Tag Archives: education

I AM A SUCKER FOR DEADLINES (THE RED FLAGS I MISSED)

28 Aug

assignment deadlineI entered the lecture room eagerly as I couldn’t wait  to see the presentations the students were going to make.  Boy, was I excited.  No one was present.  They were never usually late so that should have been the first red flag but pity me all wrapped up in my excited anticipation did not pick it up.

Twenty minutes later, they strolled in collectively.  It had never happened.  Another red flag but I missed it.   They were not their usual animated selves;  another red flag. I missed it too. I attributed the almost lethargy to them being tired from their involvement in the college’s events  of the past few days, and  earlier that morning.

I proceeded to give the ground rules and order of presentations then I sat  expecting  compliance. I was not prepared for what happened next.  NO. ONE. MOVED.  This was when I woke up from my excited anticipation to face reality.   As any responsible person would do i made an inquiry.  Quite bold and audibly, the spokesperson announced :

“Miss we are not ready. We are not finished so we can’t present today. Can we do it next week?”

My eyes opened,  my lips parted,  I instinctively clasped my hands, my chest heaved.  I slowly, softly and sternly uttered  “What. Did. You. Say”?  ( All this time in my mind I am praying “Lord help me find the right words. Let me not blow a fuse.  Curb my tongue”).

No one responded to my soft utterance.  I  stood, looking the all five feet, eight inches of me,  and strutted purposefully  to the front of the lecture room. I said calmly:

 “Today is the ONLY day we are doing this.  The person or persons who misses it, will receive a zero – even if it is the entire class”. 

The spokesperson opened ‘his’ mouth to speak . I stared at ‘him’.  He must have felt its poignancy because nothing came out. I returned to my sitting position.

It hit home.  They realized I was serious.  They started scrambling for their materials.  They attempted to do the presentation. They all failed miserably except two.

Two days later, in my office,  I was visited by two of the students.  I wasn’t in the mood to speak to them. I was still upset but they were persistent.  So I granted them audience but kept writing.  Again, I was not prepared for what I heard  next. One said:

 “Miss, I want to apologize for what happened in class but I respect the decision you made”

Now they had my attention. I placed my pen down looked at them. She continued:

“Yes miss I respect it. We have always relied on going to lecturers as a body; an entire class speaking with one voice. When we do that, we always get the extension. This is the first time it has never worked. We were not prepared for it”

I started laughing. I am still not sure why I was laughing but that was the only response that came out.

The other student joined in.

” yes miss it really surprised me. Didn’t know you would say no. I felt so bad.  But miss, I am starting your next assignment later”

I laughed again. “Lesson learnt”?  I asked  mockingly

“Oh yes miss”  they chimed alternately in varying tones of resolution

They then left.

The long and short of it is, ALL  subsequent assignments came in  on time and we well done.

While at Secondary  Level Education…

  • I was constantly accused by several individuals of being hard on my students when I:
  • Refused to accept late assignments
  • Deducted marks for incomplete assignments
  • Ignored parents pleas for mercy as they accepted responsibility for their children late or incomplete assignments.

I frequently  heard:

“you too difficult man”

“yuh hard eeh”

“you don’t belong in the classroom”

“so why yuh affi so hard”

“I don’t like her; she coulda well ah tek di work”

Thank God my mettle was made of sterner things or maybe I would have believed it all.

As I transitioned to tertiary education, I was even more convinced I was not hard on my secondary students.  I was simply preparing them for life after high school.

As educators, we need to set  and maintain standards. Be consistent.   If we do this, our students will rise to meet the standards.

I am a sucker for deadlines. What about you?

*picture taken from google images

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BASIC ENGLISH 101: EXTRACT FROM FACEBOOK LITERARY CLASS PART IV

27 Aug

english

She is at it again!.

Jamaica continues to grapple with low literacy rate, one visionary administrator  continues to use Facebook as a medium to help  others improve their use of English skills.  It started long ago and it has become the most sought after staple by the friends, acquaintances, followers, peeping toms (reads: inquisitive persons) on her Facebook page.  The English Language is not easy but with constant practice one can certainly achieve mastery of same.  Alcia Morgan-Bromfield has made it quite simple below:

Basic English 101 (AMB Lecture Series)
“I am often embarrassed to hear these words misused especially by persons who should know better” was the far from lengthy preamble she used to commence her class.  The brevity of it is an indication that there is not much to introduce; let’s get down to business.

The Lesson

  1. Presently – soon to happen. Eg: Presently, I will leave for home.

2). At present – happening now. Eg: At present, I am at the nail technician.

3). Lie – to recline or set one’s self down Eg: I am going to lie for a while.

4). Past tense lay; past participle lain

5). Lay – to set something down Eg: Lay the basket on the table.
Past tense laid; past participle laid.

