs where I have taught hundreds of students. It can be tough to learn that many names, let alone get to know them all.

Yet too many teachers lean on that excuse as a reason not to really get to know their students at all. They spend all of their time in the ‘teachers’ lounge’, or only interact with their students for the 55 minutes of English class each day.

The truth is, though, there is NO better classroom management strategy than strong bonds with your students. If they trust you, if they respect you, if they like you, they will listen to you.

So what can you actually do to bond with your students?

  • Get a class roster, make name cards, or employ other strategies to learn their names
  • ASK them about their interests, and talk about yours
  • Eat lunch with them or play with them at recess from time to time
  • Come to school a bit early, or do your grading at school and leave a bit late
    • This doesn’t have to be too much, maybe 15 minutes. But you can get a lot of informal facetime with your students in those quiet little moments before or after school.
  • Learn a bit of their language (and practice where they can see you!)

If you follow these simple tips you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can get to know your students!

#3 – Let the students make the rules

I know, it sounds crazy. But hear us out…

Letting your students make the rules can be a powerful technique when it comes to actually enforcing the rules. Think about it: aren’t you more likely to follow rules you come up with yourself? 

People naturally don’t like being told what to do, so if you give the students the power to decide what rules are fair then they’re much more likely to follow through.

It also makes it way easier for you to enforce the rules. Instead of saying “do this because I said so” you get to fall back on “Hey, these aren’t even my rules. YOU came up with these!”. Trust me, the latter is far superior.

Now, you’ll have to steer the conversation a bit to make sure some essential rules are hit. But this can be as easy as one or two leading questions. “Is it a good idea to talk if the teacher is talking?”

In the ESL classroom, you may also need the help of a co-teacher that speaks the students’ native language. It doesn’t take a really high level of English to make some of these rules, but if your students are at a lower level it’ll be good to have someone there to help formulate their thoughts if they don’t have the vocab for it. 

The final proactive management tip

To wrap things up, I want to leave you with one more proactive tip.

Take care of YOURSELF! 

Yes, proper self-care and work life balance is absolutely essential for classroom management. If you’re overwhelmed or burnt out, it will inevitably impact your students. Energy is contagious, and as the leader you are the conduit for the classes’ energy. This makes it important to learn to control your own energy.

So meditate, journal, go for walks, do yoga, eat healthy, travel on the weekends, pursue hobbies that interest you. Set up good, sustainable systems for work life balance. Grow in areas you feel are important for your life. The best teachers by FAR are happy teachers (not an opinion, studies show this to be true), so be sure to do things that make you happy.

If you do that, then teaching itself will become one of those things!

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Tina’s Top Tips for Effective Classroom Management

Accompanying podcast episode:

The best definition I have found for what Classroom Management’ actually means comes from Carol Weinstein and Nancy Schafer at Oxford Bibliographies:

Classroom management can be defined as the actions teachers take to establish and sustain an environment that fosters students’ academic achievement as well as their social, emotional, and moral growth. In other words, the goal of classroom management is not order for order’s sake, but order for the sake of learning.

When order breaks down in the classroom, student learning is affected and teachers’ stress levels, burnout and anxiety rise – which sometimes leads to teachers making the decision to leave the profession (McCarthy et. al., 2022). It is therefore in every teacher’s best interest to master the fundamental techniques of effective classroom management.

Today, I have invited Tina Hennessy, Head Trainer at Destination TEFL‘s Siem Reap centre in Cambodia, to share her top tips for teachers who want to improve their classroom management skills.

I’m not sure if what they say about classroom presence is true or not – either you’ve got it or you don’t! If you do, it’s likely that you won’t have too many problems with classroom management, because more than half the battle is won just by your presence in the classroom. Students look up to you, and you have complete control over the class because you demand high standards from them.

If you need help, here are five tips that may assist with classroom management. As with most ailments: prevention is better than cure. Once you’ve lost their attention, it’s harder to rein them back in. 

