Dear New Teacher: Letters from the pros

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Throughout the past month, we’ve published weekly tips and advice for new teachers through a series of “Dear Teacher” letters written by seasoned educators. Today, we cap off the month—and this feature—with a heartwarming piece written by Kimberley Gabriel, a Grade 7 teacher from the United States.

Dear New Teacher,

Whatever your reason was for going into teaching, remember it, hold on to it, and most importantly, share it with your students. Do you love your curriculum? Let them see your passion for it. Do you enjoy working with kids? Let them feel that from you. Make your enthusiasm infectious whenever you can. Students learn better from teachers who enjoy what they do.

Students also want to be liked. No matter how different the kids in your classroom are, they share this one universal truth. If they know you care about them and their success, they’re more willing to work hard in your room.

Communicate what you love about teaching to parents too. As a parent, I love seeing teachers get excited about teaching. Just like the students, parents like hearing that you care about their kids. Once they know that, they feel more secure trusting you to make critical decisions that shape students’ character and education.

You don’t have to love every part of teaching, but sharing what you love about it with students and parents will help them support you and follow you—even on the days when you’re stressed, tired, disappointed or lost. Hopefully, cultivating a positive learning environment will help make those tough days fewer.

~ Kimberly Gabriel

We hope you’ve enjoyed these weekly letters and have gleaned some valuable advice from the pros. Although this is our last Dear New Teacher post, we recognise that the learning doesn’t stop after the first month, or even the first year—it extends throughout your career.

For continued professional learning, consider registering for Teachers Media International, an online service that gives you access to more than 3,500 best practice videos, articles, interactives, and more. Our “Lite” service is FREE!

Have a great weekend!

~ The Teachers Media Team

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Writing Prompt: If I were teacher for a day…

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In celebration of World Teacher Day, 5 October, we created some fun (and appropriate!) writing prompts based on the following statement: If you were teacher for a day….

Would you skip straight to recess? Ban all homework? Make afternoon naps mandatory?

It’s probable your students will highlight some of the perceived “less desirable” aspects of the school day, but as you review the theme of this year’s event—Empowering teachers, building sustainable societies—consider a classroom discussion that explores goals outside the predictable, “I’d make summer holidays three months long!”

This short video showcases some great responses to that prompt from students in classrooms across the world.

Primary Prompts

Initiate classroom discussion with some thought-provoking questions students can answer as a class, in groups, or on their own:

  1. What do you think would be the most important part of the day?
  2. What do you think would be the best part about being a teacher?
  3. What do you think would be the hardest or most difficult part about being a teacher?

Brainstorm a list of things a teacher would be required to do throughout the day, and then ask students to create their fictional “schedule” for an extraordinary day of teaching.

What other questions could you ask to stimulate conversation?

Secondary Prompts

For a more creative spin, have students write a short story that demonstrates a typical day under their teaching thumb—with some fictional embellishments, of course. Secondary students could also create an interview discussion with the principal on what they think, if they were the teacher, would improve the school and also motivate students to learn.

In what other ways could you use the writing prompt? For another great idea, check out this Teachers Media International video from our library. Share some of your student responses and we may publish them on our blog, 5 October!

~ The Teachers Media Team

Teachers Media at African Brains conference 2016

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Representatives from Teachers Media International (TMI) and The Teachworld Foundation joined ministers from twenty-seven African countries at the Innovation Africa conference in Nairobi 20-22 September to discuss and brainstorm solutions to Education and ICT integration challenges throughout the country under the theme umbrella of “designed and made for Africa, by Africa.”

The high-level meeting drew participation from 43 ministries of education, higher education, and ICT from 27 African countries, providing them with an opportunity to share experiences and also gain knowledge about best practices from other African countries.

The morning sessions opened with music played and sung by students from St. Michael’s Primary school, an urban Nairobi-city school that faces many challenges, but is considered a model of success due to continually rising student achievement rates since Mary Owina took over as Headteacher approximately eight years ago.

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The founder of TMI and Teachworld, Angela Ney presented to Education Ministers for a high-energy closed door session that set the tone for the solution-driven conference, which included workshops, keynote speeches and panel discussions from a range of innovators from government agencies, organizations, and universities.

Curriculum development and teachers training was the focus of a panel discussion on 22 September, where Ney hosted delegates from countries such as South Sudan and Ghana to discuss innovative ways to provide training for teachers in Africa. TMI is proud to be part of an online solution for professional learning through both our platform service and on-the-ground training in countries across the world, as well as an advocate for global improvement in education.

