Teaching Reading skills from an early age

Teaching Reading skills from an early age

Teaching Reading skills from an early age

Reading is daunting for everyone and it sure is a difficult skill to develop if it isn’t done properly. Researches now show that even babies could be taught to read or at least are responsive to letters in the same way as they are responsive to easy math calculations. Even if those discoveries are a huge step for cognitive theories there are questions that teachers and parents should debate about: The first one is “How young is too young?” And the second one is “How do we make it efficient?”

1. What is Reading at an early age?
We don’t expect young children to read novels of course. When we talk about Reading at an early age we mean the process of decoding. In other words, the ability of putting sounds of letters together to form syllables or words. Many parents and teachers have concerns about the process of decoding from an early age arguing that it can be detrimental to the self-development of children as it puts pressure on them. This is surely something to take into account. As a reminder, some countries such as Finland introduce formal reading at the age of 7. But does it harm to expose younger children from the age of 4 or 5 to the letters of the alphabet and their sounds? Well, experts say it can be a good thing if done in a sensitive way and if done progressively without pressure.

2. Reading: Make it natural
Forcing kids into Reading is counterproductive. Many parents would use flashcards and drilling to get kids used to the sounds of letters or words but the best way to actually get a kid to read is to make it sound natural. There is nothing as powerful as natural communication and bedtime stories to instill curiosity into kids and to get them into Reading. Reading has to be something natural. Kids have to be surrounded by books from an early age. Their environment is what is going to help them become natural readers. The way we learn a language is similar in many ways to the way we learn how to read: We want to communicate, we want to join our peers, we want to share feelings and emotions. Playing with children and talking WITH them rather than TO them is critical to successfully teach Reading.

3. Storytelling: a good way to get into Reading
The best way to motivate children about Reading is to make it a pleasurable moment for yourself as a parent or as a teacher. It is true that no one becomes a storyteller without practice but I can guarantee you that you’ll have great fun in the process and that your children will ask for more. When Reading, read with them, show them the pictures, get them involved, use lots of gestures and sounds, use different intonation, exaggerate. Choose books that are adapted to their age but also to their interests. You will soon find out that children usually prefer funny stories that they can relate to.

4. Reading make it real
Children don’t want to be talked to as babies or toddlers, so consider them as what they are: curious learners that are ready to discover the world that surrounds them. In other words use words that surrounds them. Young children are able to discriminate sounds and phonemes. Instead of focusing on a global approach or syllabic approach that makes no real sense to them you can introduce them to the letter of the alphabet and to their sounds from an early point. Make it fun as well. Write small little words from everyday life, have them to decode the words and have them to label the objects in the room. They’ll love it and they’ll ask for more. Why? Because decoding for kids is like discovering a secret. They feel so proud of themselves when they succeed that they won’t stop. So, how young is too young for reading? There is no age. Everyone is different, but what makes the real difference is the way you introduce them to this fantastic communication tool.

The protection of languages

The protection of languages

The protection of languages: a right and a duty

On a Paris-Toronto flight I recently had the opportunity to watch a documentary –or shall I say 6 short documentaries- about Canada and more specifically about Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation. Those six short documentaries inspired by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms taught me a lot about Canadian culture(s) from Indigenous rights, to citizenship, languages and multiculturalism. What I especially liked about it was the short little introductions based on Canadians’ opinions. They had to answer basic questions like. Black or White? Favorite color? Rights or Freedom? Masculine or Feminine? Basic questions but important questions that define who we are. The reflective approach to the project was absolutely beautiful. Self-critical, poetical and heartbreaking. Let me tell you about the documentary called “L’inspecteur” which deeply resonated for me as a language teacher and language lover.

L’inspecteur, mixes up the stories of three Franco-Manitobans women telling their experiences as young students and teachers. The three now elderly women reflected on their past in Manitoba’s education system a couple of decades ago. They had vivid recollection of their school days and especially of the “Inspecteur”. At the time French was prohibited in schools. A law had been in place since 1919 and all education had to be in English. Obviously, Canada had and still has a fair share of Francophones but at that time and until the 1980s all education was supposed to be done in English. The point was to assimilate the Francophones through the eradication of their language. The way these women were telling their stories was absolutely heartbreaking. You could easily imagine them as young girls terrified by the classroom inspector who wanted to break the teacher and detect any possible trace of language speaking. And how about the teacher? How did she feel when being inspected? It was also the story of a community who tried to resist and rebel, the story of a community whose main crime was to hide French books. The documentary mingled humour, a sense of community, and hope. A must-see.

