5 Productivity Tips For Every Busy Teacher

Guest post by Emily Watts

Teaching is a demanding and at times downright exhausting job. It is certainly one of the most important occupations as teachers shape young minds and open them to the exciting world of knowledge, science, and arts. However, in order to stay inspired, energetic and avoid professional burnout, teachers have to maintain a healthy balance and stay productive. So in this article, I will share some useful techniques that will help teachers to stay active and keep enjoying their much-appreciated work.

Embrace your creativity

To escape the mundane routine in your teachings try to diversify your lesson plans and implement creative and interactive elements. Of course, the specifics of these novelties would depend on the subject you are teaching. But nevertheless, try using various video materials and creative assignments. Use worksheets from the Internet, implement homework based on popular culture materials like music and viral videos. Also, survey students to find what would be interesting to them. It is nice to find out what they actually want and get some useful tips for the improvement of the learning process and your personal productivity

Managing your work time

The key to productive work is managing your spare time. With all the homework and extracurricular activities, it is hard to take a break sometimes. But eventually, keeping your work life and rest time in balance is essential to increase productivity. Do not pressure yourself too much, for instance, if you need to do any kind of written assignment, use this essay writing service. The time spent on rest will serve to reboot your systems and allow to work with a fresh and enthusiastic feeling.

Expand your professional environment   

Who else will be able to give you the best advice but another fellow teacher? The network expansion is one of the main things you can do to achieve productivity improvement. Share your experiences and find out some new information from your colleagues. In addition, it is good to search for new sources of help from the Internet. There are numerous courses and podcasts dedicated solely to the art of teaching, and you will surely find a lot of practical tips and tricks there. Teaching is not only about counting on your own experience and resources; it is also very much about sharing and getting to know new ideas and techniques from other specialists. And the Internet made this sharing into a very convenient tool that you can use from your own house.

Use online tools   

With the development of Internet technologies, the arts and crafts assignments turned into a rather easy task. Search for the websites that offer you numerous printable materials for teaching, ideas for gaming that you can easily download, print, and assemble. Spice up the learning process with bright colors and smart riddles. There are numerous websites dedicated specifically to cater to this issue, you will have no trouble finding dozens of them. And trust us, they are able to boost teacher’s productivity significantly.

Use smartphones and gaming

While these things might be perceived as the bitter enemies of the modern education system, you can definitely win them over and use for the student’s benefit. There are numerous apps that are aimed at learning some particular topic; you can also find apps for creating customized flashcards and interactive tests. The new generation of learners are very accustomed to the digital world, so it might even be more productive and usual for them. You can even start playing some particular educational games; they are really thought after and usually produced by such giants as BBC, National Geographic, and other similar companies.

 

The main message we want to send about teaching in the contemporary reality and staying sane and productive is all about experiments and flexibility. Do not be afraid of using unconventional way to reach students, changing the discourse of the formal educational process. Use digital technologies that usually distract students for your own teaching purposes. Play around with creativity and make the process of learning fun and enjoyable not only for the schoolers but also for yourself.   

 

Action! What Teachers Can Learn From Theater Training

By Todd Squitieri

Todd Squitieri holds a BFA from New School University and an MA in Applied Sociology from William Paterson University. He has taught in over 5 countries, and currently resides in Da Nang, Vietnam where he is writing a book about his experiences, called How to Teach Without Going Insane, soon to be released at Kindle stores near you! Follow him on his journey:  www.ToddSquitieri.com.

Action! What Teachers Can Learn From Theater Training

 

When I was studying musical theater at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA), we were often instructed on the best practices for walking into an audition room and captivating casting agents with our charm, our glow, and our dazzling performances. Here are some lessons that apply directly to teaching:

  1. Smile when you enter a room
  2. Wear colors that show off your face and personality
  3. Enunciate
  4. Provide a beat or a second of time before you launch into your piece
  5. Provide a beat afterward before ending the piece
  6. Thank the audience for their time

In the theater conservatory, we were also provided with lessons on selecting monologues for the audition room. Use them when planning your next lecture.

  1. Find a piece with a lot of action
  2. Find something where you are trying to get something from someone (introduce tension or conflict)
  3. Find something two minutes or less.
  4. Find high energy/ high stakes pieces
  5. Find something with a range of emotion
  6. Find something that isn’t overdone
  7. Find something that shows off your talent and your “type”

 

If you keep your emotions flat, you won’t resonate with students and they won’t find you or the topic “fascinating.” Keep it short and be emotive so that students fully understand what you are communicating, while staying riveted to your performance. A rollercoaster of emotion is part of the theater student’s repertoire, what they are trained to deliver in audition rooms and ultimately, in the rehearsal space and eventually in performance. Theater people are trained to captivate, to strike even when the iron isn’t hot, when the world is totally indifferent and uninspired. They are trained so that no matter what kind of a day they are having, good, bad, or ugly, they can always revert back to their training to see them through. And so it is with the teacher who wishes to enthrall and inspire.