Teachworld also presented on an innovative project by Chido Govera, a young girl who was orphaned at the age of 7. When she was 11 years old, Chido was taught how to grow mushrooms—a skill that changed her life. Now at the age of 24, Chido travels around the world to demonstrate how “growing mushrooms” can make a huge difference in a child’s life. TMI is proud to support this important fundraising initiative.

For more about Chido, take a look at this inspirational YouTube clip.

For more information about the conference, visit the Innovation Africa website.

~ The Teachers Media Team

Dear New Teacher: Letters from the pros

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By now, you’re well into your first month of teaching—but that doesn’t mean the learning stops. Becoming a teacher comes with a steep learning curve.

This month, we’ve rounded up advice from seasoned educators to help you with those first year jitters. Check the blog archives for past Dear Teacher posts , or scroll down for some top tips from three outstanding Canadian teachers—Jan and Carol Bahry, and Daria Izio.

Dear New Teacher:
Congratulations on your new journey.  You have chosen a noble and rewarding profession.  As an early years teacher for many years, there were and are so many continual new things to learn. I am still learning. For young children, I would suggest you develop a routine right from the first day of school that is easy for the students to follow as this will lead to the development of their becoming independent.  Consistent from day to day is very important for young learners.  I wish you all the best and remember to enjoy your class.

~ Jan Bahry (An Early Years teacher in Canada)

Dear New Teacher:
Learning how to teach is like all learning. It takes time and patience. We acquire skill and knowledge by doing and through trial and error. If your “great” lesson plan is flat, or doesn’t go as expected, reflect and rework it until it does. Or approach it from another angle. Self-assessment and reflection are vital and, in the long run, are time and life-savers.

Seek out the help of a more experienced teacher whose approach you like and ask if he/she would mind sharing some tips. This works as a plus for both parties…the experienced teacher feels valued and you gain tested strategies and tips.

And, if you are really lucky, you may end up lifelong friends, as happened in my case.

~ Daria Izio (An elementary teacher in Canada)

Dear New Teacher:
Here are a few words of advice from a seasoned teacher: Set up some classroom rules as belief statements with the students, three or four tops that are general but yet encompass most classroom operations and interactions. Have these posted on the wall. Refer back to these whenever there is a problem or issue in the classroom or playground, or when solving student conflict. For example, one could be something like: Respect yourself, respect others, and respect property of others and of the school. Some teachers have their students read these belief statements at the beginning of each day.

~ Carol Bahry (A retired teacher and principal in Canada who still continues to relief teach.)

What additional words of wisdom can you offer, either as a new teacher who has learned a few things in the past couple of weeks, or as a seasoned educator with a collection of tips? Share them in the comments, or send them to us via email—your advice may be shared on our last post of the month!

~ The Teachers Media Team

WRITING PROMPT: What does peace look like to you?

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The pressures of the modern world can seem daunting at times, with challenges of poverty, hunger, diminishing natural resources, social inequality, and much more providing significant obstacles to world peace.

This year’s International Day of Peace theme—Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace—acknowledges those obstacles, and challenges us to revisit the 17 building blocks in the global architecture of peace, as demonstrated in this student-created rap song.

Isn’t that a fantastic song? Why not challenge your students to write a rap using the same 17 principles?

Of course, the concept of peace is subjective and ever-evolving. Is it the responsibility of peacekeepers in the military to protect our freedoms? Perhaps, but as this video from the Teachers Media International library notes, each of us has a role in creating a world of peace, even teachers.

As you review the idea of peace with your students, consider this list of writing prompts which challenges kids to not only define what peace looks like to them, but to also envision a world in which peace is the norm.

  1. What does peace mean to you?
  2. Describe peace in five words. Why did you choose those words?
  3. How can you promote peace in your classroom/school/family/community?
  4. Write about a time when you were upset, but decided not to start a fight.
  5. How can you promote peace in the world?
  6. How will the 17 building blocks of peace contribute to world peace? Here are some great examples of short answers.
  7. Write a short story about a peaceful world—what does that look like?
  8. Research a peace advocate you admire and write a short biography about that person. What do you admire about them? What have they accomplished?
  9. If you were given the opportunity and the power to save the world, what would you do?
  10. Write a story about a character who is fighting for peace. What exactly does he or she do? How does his or her actions impact the world?
  11. Write a story about a world that does not even know what peace is. One day a character has a glimpse of what peace is and how it can change their world. Write about what happens after this character ambitiously pursued this idea.
  12. Look through the news for a story that celebrates peace. Write a poem based on that article.

What other writing prompts might you include in celebration of International Day of Peace?

Wishing all of YOU a day of peace.