This retrospective made me think about all the minority languages that don’t have their voice heard in the world. Not long in France I was told that people-now in their late 40s- from Brittany were not taught their own language (Breton) as they would have been sneezed at otherwise. How about my own students who speak Quechua but don’t dare to show their language skills because they fear to be laughed at? Languages are all beautiful and they have to be protected a human heritage to preserve cultures but also to give ourselves a chance to understand each other.

Blended Learning to close the learning gap

Blended Learning to close the learning gap

 

Over the past decade, schools have adopted more digital and online-learning based options. Most schools are equipped with smartboards linked to computers and some schools have also invested in tablets for their students for a more personalized approach to learning. That being said many teachers have been reluctant to use new technologies for valid reasons like the lack of appropriate training, inadequate technologies, flawless computing networks and disappointing academic results when relying to technology as a main teaching resource. Researches now show that they were partly right. The use of technology needs to have a teaching purpose to be successful. How about blended learning then?

 

  1. Blended learning: What is it?

Blended learning also called mixed-mode learning or hybrid learning means the use of both in-person learning and online learning. In that type of learning students attend traditional classes with a teacher in classroom setting but they also complete their learning by using online components outside the class.

  1. What is it like in schools?

The way blended learning is implemented in schools vary from one school to another. For instance, the online material or experiences can supplement or replace a face-to-face learning experiences. In some schools, blended learning can be provided by the whole cohort of teachers or only by a few. Blended learning might be a small component of the learning or it can be a dominant learning component. It can be done through video-recorded lectures, podcasts, webinars, live chats etc. It integrates independent work from the students but it can also involve group work through Project Based Learning activities. Teachers or tutors act as guides outside the classroom online. They offer guidance, review the learning process, assess assignments, discuss the work, answer questions, provide support when needed. Blended learning can also be used inside the building of a school to provide greater personalized learning with the advantage of having a human face available when needed. There are as many ways to use blended leaning as there are needs for learning.

  1. Pros and Cons of Blended learning

Blended learning is definitely an alternative to traditional learning, which was not adapted to the needs of all our students. With blended learning students can evolve at their own pace and develop the skills that they actually need to progress. Blended learning also presents the advantage of offering the support of a teacher or tutor outside the normal schedule times of a school setting. That also means more flexibility and creativity for the teachers who can structure their course and use material that is more adapted to their students’ needs and abilities. Not to mention the fact that teachers have less contact hours with their full cohort and therefore they can use that time to interact on a more individual basis with students that require their support. Another positive effect of blended learning is obviously its low cost. It doesn’t require a building or the presence of a teacher, it is consequently a great source of savings for both schools and students.

That said some critics may question the efficiency of Blended Learning because of the possible lack of proper guidance and support from a tutor or teacher. Indeed, Blended learning requires a lot of autonomy and self-discipline from the students and many of them do not display those skills. Others also argue that blended learning and its digital components haven’t been properly tested yet in terms of learning progress. The efficiency of digital tools is still in question especially because many digital resources do not allow students to use their critical skills and to deepen their knowledge. The market for digital resources and courses is so widespread that the content of too many of them still remains untested. Not to mention the lack of training for teachers using blended learning. How can teachers implement technology and blended learning if they haven’t been given the proper tools themselves? How can they be confident in creating digital material and teach with technology if they don’t know how to do it? Many teachers are not digital natives. Does it mean that older teachers are doomed? Another concern raised by teachers and educational specialists is that many schools may now rely more on the use of technology to reduce labor costs by replacing teachers with technology.

 

As for me, as I have already mentioned before in an article about integrating technology in our class, technology is everywhere and it can bring great change to Education. That said still too many teachers don’t know how to use technology and that is a big concern. Another thing is that we need to be cautious with the online material we use. Last but not least technology shouldn’t replace human interactions as it is through human communication that we learn.

Tesol Convention in Peru

Tesol Convention in Peru

The TESOL Convention was held two weeks ago in Chiclayo, Peru. It owed its success to the organizers and speakers that came from all over the world, but also to its 400 participants that made their ways from different Peruvian regions. (Apurimac, Tacna, Amazonas, Lambayeque, Lima and many others!)