Here’s how you could prevent problems from cropping up: 

  1. Be prepared: Being prepared for your lesson shows in your body language and this reflects in your delivery of lessons, conversely being under-prepared shows too! A good plan, a complete set of resources (from working whiteboard markers and flashcards, to crib notes) – anything you need should be organised and ready for use, without you having to worry about them. As you segue from one stage to the next, your students shouldn’t have time for distractions. If, however, your transitions lead to dead time (time with your back to the class), you’re likely to have bored students who will find something else to do.
  2. Use students’ names: calling out their names ensures they’ll do what they need to do, to not be “called out” for negative reasons. Rather than pointing and saying, “You at the back, please be seated”. (‘YOU’ will probably turn his/her head and pretend to look at another student and pretend they’re not at fault.) Using their names will leave no room for doubt. Learning their names also shows that you care, and knowing that their teacher cares, will give them more reason to stay engaged.
  3. Limit distractions: This could mean anything from distractions on a student’s desk, to visuals in a classroom, to views outside the classroom, to sounds. Try to limit whatever is within your control. Establish classroom routines where students start the class with cleared desks – or have only what is required on their desks – no extra books, stationary, or even water bottles. If your students have phones, request them to turn OFF vibrate mode, or put their phones inside their bags, rather than in their pockets.
  4. Use non-verbal hand signals: Avoid students calling out aloud to request permission to use the toilet, for example, by having a hand signal for the same. Design similar signals for other circumstances too. When the student gets your attention by doing the signal, a simple nod of your head will grant permission. Rather than him asking you a question and having you answer it – thereby distracting the entire class and possibly diverting your train of thought. 
  5. Call and response: We know all too well that even at the best of times, you’re going to have situations when you’ve lost their attention, the class is loud and they’re bouncing off the walls and you do actually need to try and rein them in! Here are my favourites: 
    • T (teacher): “Yo! Yo! Yo!” Ss (students): “Yo! What’s up!” (Great for middle-schoolers.)
    • T: “1-2-3” Ss: “Eyes on me” T: “1,2” Ss: “Eyes on you

Start the chant and continue till the whole class is responding. The first few times you do this, maybe some students won’t join in. Carry on – even if it means you’ve said it 8-10 times, and the rest of the students will egg on the “stragglers”. 

And, finally, when all else fails, and your voice won’t work – stand still and silent with your right hand raised over your head. As you make eye contact with the students they must raise their right hand, stop doing whatever they’re doing and stop speaking. They make eye contact with the others who must in turn do the same. Think of this as the opposite of a flash mob. Once the entire gathering is quiet, you have their undivided attention.

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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. 

10 Ways in Which The Pandemic is Modernising Education

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

Students and teachers the world over faced unprecedented challenges as the pandemic raged through its first and second waves. Staff and children were sent home (and back to school) on multiple occasions in many cases, and teaching methodologies had to undergo a massive revamp out of the sheer necessity to adapt to the immediate situation schools were (and, in some cases, still are) faced with. This ‘jolt’ of circumstance has changed education forever.

In today’s blog post I will explore the main ways in which I believe teaching and learning have changed, and what the implications are for students and teachers today. Readers should bear in-mind that this is an opinion piece, albeit based on my experience in the field as a high-school science teacher (at an international school) and my own research.

#1: Students have realized that traditional university education offers little return-on-investment

Coronavirus had a double-whammy effect on universities and colleges:

  • Students were sent home and had to learn online, raising questions about the effectiveness of instruction delivered at traditional lecture halls crammed with hundreds of students.
  • Overseas students stopped applying for courses in the UK and the United States in large numbers, and sought local alternatives.

These issues have been further compounded by the fact that a university degree no longer prepares a person for a lifelong career.

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU), for example, surveyed about 400 employers and 613 college students about how prepared those students were to enter the professional world in 2015. Some key findings were:

  • 65 percent of the students surveyed felt their writing skills were strong enough for the professional world, but only 27 percent of employers felt the same way.
  • 55 percent of students felt they were well prepared to work with people in which they had little in-common, but only 18 percent of employers agreed.

You can download the AACU’s research paper as a pdf for free here.

The merits of a university-level education have been questioned for decades, and now that the pandemic has forced so-many to ‘learn from home’ we are experiencing a new realization that education needs to be modern and delivered in real-time. As a result, online courses are booming, and students are now quickly realizing that there are affordable, higher-quality alternatives to a traditional university degree.