~ The Teachers Media Team

TMI joins world leaders in education for Innovation Africa

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Teachers Media International is proud to take part in this year’s African Brains: Innovation Africa 2016 summit, where delegates from more than 40 countries are gathered in Nairobi, Kenya this week for what has become the most well-attended African event for education, innovation, and ICT. The theme for this year’s event is, “Designed and Made for Africa, by Africa.”

Anthony Salcito, Worldwide VP Education for Microsoft, writes, “One of the things I love about attendees of the event is that they are looking for real answers. Innovation Africa gives us the time and opportunity to get some real stuff done.”

The three-day summit—running Sept 20-22—includes inspiring keynote speeches from top-notch executives, excellent networking opportunities, and participation in panel discussions that zero in on important issues for education in Africa including, Developing African ICT Skills in Higher Education, African Ownership of Science, Research and Technology, and Designing Classroom Technology for African Students.

As a leading provider of online professional development for educators across the world, Teachers Media International offers numerous technology, ICT, and innovation solutions for teachers, many of which are highlighted on our Africa hub. We’re excited to participate in the important discussions that will come out of the next few days. Visit our booth for a demonstration of our services!

For more about this summit, take a look at this video from the 2015 event.

And be sure to check the blog next week for pictorial highlights of the summit!

~ The Teachers Media Team

Dear New Teacher: Letters from the pros

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This month, we’ve tapped into the expertise of some of our favourite educational gurus to offer sage advice for new teachers. But even if you’re not “new” to the classroom, we hope you’ve been able to relate to their words of wisdom, or have learned something new.

This week, we’re excited to feature two short pieces, the first a letter from Tim Froggatt, a veteran teacher in the UK, and the second, a great letter from the Teachers Media International Director of Education, Betty Morris.

Dear New Teacher:

Don’t be surprised if it’s not so easy in your first term, because you’re doing something that’s new and difficult and challenging—but remember that it’s one of the most important jobs anyone can do. Although it may seem hard at times, rest assured that we’ve all been there. And the good news is that teaching gets easier as you do more of it. With time, you’ll work out how to plan better lessons, deal with difficult situations, and relate to the students in better ways. Hang in there.

And at those times when things go wrong and it all gets too much, don’t bottle it up. Find someone you can share with and talk things through. And definitely don’t be too hard on yourself.  Learn from your mistakes and move on—just like you want your students to. And make sure you get enough sleep. However much you’re tempted to stay up late and do more marking or lesson planning. Sleep is even more important.

~ Tim

Dear New Teacher:

You have finally arrived! This is your own classroom where you be able to make decisions, try out new strategies, and start on a journey that you have been preparing for for the last four years. Remember that you are also bringing along your first group of 25-30+ learners on this journey, each one so unique, but all bound together as a family.

Although I know you will be concerned with the nuts and bolts of the first day, I want you to keep in mind one thing that I hope will carry you throughout the year and can start on the first day—build relationships!  In all my years of teaching, I believe one of the most important values that gave me success and such a wonderfully positive career was understanding the importance of building relationships. Knowing the students’ challenges, interests, fears, and desires (whether achievable or not) will help to build trust, collaboration, and even prepare well thought out lessons. Take the time early in the year to do this, don’t worry about taking time away from content learning—it will only benefit you later.

Remember to be genuine. This advice carries through to your colleagues and parents as well.

Welcome to teaching!

~ Betty

How does this advice add up with what you’ve been taught? Anything you want to add? To see letters from past weeks, check out the archives, starting here.

~ The Teachers Media Team

COMING EVENT: #hacktheclassroom is back!

 

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On 24 September, 2016, Hack the Classroom returns with an exciting web event that gives educators around the globe an inside look at what’s new in education at Microsoft.

By attending this FREE global online event,  you can take a glimpse into teacher’s classrooms to see technology in action, access powerful professional development resources and tools, and be able to engage, interact, and pose questions to some of the most brilliant innovators from around the world.

You’ll hear from inspiring speakers such as Jordan Shapiro and John Kao on topics such as an ‘introduction to the Interactive Maker Space’ and ‘how to build a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship for students.’

We hope you’ll consider joining world leaders in education for this live global web-event to hack your way into a more innovative learning environment for your students.

And in the meantime, be sure to check out the Teaching with Technology hub on the Teachers Media International website, offering great video resources from Microsoft and other experts tips on how to include technology in the classroom.

~ The Teachers Media Team

Behaviour Tips: Establishing rules and routines in the classroom

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Establishing rules and routines in the classroom is one of the most powerful ways to nip potential behaviour problems in the bud—and for teachers of all experience levels, taking action in those first few weeks of school is imperative.

For the best in behaviour management advice, Teachers Media International (TMI) leans on a number of experts, including guru John Bayley, who has been featured in more than 40 TMI videos, and has written numerous articles including, John Bayley’s expert tips for establishing behaviour rules and routines with new classes.