The topic this year was English: Paths to success and I think no other topic could have been more suitable. It makes no doubt that English is the way to go in our globalized world. English as a key to unlock doors to knowledge and opportunities. We were invited to deliver speeches and give demonstrations about how English can be best used and developed in ELT classes and to tell you the truth 3 days were not enough to explore all the different strategies we talked about!

Not only does the TESOL give the opportunity to develop skills and learn new tricks to make English lessons better in terms of content and progression, but it is also an invaluable tool to meet people from different teaching contexts and to make links to further our knowledge in teaching. I have always found that meeting other teacher trainers with varied perspectives about education and teaching can broaden your mind and it is a critical asset that allows to rethink your work under a different angle.

Events like this are keys to ensure the professional development of teachers and in the unity of teachers.  Last year, Dr. Yilin Sun, the President of TESOL International explained that “ (teachers) should take every opportunity to improve on (their) practice, that’s what will lead to the path of teacher leadership”.

This year, in an inspirational opening plenary Laura G. Holland, from the University of Oregon opened up the audience’s mind on the importance of collegiality. Building our knowledge as teachers, as leaders but also as colleagues because the improvement in education will come through our ability to consider ourselves as an integrant part of a teaching community.
This year, participants and speakers went one step closer to leadership by putting the efforts into working together. Through the wide variety of workshops and proposed activities, there was room of each and everyone.

The Peru TESOL convention 2017 has one more time proven that it could gather teachers and speakers around a global theme. Teachers should now try to see themselves as leaders, and they should also see themselves as members of a large family willing to endlessly improve for the good of their students, their own good and the good of the whole society.

Check some of the workshops and talks that were delivered during the TESOL:

  1. Peer observation
  2. Speak up! Strategies to promote communication in class
  3. Grammar: Innovative strategies to motivate, Engage and Challenge everyone
  4. Teaching mixed-ability classes
  5. Teaching and Learning with the 21st century technology

1. Peer observation

Getting formally observed is usually an activity teachers are a bit reluctant to go through. Observations usually mean that a manager is going to observe your class and give you a grade at the end of it. The point of formal observations is to assess the skills and techniques of teachers. No doubt it can be scary! However, peer observation is very different in the sense that there is no grade or pressure as the idea is to help you improve on your skills and strengthen your existing abilities as a teacher.

In her workshop Peer observation made easy: Tips, Strategies and Leadership, Laura G. Holland shared ideas and peer observation models to make peer observations valuable tools for every teacher. So, are you ready to taste a recipe for successful peer observations?

Define the benefits of peer observation

Peer observations should happen in a non-threatening environment. An environment of trust, mutual respect and willingness to learn from one another. Because what is peer observation if not learning? You gain knowledge by being observed and by observing your peers. What are the implications of peer observations? What do you expect to earn from the process?

The challenges

The main challenge is Time. Finding time to set up such a process can be difficult if it is not already part of your school culture. The lack of administrative support can also be considered as an obstacle. Some teachers might not be willing to play the game. Some might consider themselves too experienced, while others might lack confidence to engage in the process.

Step-by-step

  • Find a colleague you trust and you know will be non-judgmental.
  • Set common rules. What do you want to observe and why? What do you want to be observed on? How long will the observation process take place? When will you meet for a feedback?
  • Explain to your students beforehand the purpose of your colleague’s presence. You want a class that sounds as normal as it typically is.
  • Deliver your class as you would normally do. If you are the one observing the class, take as many notes as possible. Make sure they are clear and organized to read through them after the lesson.
  • Try to meet as soon as the class is done to keep all your ideas fresh.
  • Engage in a sensitive discussion where you will discuss all the positive elements of the observation.
  • Feedback on only 3 main points that you consider essential for further development.
  • Be sensitive to each other and super positive. In some peer observation models, there is no negative feedback of any kind. That type of model can be worth using for low self-esteem teachers.

Further suggestions. Extra tips

When observing a lesson, you may want to focus only on positive, successful or new strategies that you want to implement in your class. The use of videos can also be of great help to help teachers get involved into the process. Watching videos about teacher training with a fellow teacher can relief the pressure of being observed for the first time. You evaluate the positive aspects of the lesson and may discuss what could be improved in a non-judgmental way.