I mentioned “finding something that isn’t overdone,” as one of the primary strategies of an auditioning actor. When you teach, it’s hard to bring the same energy to every lesson. Finding novel lesson material can be useful in this regard. Be on the lookout for new stories, surprising facts, shocking headlines, funny memes, and other real-world connections to your material. Even content that feels old can be freshened up by talented edutainers. Instead of teaching that next math lesson straight from the book, do some role-playing, with you and some students acting out a few word problems. Keep it short, introduce some conflict, make it emotional and action-packed, and the novelty alone will be sure to keep students’ glued to their seats.

Finally, like actors, teachers should play to their strengths by showing off their talents and considering their “type.” In the theater industry, there are shorthand phrases that we use to refer to “type.” There’s the “character actor,” who plays doctors, professors, pizza deliverymen, and often odd or strange looking characters. Robin Williams comes to mind as being a prominent character actor of the last century. We also have the leading man, who is usually the handsome, debonair type who tries to attract the leading lady, or the young beautiful woman and “the damsel in distress.” Brad Pitt is often considered a leading man, while Heather Graham is considered a leading lady.  

While many people don’t want to admit it,  the way you carry yourself does have a lot to do with the way you are perceived, but many different “characters” can find success in the classroom. Some students respond well to the big goofball clown, while others thrive under the direction of the academic-and-widowed school librarian-mage type. Still others are motivated by the exotic beauty with blond hair and blue eyes who smiles at them electrically and lets her students know that they can do no wrong (as long as they’re doing the work). Some students respond best to charismatic and authoritative leading-man types.

Being an edutainer is a lot like being an actor. In fact, let’s face it: it is acting. You have to smile, emote, and keep the energy up even when you don’t feel like it, even in front of a skeptical audience. This is work and don’t let anyone tell you differently. It takes practice and discipline to be “on” all the time, and it is exhausting. It takes a lot effort for a person to take all of that energy and bring it to the classroom every day.

It’s a pretty remarkable character, the edutainer, almost like a fairy tale character in his own right, providing salvation for those students who just don’t believe in themselves or what they are doing, or why they are doing it. It is this performer, this artist, who is likely to be recalled fondly in the timeless stories we tell ourselves as humans striving for greatness.

5 Tips to Boost Your Child’s Working Memory

A guest post by Danish Wadhwa

Does your kid face any difficulty remembering a topic while he is doing something else?

 

For example, if he is helping you make soup and suddenly the doorbell rings, does he forget to go back and stir the soup? There is no problem if he forgets sometimes, but if these incidences happen on a daily basis, then he might have a working memory problem.

 

The term ”working memory” is utilized conversely with short-term memory. In other words the manipulation of information which the short-term memory stores is called working memory. It is a skill that is used by kids to solve mathematical problems or with the tasks following multi-step directions.

 

Here are the five tips to boost your child’s working memory”

 

Encourage active reading

 

Have you ever wondered why sticky notes and highlighters are so important?

Well, one of the reasons is that highlighting, underlining the text, or writing brief notes will help your kid keep relevant information in his mind long enough to answer questions about it. In addition to this, asking questions aloud about the reading material can benefit your kid. Active reading helps improve long-term memory.

 

Make it multisensory

 

To help your kid with both his working memory as well as long-term memory, processing the information in as many ways as possible is the key. Try to write down each and every task so your kid can have a look at it. You can also help your kid with tasks that are needed to be completed by tossing a ball back and forth while discussing. Implementing these multisensory strategies can help your kid keep information in mind long enough to use it.

 

Use visual charts and graphic organizers

 

One way to encourage your kid is by using visuals at the beginning of assignments. You can either make your own or get help from the internet. Visual supports can help kids reach their goals. Teachers provide successive levels of temporary support to students so they reach high levels of skill acquisition and comprehension that otherwise can’t be achieved without assistance. As soon as those strategies are no longer needed, they are discontinued.

 

It should be kept in mind that the more your kid practices, the better the results for him. It should also be understood that the working memory is a skill used throughout life and not only when we are children. In simple words, you should let your kid have fun while studying. Even if you think your kid is receiving the Best Tuition Assignments, if it is overburdening, then it they should be reduced. 