#2: Practical skills training has gained in popularity

There are many skills that students can’t fully acquire via remote-learning:

  • Dangerous/specialized science experiments (e.g. dissections and chemical reactions)
  • Woodwork, metalwork, carpentry, plumbing and other vocational skills
  • Mechanical and electronic engineering and robotics
  • Specialized cookery

As a result, many schools focused heavily on practical-skills training when students returned to school after the first-wave subsided (in large part due to fear of losing this opportunity in the event of a second-wave, which many schools did actually experience later on). In my opinion, this has caused a renewed interest in the practical skills enrichment activities that are often non-compulsory, yet very useful, components of school courses. I believe that we will see schools incorporating more hands-on tasks and activities in the years to come as a product of this realization.

#3: High-quality online courses are booming

Remote-learning is all-the-rage right now, and the numbers are staggering:

  • According to a recent survey by China Youth Daily, more than 87 percent of Chinese parents have signed their children up for online tutoring sessions to enrich their education
  • Financing for education technology start-ups has more than doubled, rising to $12.58 billion worldwide in 2020 – up from $4.81 billion in 2019, according to a report from CB Insights

Students are becoming increasingly aware that short-certificate courses from high-quality providers like EdX and Udemy are not-only affordable, but will provide the very latest industry-leading, accredited information. This poses a big challenge for traditional schools that are somewhat stuck-in-the-past following syllabuses and curricula that are at least several years old. In my opinion, schools will need to adopt fluid schemes of work and modernize fast, so that students can learn relevant, current, topical information in a traditional classroom setting.

#4: EdTech used for remote-teaching is now being used in traditional classrooms

Video-conferencing skyrocketed during the pandemic:

  • Zoom’s sales in the last three months of 2020 were up 370% compared to the same period in 2019, hitting $882.5 million.
  • During the peak of the first wave of the pandemic, Google Meets was adding around 3 million users per day.

Schools are now using video-conferencing within the school buildings themselves for assemblies, staff-meetings, whole-school quizzes and even screen-share tasks (a newly realized application for many teachers).

Video-conferencing’s adoption will make teachers more accountable, in my opinion, as illness may not be accepted as a reason to miss meetings which can be accessed remotely from home (even if only audio is activated). Schools will also adopt new ways to allow students to showcase work in real-time, as the screen-share features offered by video-conferencing systems facilitate this process quickly and easily (especially as student-work becomes more and more digitized).

#5: Schools are appreciating the need for kids to catch-up

Gaps in knowledge and misconceptions acquired during the remote-learning phase are surfacing quickly as students return to classrooms. This is generating a renewed interest in traditional pedagogical techniques such as accelerated learning and differentiation. Another positive is that many teachers are realizing further the importance of pace, and how students often have to have information presented in a number of ways, multiple times, before it is truly embedded. These discoveries will challenge schools to adopt the very-best instructional techniques and offer catch-up camps and classes for students who fall behind, long after the pandemic is over. This may provide school teachers with extra sources of income, as well as offering students the enrichment they need to succeed.

The problems presented by students needing to catch-up are not easy to solve, however. The British government’s recent programme to help pupils who missed school to catch up may not be reaching the most disadvantaged children, according to a recent report by the National Audit Office. The issues here seem to relate to tutoring not being provided in the first place to disadvantaged children, as opposed to any flaws in the methodologies being used [BBC News]. Schools will therefore need to ensure that attendance for catch-up courses is being monitored, along with the methodologies being executed.

#6: Terminal examinations have lost some of their credibility

Many exam-boards have cancelled examinations for the 2020/2021 academic year, as was the case last year. Grades have been assigned on the basis of teacher-predictions and coursework, and I believe that this has caused many students to question the validity of terminal examinations as an effective assessment tool. This shift in thought has also rippled into the online-learning market, which is gaining in popularity due to the very fact that terminal examinations are often absent from key course assessment components. Qualifications and certificates that are awarded on the basis of a student’s portfolio of achievements (such as course assignments) are gaining respect and kudos, and I foresee this trend continuing well-into the future.