2. Speak up! Strategies to promote communication in class

During the TESOL convention I had the opportunity to deliver a workshop about Communicative strategies and tips in class. This was a nice way to reinforce the basics with teachers while offering them some food for thoughts with activities and games they may not had tried or heard about before.
We all know that implementing speaking skills can be a little bit tricky as our students may be reluctant to speak up. They might lack self-esteem and confidence, they might be shy or they believe that they don’t have the “right” pronunciation. So, it is our job to help them develop these skills. For that purpose, we need to find topics that interest them, we need to provide the tools, the vocabulary, the grammar they need to progress and we need to think about creative ways to engage and motivate them.
The best way to engage them is to follow a clear progression in our teaching first. A progression that has to be logical for them to acquire the skills they need to use both vocabulary and grammar efficiently.
There are 5 main steps to consider when teaching speaking skills.

1. Base: Grammar and Vocabulary:

The first step, the base is when we teach grammar and vocabulary. This step is essential as it will determine the rest of our teaching so it has to be planned carefully from A to Z. For the first step, what matters is to implement simple, clear language in chunks. We will focus on pictures-words matching up for beginners and definitions or questions/answers for most advanced students.

2.The short model

The second step is the short model when we provide students with listening activities so that they can get used to the vocabulary and grammar in context along with the pronunciation. The second can be an audio or a video. It has to be short, to build on their previous learning and we need to check their understanding.

3. The short practice

This step is more student-centered. Our students will progressively learn to reuse the language they have acquired in more autonomous ways until they reach the final step, the production step. Until now the steps were rather teacher centered. Now, students should be able to immerse themselves a bit more. For that stage, they will repeat the situation but they will change a couple of details. You will monitor their work and provide short feedback. You may also ask your students to perform in front of their classmates.

4. The longer practice

Here the context will vary a little and the structures can be a little more complex. You may want to insist a bit more on gestures here to make the use of language more natural and authentic. Do not hesitate to involve your students in acting as well.

5. The production

The final stage is the production stage. Sadly, this a step that is skipped a lot in class because of time constraint. We don’t always have time to get our students to use the language independently. We tend to use the longer practice as the final step but it shouldn’t. The production stage is really the stage when you can assess your students’ skills and that is the occasion for them to be fully creative when implementing the grammar and vocabulary they have learnt. Something that can be done if you are really limited in terms of time is to give them this activity as homework. You can even convert it into a PBL activity.

6. Extra tip

Last but not least: Pronunciation. Pronunciation is important, it is true but we need to bear in mind that it shouldn’t be an obstacle to learning. I mean by that that many students are reluctant to speak because they believe they don’t have the right pronunciation. Well, what is the right pronunciation? We all have different accents, this does not mean we can’t understand eachother, does it? So just my two cents here, but I think pronunciation should be taught as part of speaking skills ability and reinforced slightly at every stage but it shouldn’t be taught as a skill in itself.

3. Grammar: Innovative strategies to motivate, Engage and Challenge everyone

Another workshop I was really glad to present was the one about Grammar. Delivering a 90-minute workshop on grammar is never enough to explore everything with 35 eager-to-learn teachers, but that is always a good way to share ideas and promote communication between teachers, especially for those who may not be confident enough with their English proficiency level.

Teaching grammar can be daunting not only for newbies but also for seasoned teachers. Students may not be particularly keen on grammar either, so teaching it can be difficult. What if we tried to implement strategies where students were actually learning grammar with fun and interactive strategies? What if students could be challenged through active and collaborative activities? That was the whole point of my workshop. Finding ways and strategies to engage students and teachers in the teaching-learning process of grammar.

1. Main approaches to present grammar

For the presentation stage, there are two main ones: The deductive and the inductive approach.
The deductive approach is a bottom-up technique. We start with the base, the rules. Students get the rules and deduce when to use the rules. They are provided with a battery of examples. The rules are immediately followed by a practice.
For the inductive grammar, the technique is reversed. Students work out the use and formation of the structure. This technique can involve students a bit more in their learning and it has as the advantage of developing their critical thinking skills. When using this technique, the teacher is a facilitator rather than the one providing students with all the answers. Here’s how we can proceed with this method. You can provide students with a text and ask them a couple of questions that will trigger their critical thinking skills. What is it about? How/Why do you think we use this structure?