 

Play cards

 

Playing simple card games such as go fish,  crazy eights, war, Uno, and Old Maid can help kids improve their working memories.  If they are new to the game, then start by playing open-handed, where everyone shows all their cards. To make it more complicated, prompt them by saying, “Use the eye in your mind to take a pretend image of the card and remember it.”

 

Let your kid teach you

 

It can be fun to reverse roles and let the kid teach you a skill. Kids love to play the role of a teacher or elder. You should further encourage them to draw pictures, write on boards, and demonstrate concepts to you. Teaching something is often the best way to learn it. 

 

Final thoughts

The best method is to take a metacognitive approach in which considering how best to remember something is the first step. Apply any of the above techniques to get your kid to improve his or her working memory. 

Charismatic Doesn’t Mean Effective

by Warren Fowler

When you’re wondering about the teaching methods you should adopt, there’s one useful question to ask yourself: who are the teachers that you remember the most?

You’ll probably think of the charismatic ones first. These were the teachers who brightened up the room the moment they entered. They were the ones whose classes you most looked forward to. You could talk to them about anything.

They had charisma, and that made them popular and memorable.

Then there were those teachers we label as “traditional.” They were more serious. They got into the classroom and committed themselves to teaching, straight away. They were effective in engaging students, but they lacked the dynamic personality of the more popular teachers.

Now, ask yourself another important question: what’s the point of teaching?

Is it about being likable? Of course not! It’s all about transferring the knowledge you have and helping students grow and learn. Do charismatic teachers achieve better results? Not necessarily. If you try to remember the things you learned in high school, you might find they come from a surprising source.

Why Is Charisma Important?

 

Charisma can matter. It is important to be liked by your students. The way students evaluate you says a lot about the effect you had as their teacher. Those of us who’ve been fortunate enough to have charismatic people as teachers know that they can motivate students to study. They have an exceptional ability to gain students’ attention and make deep impressions, although those impressions aren’t always related to the curricular material.

The charismatic teacher is not only good at what they teach, but they can also teach to a level the student can relate with. There is something sincere and genuine about them, and that factor can drive the students towards better engagement.

The charismatic teacher is a skilled listener who cares about her students. The students feel they can talk to this person, so it’s easier for such an educator to understand the obstacles they face and help them overcome them. Think of Louanne Johnson – the teacher that Michelle Pfeiffer plays in Dangerous Minds, and you’ll realize what the charismatic teacher can mean for students.

But let’s be real: that’s just a movie. In real life, the charismatic/effective combination is hardly a given. In fact, research shows that teachers with great charisma often fail when it comes to meeting their main goal as educators: effectively conveying knowledge.

Charismatic Teachers Are Not As Effective As We Perceived Them to Be

 

Appearances can be deceiving. That’s one lesson to be learned from a study called Instructor Fluency Increases Perceptions of Learning Without Increasing Actual Learning. The study, the results of which were published in 2013, examined the effects of lecture fluency on the metacognitive awareness of the students. When the researchers use the term “lecture fluency” here, they actually mean charisma.

They showed two videos to the participants of the study. In the fluent video, the instructor spoke without using notes, maintained eye contact, and stood upright. After watching this charismatic educator, participants were asked to predict how much of the information they would be able to recall, and they perceived higher levels of learning.

In the disfluent video, as the researchers named it, the instructor used notes, didn’t maintain eye contact, and wasn’t fluent at all. The participants were given a text-based script to study. As it turned out, the lecture fluency did not significantly affect study time. The fluent instructor was rated higher on instructor evaluation surveys. However, the amount of information learned was not significantly different when the students were being evaluated after both video lectures.

What does this tell us?

When students learn from a charismatic teacher, they evaluate them better. They have a perception that they are learning more. In reality, however, the instructor’s effectiveness does not depend on their charisma.

The students are not very effective in evaluating their own knowledge. They perceive that they know more after listening to a lecture from a charismatic teacher. That can be a great disadvantage, since they may choose to stop studying before fully understanding the content.

Genevieve Maurice, an educator from BestEssays, agrees that appearances can be deceiving: “When you consider someone is a ‘good’ teacher, you might be learning less than you anticipate. The evaluation of teachers’ effectiveness is mostly based on student surveys, and I don’t think that’s fair. The students are considering qualities of character, which don’t have a direct effect on the actual learning.”

An effective teacher is one who leads students to the “aha” moment during a lecture. They enable students to understand complex concepts by explaining them in the simplest way possible. They may be charismatic or not; their personal traits don’t make a significant difference. In either case, the learner has to do most of the work – they have to study, and the teacher should inspire them to do that.