#7: Students and teachers have become more tech-savvy

Classwork, homework, coursework and exams are being assigned, completed and assessed by evermore creative means. Students have had to learn to how to use specific learning apps out of necessity, and teachers have benefitted from automated assessment systems such as Google Forms, Educake, MyMaths, Lexia Learning and others. If the pandemic has had only one positive effect on education, then it is this: computer literacy has improved across the board.

This emergence of teaching and learning software and disruptive EdTech systems is not all sunshine and rainbows, however. It threatens to destroy the very fabric of conventional teaching. It is not inconceivable, for example, to foresee human teachers being fully replaced with software, droids and surveillance systems within a decade from now (easily). The main takeaway for teachers, in my opinion, is this: skill-up in EdTech, coding and computer science fast – we may be out of a job if we don’t.

This gradual erosion of a teacher’s role from ‘sage on a stage’ to ‘guide on the side’, and perhaps even one day to ‘chieftaincy to see with infrequency’, is something I’ve written about before. I’ve also made a video about this very subject matter which I’ve embedded below.

#8: More support is being made available for staff and student mental-health and wellbeing

The pandemic has had a devastating effect on staff and student mental health. Reuters, for example, surveyed school districts across America in February 2021 to assess the mental health impacts of school shutdowns. These districts serve more than 2.2 million students. Of the 74 districts that responded, 74% reported multiple indicators of increased mental health stresses among students. More than 50% reported rises in mental health referrals and counseling. [Yahoo News].

One positive of this is that school leaders are recognizing that staff and student well-being matters, and that can only be a good thing. Schools would do well to recruit counselors to assist with student referrals. and staff workload should be monitored closely. Happy teachers make happy students, and downtime gives teachers time to plan better lessons.

#9: The dangers of excessive screen-time and gaming addiction have been highlighted

I’ve written about the dangers of screen-time before, and we must not forget that an EdTech revolution brings with it some nasty realities, highlighted by one expansive report:

  • On-screen behavior is often compulsive, with young people typically spending no longer than one-minute looking at any particular page of content before swiping to something else
  • Social media takes up hours and hours of teenagers’ free time
  • Children from ‘low-income’ households seem more prone to compulsive use of social media than others
  • Many children in the study admitted to falling asleep at night whilst on their phones
  • Many children admitted that they felt that their compulsions were “mindless” and “pointless”, but felt compelled to use their smartphones on a near-constant basis anyway because there’s a feeling of incompleteness or ‘losing out’ when the phone is not being checked.
  • Some children in the study felt the need to check their phones whilst actually being interviewed by the research panel

The supervision of students whilst using EdTech is going to become a bigger and bigger issue as we move forward as educators. How many times, for example, have you walked around the classroom during some student-centered online activity to find students abruptly switching/closing some gaming/chat screens? I know I have, on much more than one occasion.

The solution may be a technological one – allow students to connect only through LAN or school WIFI and filter/monitor usage. Another solution may be surveillance systems inside classrooms, or perhaps even mandating that screens be always visible to the teacher (e.g. by having students sit in rows with their screens facing the teacher’s desk). There are obvious pros and cons to each of these proposals, and the decisions made will depend strongly on school culture and individual course/student aims.

#10: The pandemic pointed anew to blatant inequalities of income

Students in low-income areas have had to contend with less access to school counselors, technology and the training needed to access said technology. Some school districts in various countries around the world have responded by shipping laptops to schools and individual students.

As teaching continues to digitize, the needs of low-income students will continue to grow. Schools will need to address these issues, and that may put financial strain on districts and education authorities. Eventually, we may even see technology investment being pitted against the salaries of human teachers, and this will make our need to compete more immediate. As teachers, we are no longer fighting for jobs with each other – we’re contending with educational technology that threatens to completely replace us.

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10 Destructive Habits Every Teacher Should Avoid

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

In the quest to better ourselves on a daily basis we often consume self-help advice from places like YouTube, blogs and books. Most of this advice focusses on proactive things we should do to achieve success. With titles to choose from such as 4 Straight Forward Steps to Success and If You Commit to Yourself, Here’s What Will Happen, there’s certainly is no shortage of motivational and personal growth guidance out there.

Most of this self-help material, however, focusses on new things we should implement on a regular basis. Strategies that provide us with new things to do to improve productivity, health or wealth.