In this informative article—written for new and trainee teachers, but an important refresher for all levels of experience—Bayley encourages teachers to familiarise themselves with the school’s policy on behaviour and then model the expectations—regardless if other teachers are bending the rules. Once students have an understanding of your classroom expectations, the “behaviour routine” is set.

“Try making a list headed ‘Five ways to keep Ms. Dobson happy,’” he says. “This is a useful thing to have when it comes to having a quiet word with students after a lesson.”

Bayley also advises teachers to mind their language—talking too much isn’t an effective behaviour management tool, and can in fact, be counter-productive. Consider telling students what you want them to do, but refrain from spending too much time explaining what you don’t want them to do. Use a low level voice to reinforce the atmosphere you desire.

“Your use of language and voice modulation is one of the most important tools in the classroom,” Bayley says. “Get rid of your ‘shooshing’ and instead use definite language.”

And while we’re on the topic of language, be sure to develop relationships with students that offer them acknowledgement and praise. Something as simple as a “hello” can curb a child’s need for attention, which can sometimes lead to “acting out” if not managed.

For more insight into Bayley’s process and to see this guru in action, check out this Teachers Media International video in which Bayley provides tips for for setting routines in an early years class.

For more great behaviour tips and resources, register for the Teachers Media International Plus service, which gives you access to more than 3,500 best practice videos, articles, and professional learning packs.

~ The Teachers Media Team

Dear New Teacher: Letters from the pros

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Even if you nailed your first day (which you obviously did), we recognise that new teacher nervousness—a common mixture of both excitement and fear—doesn’t just disappear. The learning curve is steep!

At Teachers Media International, we’re privileged to work with brilliant educators from across the globe—at all levels of their career. This month, we’ve tapped their expertise, and each Friday throughout September, we’ll share their letters of support for YOU, the new teacher. (Not a new teacher? No problem—may these letters refresh, inspire, or prompt you to share your own advice with our readers!)

This week, we’re grateful for words of wisdom from Barrie Schulha, a retired secondary teacher from Canada. He taught for 34 years in one school and offers great encouragement and advice for teachers at all levels.

Dear New Teacher:

I want to welcome you to a very noble profession. Many years down the road something amazing is going to happen. Former students will meet you and relate a story about how you touched their lives or even in some cases changed their lives. Often it would be something that you may have thought was almost insignificant, but yet it made a huge impact on their lives. No amount of monetary awards can match the feeling you will get from those situations.

Being a teacher is extremely HARD WORK. No one can understand how difficult teaching can be. Many people who leave the classroom and go to other jobs say they couldn’t believe how much is expected of teachers. A ridiculous amount of multi-tasking is expected. Yes, you get a large pocket of holidays— but you will need it, and deserve it.

Kids are at the heart of teaching. They must be important to you. Isn’t that why you became a teacher?

Try as hard as possible to get to know the names of every student on the first day of classes.  On the second day when they came in, greet them by name.  Helps if you have a good memory, but really try with this one.  Students are usually shocked that you can rattle off everyone’s name in the first few days.

Try to make certain to have verbal contact with absolutely every student in the class—even briefly. Don’t let any student become a shrinking violet. Engage every student every day.

ALWAYS have a well thought out seating plan. I would make a seating plan after the first day. Adjust the seating plan several times throughout the year. A good seating plan can reduce or eliminate so many classroom management problems.

Be respectful, nice, and use lots of humour. You want the students to respect you.  I often say, rule with an iron fist in a velvet glove.

Be a really good story teller. Take the first five minutes of every class to tell the kids a story or ask them if they saw a great program or talk about some current event happening. Kids love story time. Sometimes jokes and card tricks worked for me. Keep a collection of great but appropriate jokes that you can use. Jumping right into homework or notes can be a real grind.

Be very fair and impartial when dealing with classroom behaviour issues. Set the necessary standards for your classroom and then stick to them firmly. I never gave chances or warnings. If you give chances for infractions of established classroom rules, then you have to give 25 or 30 chances. Deal with issues firmly and very promptly. Your behaviour expectations must be realistic.

If students are talking in class try not to speak over them.  Stop immediately.  Deal with the issue and move on. If you speak over talking kids, you are sending the signal that it is okay for everybody to speak whenever they like.

Get super involved in your school.  Teachers who do not coach or run a club miss out on a lot.  Students notice and respect those teachers who are involved.  Find something that you have a passion for and share your knowledge and interest with the kids—even if you help out with another teacher.

~ Barrie

Which piece of this fantastic advice resonated with you? Miss last week’s letter from Bev Kula? Check it out here.

~ The Teachers Media Team