2. Approaches to practise grammar

For the practice, we may consider three to four approaches: The communicative approach, collaborative learning, task-based learning or Project based learning.
A. The communicative approach will encourage students to use grammar in true, authentic contexts with a real communicational-functional purpose. Grammar is a tool for communication and as such it will be embedded in speaking activities. The focus is on the communicative task rather than the language structure.
B. The collaborative approach towards grammar learning has to do with a team-building effort. Grammar is seen as a mental (and possibly kinaesthetic) construction that can be built within a group. It is not an isolated activity. We build knowledge and understanding together.
C. Task-based learning is part of the communicative approach in the sense that learners will start with a communicative task without any guidance on the form of language. After the task, there is a general feedback where everyone gets the opportunity to discuss how they achieved the task. One of the advantages of this technique is the freedom learners have in expressing themselves, the focus being not so much on accuracy than on free expression.
D. Project-based learning shares many aspects with TBL, but it is even more ambitious. Whereas TBL makes a task the central focus of a lesson, PBL often makes a task the focus of a whole month, term or year.
There are generally considered to be four elements which are common to all project-based activities/classes/courses:

1. A central topic from which all the activities derive and which drives the project towards a final objective.
2. Access to tools of investigation design, collect, analyse and use information.
3. Opportunities for sharing ideas, collaborating and communicating.
4. A final product (often produced using new technologies available to us) whose final form is chosen by students. It can be in the form of posters, use of technology, survey, articles, presentations among others.

To conclude, I would say that teaching grammar shouldn’t be feared. We need to use the tools we have at our disposal, including technology to offer our students a greater opportunity to develop their grammatical skills. Technology has also an important part to play to make grammar more fun, interactive and more effective for our students.

4. Teaching mixed-ability classes

What? You have missed my workshop about teaching mixed-ability classes? Here’s a catch up article that will sum up the main points I discussed for the TESOL.

To teach is to engage students in learning; thus teaching consists of getting students involved in the active construction of knowledge. . .The aim of teaching is not only to transmit information, but also to transform students from passive recipients of other people’s knowledge into active constructors of their own and others’ knowledge. . .Teaching is fundamentally about creating the pedagogical, social, and ethical conditions under which students agree to take charge of their own learning, individually and collectively
Education for judgment: The artistry of discussion leadership. Edited by C. Roland Christensen, David A. Garvin, and Ann Sweet. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School, 1991.

With inclusion, we have now a greater mix of students in our classes. Our students are different in terms of ability, needs, learning styles and learning backgrounds. The question is How do we make sure that we give our students the tools they need to develop their skills? How do we know that our planning provides each and every one of them the right opportunities to learn and grow? Differentiate instruction is one possibility to allow more learning opportunities for our students.

Differentiation or differentiated instruction is a method that allows greater possibilities for our students. There are three main ways to differentiate in our classes:

1. Differentiated content

The idea behind differentiating content is linked to the idea of providing a different learning experience to the whole group according to individual interests and needs. It has to do with the resources the teacher brings to class. The resources have to reflect the needs and abilities of the students. In other words, the material brought to class has to be flexible and adapted.

2. Differentiated process

Process has to do with the way you deliver the course and the way students integrate the content. Students need time to understand concept, they need time to make sense of what they learn. When we teach we need to know our students well to make sure that the process is adapted. You may need to consider different objectives depending on the level and ability of your students. Bloom’s taxonomy is quite useful here. You need to think as well about the way you deliver the courses. How much Teacher-Talking-Time do you use? Are your lessons Teacher-centered? How could you focus more on your students? Have you thought about having Carousel activities in your class?

3. Differentiated product

When we say differentiating product we mean that we give students different options of format for them to give evidence of what they have learned. The way they will present evidence if their learning has to be individualized and personalized. It has to show their knowledge in a personal way because we all learn in different ways and the way we integrate knowledge an understanding is very personal.