6).Ordinal numbers tell position eg first, second, third etc so we ought to say The 1st of August NOT August 1st

7). Cardinal numbers tell how many as in 15 cows; 10 dogs etc so we ought to say August 1 NOT August 1st

8). Data: plural of datum. Media plural of medium. Bacteria plural of bacterium. Use these nouns with plurals verbs. Eg: These data are valuable to the research. Social media are sometimes misused. Bacteria are both helpful and harmful.

9). Indiscipline: noun – There was an embarrassing display of indiscipline by the young lady.

10). Undisciplined (adj) She is a rather undisciplined person (note NOT indisciplined)

11). Gear ( paraphernalia associated with sports). THERE IS NO “S” ON THIS WORD no matter how many pieces of gear there are.

It does not get simpler than this.

Was this helpful? Please feel free to stop by and comment and let us know

A TEACHER’S TIME

25 Oct

I never intended to have stayed in the classroom. I was suppose to teach for three years and then make my exit or so I thought. More than ten years later, I am still here.

There exists several assumptions that teachers are lazy and do very little work. In a dialogue with a friend – who is not a teacher-  he revealed that teachers are indeed lazy, and do not work enough hours in a day, gets too much holiday, and a host of other babble-about-nothing.

As I reflected on the conversation, it had me thinking and I realize just how much of my time I have given to my students. I was therefore compelled to share some of the these things with you, and discover how you spend some of your time as a teacher.

A teacher is always thinking about the next step

I spend all night thinking of strategies to motivate students to learn.

I spend every alleged ‘free time’ thinking what activities I should use for a particular lesson.

I spend my hours thinking how to handle the student who is emotionally and psychologically destroyed and has reached out to me for help.

I spend every waking moment thinking what am I going to do with the confidential information that students have bestowed upon me without breaking that trust.

I spend my holidays, afternoons, and nights marking papers, and designing plans just to reach that one student who is falling behind.

I spend my hours parenting students outside of regular school hours because parents simple cannot cope, and they needed me to help their child.

I spend my time planning my budget for the week to include that one child who will always come asking for lunch money. Each day I pack my lunch bag, I put something extra in it- not for me, but for the child who will come searching for me in a state of hunger.

I spend my time sacrificing to save an extra dollar to pay for at least two (2) CSEC subjects per student.

I spend my time watching, and nursing the child who is too ill to be at school but parents send him/her anyway.

I spend my time thinking how to help a student to see the best in him/herself.

Simply put, teachers spend most of their time taking care of student’s needs – whether they are at school or otherwise. I can hear some saying it is their job and they are getting paid to it; But teachers are also humans who need time for themselves and their families. For some teachers their families are often left behind because the teachers are often busy with other children.

If you are a teacher, or you know anyone who is a teacher, share what do you or they spend most of your time doing?

*image taken from google image

“IF I WAS YOU… OR “IF I WERE YOU…”: AN EXTRACT FROM A FACEBOOK LITERARY CLASS

19 Aug

That’s the powerful woman standing right there…the lone rose among the thorns

After a heated debate with a colleague about the correct grammatical form of a statement, I took to social media to consult an exceptional education administrator, editor extra-ordinaire, prolific writer, communication and linguistic specialist. I quickly made this post and tagged her in it:

“I need to consult my editor extra-ordinaire, linguistic and communication specialist Alcia Morgan on this one…which is correct:
“If I were you…? or “If I was you…?”
Talk to me please so I can stand corrected and go apologize or say “I knew it”

She did not respond right away . All this time my mind was commenting and chastising itself in a most realistic way. It had conversations like: “Really Alcia, is where you hiding tonight?” Or, “Come man Alcia, I need my confirmation.” The logical mind didn’t miss a beat as it chastised the impatient me “Calm down. The woman have a life” or “She will respond in her own time. Go and find something to do”. I found myself laughing out loud at this internal dialogue. Talk about getting mad. Ah boy. Anyway, back to the story.

Despite my gross impatience, I was not concerned whether she would respond or not, because she just simply cannot resist the urge to share her expertise. It’s an impossible task for her. The wait for me was forever because I was twitching to get her response. However, I was not prepared for the detailed, informative, and profound elucidated response I got. Here it is:

Dorraine Reid, only you could draw me out of hibernation like this. Technically, both are correct from a descriptive linguistic perspective as both express a conditionality; You will never hear a prescriptive grammarian using “if I was’ though. Bear in mind that the prescriptivist (the ones who write the grammar books) SAYS what is correct; the descriptivist express what actually happens. The former “if I were you” expresses a situation that is possible but not real; a hypothetical situation that is contrary to the real situation and thus the use of the subjunctive. “If I was” on the other hand, is indicative and can be replaced with “whenever”. To conclude, the phrase, “if i were you” is the correct use from the “standard” English perspective. In essence, “If I were you, I’d apologize if i have to”.