Many people use to-do lists to clarify priorities for the day, week or longer. How many of us, however, have thought to use not-to-do lists?

Few resources focus on what NOT to do, and this is a pity as such advice can often be the clearest and simplest to understand.

One video that really inspired me two weeks ago was 10 Habits You Should Stop Having with Ben Bergerson (embedded below):

This video resonated with me because of its simplicity, and my somewhat skewed opinion that it’s easier to stop myself doing destructive things than it is to implement a completely new habit. Perhaps I felt that I should stop doing destructive things first, and get used to that, before implementing some new strategies in my life.

So, let’s get right into how the past 14 days of trialing these 10 habit-stoppers went.

Habit Stopping Tip #1: Don’t hit the snooze button

This is something I’ve ashamedly preached about before, but in my daily life I’ve found it really difficult to implement. My warm bed entices me to climb back into it when my alarm goes off, and this is further compounded by an extreme feeling of tiredness for at least 10 minutes after waking (something that has gotten worse, I think, as I’ve grown older).

I managed to do this on 9 out of 14 days.

On those days that I did get right out of bed as soon as the alarm sounded, I found that I was in a much better mood during my teaching day (and in a state of better physical alertness) than on those days when I snoozed. I also found out that if I have an immediate ‘get out of bed’ ritual to follow, then I am much more likely to actually get out of bed. At the moment, that ritual involves switching off my alarm and immediately walking to the nearest 7-11 convenience store to buy coffee and breakfast – this acts as a kind of reward for not hitting snooze. If I were to snooze, then I probably wouldn’t have time for this.

As a result of not hitting the snooze button on 9 out of 14 days I was able to eat breakfast before school started, read over lesson plans and even avoid traffic because I left my home earlier, which brings me on to tip number 2…………

Habit Stopping Tip #2: Don’t get mad at traffic

Leaving home earlier (because I didn’t snooze) meant that there was less traffic to get mad at, so tip number one definitely rippled into tip number 2.

I have gotten mad at traffic many times in the past – and at my taxi driver for not driving fast enough; not turning quickly enough or even for going along a route I didn’t prefer. All of this mental complaining would put me in an angry frame of mind before my school day had even started.

“An AMAZING book for teachers!”

I managed to not complain at traffic for 14 out of the 14 days, and I found that I was in a better mood at school because of it.

Habit Stopping Tip #3: Don’t be late

This is one I’ve always advocated, and it’s significance will surely be obvious to the readers of this blog. When we’re late, then what we are saying is that ‘Your time is not valuable enough for me to be on-time’.

A good analogy I was once told is that if you had to turn up at a designated location to receive 10 million pounds in cash at 6am tomorrow, then you would certainly be there on-time, perhaps even arriving very early for this appointment.

We turn up early and on-time to those things we consider important enough to be punctual for. We therefore need to assign a high-level of importance to meetings, duties and any other activities/events that require us to be punctual.

Once again, tip number 1 (Don’t hit the snooze button) allows us to be on-time, every time.

Habit Stopping Tip #4: Don’t tolerate gossip

This is a principle I have (thankfully) had the sense to follow since day one of my teaching career, and I wrote about the devastating effects that gossip can have for teachers in my debut book, The Quick Guide to Classroom Management.

When we gossip, we show people that we cannot be trusted. Secretly, our coworkers are thinking “I can’t trust him – what if he gossips about me one day”. Gossip also circulates quickly, and so-called friends can very often be duplicitous: acting as ‘double-agents’ who pass on information to those who have been gossiped about.

Just don’t gossip – it’s that simple.

Not tolerating gossip takes this principle to another level – the advice being that if you hear gossip, then you should shut it down with, perhaps, a statement like “I don’t think it’s appropriate for this conversation to be happening”. This advanced-level step, however, requires bravery, and its consequences will depend on your workplace ethos and culture. You may just wish to take the easy way out by simply standing up and walking out of the room, or walking away from the gossip, whenever you hear it.

Habit Stopping Tip #5: Don’t watch the news

I found this one SO DIFFICULT to implement, and this really surprised me! By consciously attempting to stop myself from reading the news, I discovered that I often scroll through news websites because I’m simply bored. I’m hooked – and it was hard to break to this habit.