4. More food for thought

Carol Ann Tomlinson is an American educator whose focus has been instruction for struggling and advanced learners, effective instruction in heterogeneous settings, and encouraging creative and critical thinking in the classroom. I would suggest you read some of her works available here:
1. The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners, 2nd Edition, Tomlinson, C.A (2014)
2. Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom
Tomlinson, C. A. & Moon, T. R. (2014)

5. Teaching and Learning with the 21st century technology

Faster, more diverse, more complex, more competitive, more technological: the world has changed and so has the teaching-learning process. The ESL world has also been affected by the changes brought by a globalized and digitized world. How can English language educators offer the tools their modern learners crave?
It makes no doubt that traditional forms of teaching such as lecturing or other teacher-centered methods are no longer adapted to the new generation of learners. But who are these learners? What are the conceptions and misconceptions about them? What are the needs of these learners?
In a motivational plenary, Doctor Karen Jogan, from Albright College in Reading PA, offered some technological tools to be used in class and outside the classroom to bridge the gap between teachers and their digital native learners. Here’s an overview of the great ideas and tools that can be used inside the classroom and outside the classroom.

1. Digital material: Pros and cons

The wide variety of technological tools we have at our disposal should be seen as a plus but in no way as a replacement to planning and teaching. Maria Brown, whose work at the Education Department, at Dubai Women’s College and her great contribution to the ELT world through TESOL Arabia, also highlighted this important feature. Technology is a tool to improve learning and to make our students grow. As a result, those tools have to be carefully chosen and they have to be embedded in the teaching-learning process in a sensitive way. The use of technology should be synonymous with personal and intellectual growth rather than waste of precious teaching-learning time. So, once we are clear about our teaching-learning objectives, then we are ready to implement digital tools in class. Not before and not the other way round. You will find a non-exhaustive lists of material I use and other teacher-trainers use in class and outside the class to create more engaging interactions and to facilitate learning.

2. Digital teaching tools in class for students

Kahoot a free game-based learning platform that makes it fun to learn – any subject, in any language, on any device. You just need to create an account, browse quizzes or even better create your own!

Popplet. In the classroom, students can use Popplet as a mind-map. Popplet helps students think and learn visually. Students can capture facts, thoughts, and images and create links between the different ideas.

Socrative. Another way to create quizzes with multiple choices, true-false or short answers activities.

Textivate. An interesting tool to work on text. If you create an account you can simply copy and paste a text you want your students to understand and/or memorize and the platform automatically creates activities based on your text (matching up, filling gaps, punctuation, games…) Good tool for literacy. The interesting version is not free though, but it is worth the try.

3. Digital teaching-training tools for presentations and webinar

Cue Prompter. If you want your students to deliver a presentation but they lack confidence in doing so, this tool can help them gain confidence. If is also a good way to avoid that they read their papers while delivering a speech.

Zoom. Probably one of the best tools for meetings, webinars and training online. The basic free version allows you to actually do quite a lot.

Swivl. If you are working as part of team, this is a great tool to buy to monitor students’ work, listen to their dialogues in class and prepare filmed presentations.

Office Mix. A good way to make your powerpoints more interactive.

4. Learning Management Systems and Open Educational Resources

In our digital world, more and more students start learning online with their laptops, tablets and/or cell phones. LMS have facilitated learning in such a way that learning material is available everywhere at anytime.

Learning has been made easier with an access to material, videos, blogs, assignments, feedback available to facilitate the life of students and teachers. Here you will find three interesting platforms:

1. Blackboard
2. Canvas
3. Moodle
With the access to Internet we can now have a greater access to learning. OER can be used for learning at a lower cost. Check these ones:

Openstax. A good way to cut down/off the price of textbooks
Coursera. Online courses from top universities like Yale and Stanford
Udemy. Online courses with a wide variety of subjects
OER commons. A digital library where you can explore publications, textbooks and resources for free while joining a network of educators

As a conclusion I would simply say that 21st century technology has brought to us learners and teachers an incredibly unlimited possibility to continue learning and keep on teaching. It is now up to us to embrace the change and implement those tools in our classes.

Enhancing collaborative work among teachers

Enhancing collaborative work among teachers

I am always shocked when I hear teachers telling me that they don’t share their work with their peers. I have been very lucky to work within departments where sharing was a habit and in these departments everything ran very smoothly but I have also worked within schools where sharing was not part of the education culture. I totally understand that some teachers consider their resources as something personal. Creating resources is time-consuming and teachers don’t often get rewarded for their creativity which makes them even more reluctant to work collaboratively with their peers. It is therefore quite natural that many of us turn to online resources sharing websites. But giving my opinion about selling or sharing resources for free is not the main point of this article. What I would like to emphasize with you is the importance of sharing within schools.