Good Teachers Are the Ones Who Lead Students towards Results

“A good teacher is a charismatic teacher” is an incomplete statement. Moreover, it’s wrong. An effective teacher is the one who understands what’s going on with their students, reveals their weaknesses, and helps them to overcome them.

In a way, the effective teacher is also a theorist. They have to understand the process of learning and figure out what stage their students are at. It’s not about getting into the classroom and making everyone smile. It’s about getting in there and making everyone learn; not by strain, but by desire.

If the teacher has personal charisma, the students will like them more. Will they learn more? Not if charisma is all the teacher has. Students won’t learn more if they like the professor; they will learn more if that professor is effective.

 

Short bio:

Warren’s lifestyle is full of hiking adventures. When he’s not busy with his guitar or enjoying the sunny day outside, he excels at blogging skills and scrolls through social media. You can meet him on Twitter and Facebook.

22 Reasons Why Performance Pay for Teachers is a Terrible Idea

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The idea of paying teachers for their performance is attractive to many reformers, and even to some educators. While the rhetoric behind such a push is often high-minded, with advocates claiming they want to “reward great teachers,” the motives are suspicious. Merit pay looks good on paper, but it will lead to a staggering number of unintended consequences, most of which are bad for kids, bad for school districts, bad for administrators, bad for teachers, and bad for communities. I thought of twenty-two. Add your own in the comments.

1. Cheating — If you pay more for higher test scores, you’ll get higher test scores, one way or another.

2. Lack of Money — So what happens in a school district where students score off the charts on tests and the district suddenly has to pay teachers more than they budgeted? My guess is that the state is not going to be willing to simply cut a bigger check.

3. Budgeting –School districts don’t like unknown costs and since employee compensation is by far the largest chunk of any district’s budget, I have no idea how districts would budget for upcoming school years. My guess is that they’d significantly lower the base pay for all teachers to provide ample wiggle room for performance pay. (Which might be what merit pay advocates are hoping for.)

4. Rigging Teacher Evaluations — Let’s assume performance pay will be paid out based on a teacher’s evaluation (which is based on test scores and principal observations). Now let’s assume each district has a finite amount of money and cannot get any more. Let’s further assume scores are unusually high (maybe because of cheating). How will districts afford unexpected higher costs? They’ll avoid them by directing principals to ding teachers on observations, thereby lowering their overall evaluation. Which is exactly what cash-strapped districts would do.

5. A Greater Incentive to Get Rid of Expensive Teachers — The major problem with the way public education is set up is that there is a greater incentive to control costs than there is to improve educational outcomes. Districts with funding problems get taken over. Districts that excel at educating kids get nothing extra. If states establish systems whereby “effective” teachers make more money, and if a district has too many “effective” teachers, then their costs will rise. There will exist a financial incentive, especially in tight times, to shed the most expensive employees, which in this case will be the most “effective” teachers. Doesn’t make a whole lot of educational sense. But when there’s a choice between money and academics, money always wins.

6. A Lack of Fairness in Pay — You might not like the current system. You might plausibly argue that an excellent teacher should be paid more than a mediocre one. But at least everyone understands the game before they get into it. How would a merit pay system affect a gym teacher? A music teacher? A special education teacher? There are a lot of different jobs in a school and not all of them are measured by students taking a test. Pay for performance doesn’t fit in far too many instances.

7. More Teacher Mobility — This is one consequence that teachers might actually benefit from. Right now, since tenure protections have been eroded and layoffs are supposed to happen according to teachers’ evaluations, the only thing keeping teachers in their districts is the pay structure. It doesn’t make financial sense for a ten-year veteran teacher to switch districts and be paid for five years, if they’re lucky. If districts decide to pay for performance instead of years of experience, there is nothing to keep teachers coming back every year. This might be good for teachers–it effectively makes them free agents every summer–but it’s horrible for districts and communities. Think about how much money districts would have to spend training new teachers every year. How much time would be wasted bringing large numbers of new members into the fold at the beginning of the school year and teaching them all the school procedures? Instability in a school is not a good thing.

8. Competition Among Teachers — Ideally, we hope that teachers share their best practices with their colleagues to make every child’s education better. A performance-based pay system will lead to competition among teachers for scare resources. You can expect infighting for Title One service time and other assistance, arguing over schedules, as teachers perceive their schedule gives them a disadvantage over another teacher’s, and possibly the hoarding of limited materials. Again, schools have set amounts of money. When more is given to one teacher, less has to be given to another.

9. Less Recess, Especially for Kids Who Need It Most — So you’re a teacher who knows his pay will be affected by how his students do on a test. You also know you have about ten students who, with extra practice, can realistically be expected to show enough growth over last year’s test that it makes it worth your while to give them extra practice. Now, where might you find the time to provide that extra practice? You could keep them after school and sacrifice time with your family, or you could take away their recess.