The idea behind this is that news is a distraction, and is very often biased anyway. The majority of the news we read is bad news, and most of it describes events that are beyond our control. Why waste our time and energy feeling sad about things we can’t change?

On those days that I stopped myself reading the news, I found myself with little else to distract me besides work. This increased my productivity.

Habit Stopping Tip #6: Don’t pass judgement

I’ve fallen out of the sky many times in my life. I started from nothing, and I know what it feels like to have nothing. I’m not trying to paint myself as someone special here – many people can relate, I’m sure. However, I try my best not to look down on people where possible because:

  • I never know the full story
  • I’m far from perfect myself
  • I know what it feels like to be inadequate – both in terms of skill and finances

Passing judgement is just another one of life’s energy drainers that we could all be better without.

Habit Stopping Tip #7: Don’t eat and scroll…….

…………and don’t scroll at any social gathering, for that matter.

When I see couples or families at restaurants and coffee shops, and all they are doing is playing on devices, it makes me very sad (but also happy that I have a great relationship with someone in which this never happens). People are quickly losing the ability to interact physically, in my opinion.

The principle behind this habit-stopper is presence – we should be present in everything we do if we’re to get the most out of it. As I write this blog post, for example, I’ve mostly ‘gone dark’ – my phone is out of reach as I know that if I check it I’ll never get this blog post finished.

I’m more productive and present when I’m not on my phone, unless I’m using my phone for a specific purpose.

Habit stopping tip #8 – Don’t check e-mail before noon

Does this apply to teachers? I’m not sure.

E-mail has become an essential part of my job, but some would say it is yet another distraction. I’m still on-the-fence about this one, as important announcements often come to me by e-mail, and they often need to be acted upon quickly. Are there e-mails that I don’t need to check before noon? Probably. E-mail is evolving quickly into a messaging tool, however, and as teachers we are fast-approaching a stage where we need to be reachable at all times at work. GMail, for example, is becoming more skewed towards Google Hangouts and instant messaging. As workplace messaging technology evolves, teaching will surely evolve with it.

Habit Stopping Tip #9: Don’t leave dishes in the sink

I loved seeing how this particular habit affected my life. It was very powerful.

I am typical ‘dish-leaver’, and once I started to pro-actively wash dishes as soon as I used them I found myself also doing laundry right away; tidying up after myself right away; putting my work clothes in my wardrobe instead of over the back of a chair; putting old cosmetics’ bottles in the bin right away, and on and on it went.

My home became tidier more quickly – and less clutter at home meant an overall sense of happiness.

I highly recommend this tip.

Habit Stopping Tip #10: Don’t wait for perfect

In the video provided at the start of this blog post, Ben uses the phrase “Jump, and grow wings on the way down”. As a result of this one statement, I found myself going to the gym more often, despite being in not-so-perfect shape.

That’s got to be a good start, right?

Have you grown your wings yet, or are they still growing?

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From the Classroom to the Exam Room: A Guide for IB Teachers

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.

Exam-level students have a lot on their plates. They have to learn, revise and articulate information effectively whilst potentially dealing with exam-stress and the challenge of adapting to the different instructional styles of their teachers. This week, I’ve invited Maria Goncharova from TutorYou to describe how teachers can help IB students prepare for their exams.

The International Baccalaureate is a demanding yet effective educational path designed to prepare students for their desired academic career. The unique structure of the IB programme provides an interdisciplinary approach to learning while allowing the students to focus on subjects they are passionate about. Furthermore, its combination of numerous learning methods and assignments hones the students’ research, writing and critical thinking skills to optimize their performance both academically and professionally.

Despite the many beneficial aspects of the 2-year programme, IB students face numerous challenges due to the rigorous schedule and high requirements. This is why tutoring and academic counselling services such as TutorYou exist to facilitate the exam process and prepare students as well as possible. With over 6 years of experience in supporting IB students and helping them maximise their academic potential, we share some of our top tips on how to prepare students for the IB exams and entry into university.