Collaborative work is not just about sharing resources with your colleagues, even if that’s already a good start. Collaborative work in schools means sharing knowledge, expertise and experience to enhance the quality of teaching. It consists of different aspects. You can work within your team and analyze performance data to develop strategies to help students further. You can also work on improving the curriculum by planning Schemes of Work or Unit plans together. Another interesting part of collaborative work within schools is the mentoring and coaching aspect. Teachers who have gained experience in building projects can be asked to deliver training sessions to their peers and that is also a great benefit of collaboration.

collaborative-work-among-teachers

The best schools I have worked with consider sharing resources as a key feature of their strategy to improve the quality of learning-teaching. Teachers who take the time to sit down and share good practice are more likely to stay in the profession than teachers who keep isolated. Schools that foster collaboration through resources fairs, department meetings, and online sharing websites are capable of improving not only the teacher retention but they are also capable of dramatically improving the provision on the long-term. If departments share resources they have at their disposal, less pressure is put on teachers to constantly create brand-new resources and consequently teachers can dedicate more time to teaching.

The collaboration between newbie teachers and experienced ones is often fruitful as the newbies will bring some fresh ideas and technological support while the most experienced will have the expertise and explain what can work and what can’t work with students. Having experienced teachers to be in charge of the induction of new teachers will be a good way to engage them both. While experienced teachers will help new teachers in terms of lesson planning, observations and mentoring, new teachers will help experienced ones with other tasks like incorporating more technology or building a new curriculum. From this collaboration should result a better teaching practice for everyone.

Not only will the teachers benefit from collaborative work but also the students. When you have some students in your class and you are not quite sure what to do to best support them, the best thing to do is to contact your peers. They will help you with the profile of the students and together you can then put some strategies in place to unlock these students’ potential.

Collaborating with one another is not always an easy task but it is really worth the try. I suggest you try different options and find the ones that best suit you. Keep in mind that the first step in collaborative work is often the most difficult one but honestly once you have overcome any doubts you may have, collaboration is one of the greatest tool there is to improve education on the long-run.

Teachers need to look after themselves

Teachers need to look after themselves

Teachers are always good at giving advice to students in terms of health and wellbeing. However how many of us do actually have healthy habits, how many of us do nurture their friendships and personal lives? If we want to perform well and bring our students what they need to learn we need to work on our energy, on our mind, diet, body and spirit.

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First of all try to diagnose yourself. Why do you have endless headaches and migraines, stomach aches etc.?We are the type of teachers who are exhausted at the end of the school year because we have given everything we had. We tend to work a lot, sometimes too much even to the burn-out. In some countries especially in the UK, where I used to work, teaching is said to be the most stressful job!Depression, anxiety and burn-out have become the teacher’s diseases and the workload and long hours have left some with no other choice than quitting their position. Our own health and wellbeing is something we often neglect. Even though teaching is a rewarding profession on a personal level, many of us are struggling with the stress and pressure we have to face on a daily basis with new systems being put in place for instance or dreadful behavior from some students.

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Once you know that it is high time you stopped for a while, try to make a list of all the things that usually help you feel better. How about chatting with an old chap, enjoying a glass of wine with your partner or best friend, going shopping, reading a book, having a bath, and watching a feel good movie? These are little things that can make a great change in our busy life. I once needed that time off and a dear colleague of mine just brought me a basket with some cheese, wine and candles to wind down. That made a huge difference! He just spent some of his time listening to me and that helped a lot. He was such an awesome person and I am sure that there are amazing people around you. Maybe not all your colleagues will be supportive, maybe some will even enjoy some kind of competition while all you really want is to have a nice chat. Well then find some people with whom you will have some nice constructive time. They may be members of your department but they can also be members from other departments or non-teaching staff.

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So look around you and stop isolating yourself. There are true people that care for you. We sometimes get so caught up in the work we do that we forget to care about our own relationships. Nurturing relationships is something crucial to our well-being. So, yes, maybe you don’t know what to say to your friends or maybe you are stuck while writing them an email, but at least give it a go.