10. Fewer Arts Classes — A merit pay system might lead teachers to consider the following choice: Do I allow my students to go to music class, where they will learn very little that will help them do well on the standardized test that will determine my pay, or do I tutor them during this time?

11. Teacher Resentment Over Kids Who Need the Most Support — Obviously, under this pay system, teachers will want students who can and want to learn. Every year, in every grade level, there are a handful of students who, for a number of reasons, can’t and don’t. Instead of looking at these poor kids as people who need more love and support, teachers may look upon them with resentment, which is exactly what they don’t need. Not only will those students be costing their teachers dollars, their behavior may well impact the learning of other students, which could lead to an even lower teacher salary and even more resentment.

12. Less Patience for Misbehavior — Get ready principals. Because if you’re going to pay teachers based on performance then teachers are going to push for an atmosphere conducive to learning. Very few will be willing to work through a student’s behavior issues if they have the alternative of kicking the kid out and teaching the kids who have a chance of scoring well (or at least improving enough) on the state test.

13. Ignoring the Lowest of the Low — Why bother teaching the lowest students at all? Some teachers will do the calculus: If Student X has little to no chance of scoring well or improving much on the test, wouldn’t it make more sense for that teacher to focus his scarce time and energy on the students who do stand a chance of succeeding?

14. Ignoring the Highest of the High — Susie is going to do well on the test regardless of her teacher. She’s got great parents, she already reads above grade level, she’s good at math. Susie is literally money in the bank for her teacher in a performance-based pay system. Instead of challenging Susie, you can expect many teachers to leave Susie alone while she works with the students in the middle who have a chance of boosting her income.

15. Teaching to the Test — Already happens. Will happen even more.

16. Less Hands-On Learning — Standardized tests have no hands-on components. It would be a waste of time to do experiments when a teacher could be preparing students to do well on the state test to enhance her pay.

17. Say Goodbye to Field Trips, Assemblies, Class Parties, and Lessons from the Guidance Counselor — Few teachers will want to spend their most precious resource–time–on these activities when that time will do nothing to improve the chances that they’ll earn a larger salary. People respond to incentives. It’s naive to think teachers won’t.

18. Going Rogue — So a teacher’s school district has mandated that she teach a new reading program, but that teacher has seen really good results with a previous program. Now the teacher has a choice: Disobey orders from administration because she thinks she’ll get better results with the old program (and make more $), or be a good soldier even though it may mean less money for her. Multiply that over and over and you get each teacher making his or her own decision in every subject, which is essentially what we had before state standards and a “guaranteed and viable curriculum.”

19. Good Luck Finding a Placement for Student Teachers — You’re a teacher who is going to be paid based on how well your students do on a test. What are the chances you’re going to let some twenty-two year old rookie stand in front of your kids and stumble through a math unit?

20. Making Class Lists — I wouldn’t want to be a principal in charge of making class lists under a merit pay system. Nearly every teacher will complain about their list. Too many special ed students, too many autistic students, THAT kid, too many students, how come Mrs. Davis got all the good kids? She always gets all the good kids. Etc., etc., etc.

21. Ignoring Parent Requests — As a parent, I want to be able to have some say in who my child gets as her teacher, but the truth is some teachers get a lot more requests than others and it’s not always because the teacher is all that great. She may have just been around a long time. First-year teachers hardly ever get requests. And let’s be honest, parents who request teachers are, by definition, more involved and are more likely to have children who are better students as a result. So honoring parent requests will lead to class list inequality, which isn’t exactly fair when you’re tying teacher pay to the performance of their students. Districts will have a choice: Antagonize parents in the interests of keeping teachers happy with balanced classes or appease parents and anger teachers? They lose either way.

22. The Best Students Get the Best Teachers — This may be the worst unintended consequence of all. You’ve graduated at the top of your elite high school’s class. You could be anything. You decide to make a difference in the lives of young people and become a teacher. Upon graduating, you have a choice. You can teach in a poor district, where your job will be challenging, your students will come to class with all kinds of problems you never had growing up, their parents will be overworked, stressed out, lacking in parental skill, and just won’t have the time, energy, ability, or inclination to help their children much at home. These students will struggle to perform on the state test, and you will be punished with a lower salary. Or you could go teach in the university town with the brand new building, gorgeous athletic fields, air-conditioned rooms, and parents with college degrees who make their children read every night and offer to come into your classroom to teach lessons in their areas of expertise.  These students will score well on the test, with or without you, and you will be paid handsomely. Which would you choose? And is that good for the country?


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