  1. Efficient scheduling

Apart from demonstrating the importance of timeliness and organization to your students, maintaining a specified and realistic schedule can significantly ease the stress of covering the -often vast- syllabi for IB topics. In fact, doing so will facilitate multiple aspects of your work, as it will allow you to easily implement changes in the syllabi and ensure time is sufficient for an extensive review of the topic before the exams. Also, a comprehensive schedule lets you account for the (almost inevitable) extensions and delays and avoid last minute hiccups before the exam period. Lastly, you are giving yourself time to correct students’ past papers and perform mock exams to ensure they are as prepared as possible. Imparting this way of thinking to students can also be done with the help of a private tutor, who is most able to conform with the schedule of an individual student. TutorYou offers such support through our accomplished tutors, who have finished IB themselves and can accommodate both in-person and online tutoring sessions.

2. Periodically Reviewing Past Topics

A common mistake of IB students and teachers alike is not consistently reviewing past topics, leading to a scramble for last-minute revision and possibly re-learning an entire topic. Studies show that information is best retained in long-term memory when it is revisited multiple times in increasingly longer intervals of time. As such, it is excellent practice to periodically examine students on past topics through topic-specific quizzes or larger revision tests. Another solution given the considerable academic load students face is introducing review sessions throughout the academic year. They don’t necessarily have to be done during school hours, and can perhaps be offered optionally to students. Finally, occasional assignments based on past topics can ensure that students do not forget all the information they have previously worked hard to maintain.

All these methods are equally useful for the final exams and for the students to slowly learn to tackle the university system, which features much larger bodies of information in a shorter amount of time. If a teacher has limited time for review because of the length of the syllabus, TutorYou offers both in-person and online tutoring on any IB subject from former IB students.

3. Exam practice

As mentioned in both previous points, staying on track with the entirety of the syllabus of any given topic is the key for students to succeed in their exams and prepare for the workload they will face in the continuation of their academic career. Providing the students with past papers will allow them to simultaneously revise the topics and familiarize themselves with the mode of examination and the different papers it comprises of.

“An AMAZING Book!”

It is advisable to focus on this kind of assignment in the period leading up to the exams instead of overloading the students with work. This is because practical revision allows them to identify their weak points and focus on the topics they need most assistance with.

4. Support individual students

Not all students are the same. Some students may need some more support for exam preparation and the process of applying to universities. As is evident from the afore-mentioned points, the job of a teacher in the IB is equally challenging to that of students, since they are required to multi-task and ensure every single student is prepared for the exam. Services like Tutor You are specifically designed to support the work done at school, by giving students a little extra push and assisting them to bridge the gap between school and university life. Contact TutorYou today for more information on one-to-one tutoring and university application support!

Learn more at tutoryou.eu or email support@tutoryou.eu for additional information or enquiries.

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The Importance of Patience in Teaching

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)

Accompanying podcast episode (audio version of this blog post, read by Richard):

He was a mediocre student for many years: achieving unremarkable grades across the board at IGCSE level. He was reticent, stealthy and seemed somewhat shy. At IB Diploma level, however, things seemed to change. His personality remained somewhat the same as it always had, but his grades were increasing at a surprising rate. He seemed to be ‘getting it’: at least on paper.

In the end, he achieved the highest score in the whole school for his IB Diploma, and was well-above the world average. It was, by everyone’s judgement, a monumental achievement.

How many times has this happened to you as a teacher: a student shows improvement over time and even surprises you with how much progress they make? Sometimes our students just seem to ‘grow’ into achievement. Some grow slowly and steadily like a plant that is regularly fed and watered. Some shoot up in a surprising spurt: defying everyone’s initial predictions.

I believe strongly in the power of patience when working with students. This takes emotional control on the part of the teacher, but the reward is well-worth the wait. By being supportive, referring students to the most helpful resources and allowing each day to offer a ‘fresh start’ for every learner, I’ve found that even my greatest expectations are often exceeded.

Does patience begin and end with ‘waiting’ for our students to succeed? No, I don’t believe so. In fact, I’m convinced that effective teachers use patience as a useful tool for dealing with a number of situations:

  • Patience with ourselves as we approach deadlines and work steadily towards getting everything done (we must be forgiving to ourselves and learn to ‘leave work at work’, where possible).
  • Patience with colleagues when dealing with requests and projects. We’re all busy, and we have to acknowledge that our peers have commitments internally (many of which we may not be aware of) and at-home, or in life generally.
  • Patience with our students, especially when dealing with late homework and ‘waiting’ for progress to happen. I acknowledge that we may have to follow whole-school sanctions systems (e.g. a detention may be mandatory in the case of a late homework). However, where possible, patience should be deployed in my opinion. If a student consistently hands-in work on-time, but fails to bring a piece of homework to you one day, then should that student be sanctioned immediately? The answer to that question will depend on school policy, and your judgement.

Can you think of any other areas in which you would need to use patience as a teacher? Perhaps in waiting for the queue at the photocopier to subside (I’ve been there, many times!). Perhaps it’s in waiting for a re-imbursement for some petty cash you had to spend on school expenses. Perhaps we need more patience when waiting for e-mail replies?

According to Leslie Schwab, a college science and maths professor, patience may be the most important characteristic that all outstanding teachers posses. In her article at schoolofeducators.com, she writes:

There are several characteristics that all good teachers have in common. They are patience; concern for their students; willingness to adapt, and; knowledge of the subject being taught. If these characteristics are lacking, a teacher cannot be an effective educator. Patience may be the most important characteristic of all. It is most important for teachers of subjects in science and mathematics. Some students can comprehend this subject material with minimal effort, while others may require more extensive explanations that may have to be repeated a number of times. As a college professor, I have had more students express anxiety over having to take basic college algebra over any other subject. When questioned about the reasons for this anxiety, the overwhelming response was that their high school math teachers were terrible. Their main critique of math teachers was their inability to explain solutions to math problems in a clear and concise manner. When these students would continue to state their lack of understanding, the teachers would lose their patience, and simply tell them to go home and practice more problems. When some students requested extra help, their teachers informed them they were unavailable for tutoring after class.

Leslie Schwab. Patience may be the most important.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with Leslie’s thoughts on patience?

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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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How a TEFL Gap Year Will Benefit Your Future

You may be doing your TEFL course and teaching abroad as a ‘gap year’ before starting a career which you studied for at university. Many people will ask you ‘Why do you want to teach English abroad? Aside from a so-called year off, how will it benefit you?’. Today, I’ve invited Rose-Anne Turner, Admissions Director at Destination TEFL, to share her thoughts with us.

A year of teaching abroad can benefit you in number of ways:

You’ll gain confidence 

So many parts of this experience will help you to gain confidence – from travelling alone abroad to a new place, to experiencing new cultures, to doing something new, to learning to speak in front of people.

Your communication skills will improve

Techniques learnt on the course and practiced in the classroom thereafter, will improve your general communication skills. You will be far more aware of whether or not you have been understood, and will adjust the way you speak and listen to people in general. You will also become more confident speaking to large groups of people, as well as on a one-to-one basis.

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Your time management skills will improve

You’ll become the master of checklists! There’s nothing like leaving behind your materials and wasting all your hard work and effort to make you more organised! Carefully planning your lessons according to a time schedule will also be great practice for time management.

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You’ll become more aware of other cultures

As you’ve moved to another country and are teaching students who are not from your culture, you will become acutely aware of the differences between cultures, and the pitfalls of dealing with people from other cultures. These include misunderstandings, doing things in different ways, and knowing that what is acceptable in one culture, may not be so in another culture. In the corporate workplace one day, this will be a valuable asset to have, particularly in jobs where you’ll be dealing with international clients.

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Networking

You will make friends for life – after meeting people you would never have met back home. These could be your fellow classmates on the TEFL course, your fellow teachers while teaching, or neighbours and other locals, as well as your students. Having an international network of friends and past colleagues can also advance your career in ways you may never know – as you never know where the future may take you.

You’ll mature and grow as a person

All the challenges and hardships of living abroad will give you a tough skin and mature you in ways that staying at home in a familiar environment won’t do. Moving out of your parental home is testing enough for many young adults – but doing so in a different country really challenges!

Well there you have it. There are many more reasons to sail away from familiar shores, but these reasons are ones that you can proudly mention in interviews and cover letters. So what are you waiting for? 

If you’re thinking of getting a TEFL qualification and teaching overseas, then Destination TEFL can help you!

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