This response had many facebook-ers quickly clicking away on the like button and sparked a vibrant conversation. It felt good to have been a part of it. As the discussion progressed, it further reinforced the notion that, social media is what we make it. This Educator extra-ordinaire who wears so many hats, uses her facebook page to inspire, motivate, encourage, teach. As we lamented about her brilliance, and I expressed a desire for more persons to read her response to the question, she responded with this:

Seems my page draws a lot of attention….both for those who visit it to see what literary work I’m up to, those who want a motivational moment, to have a laugh or to learn ” the word of the day” and those who just want “grist for their mills”

This is such a factual statement because I am one of them. I live for her facebook posts (and I’m sure I’m not alone) because each one I consume, I walk away with another word added to my vocabulary. It is indeed a literary class on her facebook page.

If I were you, I would get to know her…visit her page or ask Mr Google.

THE KINGDOM CALLED CLASSROOM

11 Jul

The classroom is not the teacher; it is not the students and it is certainly not the building. Why not you ask? Teachers need someone to teach or facilitate; students need someone to facilitate them and lastly, teaching and learning does not always take place inside a building. I will not expend the energies to give a definition of classroom management as several scholars have posited various definitions for this terminology. All of them may not agree as to what the definition is but the fundamental thing to note is that they all have similar underlying meaning or suggested purpose. According to Evertson and Weinstein (2006), classroom management has two distinct purposes: “It not only seeks to establish and sustain an orderly environment so students can engage in meaningful academic learning, it also aims to enhance student social and moral growth” (p. 4).

I believe all educators should re-orient their thinking and not see themselves as mere teachers but managers. Yes! That’s right. Education Managers. The teaching profession is a whole conglomerate by itself. This is because teachers are managers of time, content, people, behaviour, resources, process and the list goes on. When this happens, they will take a more holistic approach to tasks or the roles they play in the education process. Please note that if a classroom is not properly managed, then effective teaching and learning will only be an elusive concept desired by many.   By properly managed I mean, rules, regulations and procedures to guide actions. Mind you, these may exists but not enforced. Thus a part of properly managing a classroom is to ensure these rules, regulations and procedures are enforced. Once these are absent, then disruption, chaos, disorder and even dis-respectfulness reigns supreme as lord & King in the kingdom called classroom. When these undesirables take charge of the teaching and learning space, then teachers struggle desperately to impart knowledge; students are not engaged in the learning process, hence do not grasp adequate content; the result of which is frustration and demotivation for both parties. Conversely, a well-managed classroom results in productive teaching and learning. May I point out that productivity is not easily achieved with the wave of a magic wand, or utterances over a crystal ball. It takes hard work. Being an effective class manager/education manager is not a hereditary trait that inevitably misses some persons but more so one that grows and develops as he/she proceeds in this role.

Being a good classroom manager is not as difficult as it may seems and neither is it a walk in the park BUT with consistent practice, you will eventually become an expert at it. There are some basic things that a teacher needs to do to set him/herself on the path to becoming an effective classroom manager.

Yup! The tips/rules are important.

  1. Your first task is to establish expected behaviour for both parties in the teaching and learning process. This is best done with the input of students. This gives them the opportunity to not see themselves as mere subjects and you the teacher as general King-Kong but more so as subjects with voices and equal privileges in this kingdom. As a drama teacher is training I was advised to employ this strategy using what is called a “Drama contract” created by both teacher and student; In other words, an agreement between teacher and students. This worked perfectly well while in training. When i got into the system as a fully fledged licensed teacher, I suddenly grew a chip on my shoulder: “I’ve got this. I don’t need to do this anymore” or so I thought. As quickly as it came, that chip fell away when I realized I was not in control of my class.

Others include:

  1. Make promises and follow through on them. Whether this be promise of reward or punishment. It sends a message to students that you mean business.
  2. Be consistent. For e.g, if you have a rule that students should form a line before entering your classroom, stick with it and do it all the time. This will help students learn about the culture of your classroom. Additionally, sooner or later you will not have to tell them what to do. So that is one less task on your hand. With you employing consistency, your job has just got easier.
  3. Ensure you plan interesting and exciting lessons that keeps students engaged. If students are bored, they will sleep or become disruptive.
  4. Lessons should not only be exciting but they must be at a level appropriate for age group. In other words, they should be too simple not should they be too difficult. The degree of difficulty should be so that students are challenged in the process but it is not beyond their abilities to grasp and comprehend.
  5. Ensure particular life skills are employed by students such as the ability to manage time through tasks given, make notes without being prompted, etc…
  6. Create and utilize special coding procedures for example, when the teacher hold up her right hand, students know that they should all go quiet; or the teacher may employ a counting methodology where he/she counts to three. This must be understood by students and established at the beginning of a class if it is to be effective.

These are by no means the ONLY classroom management strategies but these are basic strategies that any education manager could start with. I am sure you will explore others. Some may be just a basic but I know you will develop others that are more intermediate and advanced. In this Kingdom called the classroom, the management of it is flexible and allow each educator to stamp his or her own creativity and style. Just remember, the aim is to effectively manage the classroom or should I say the teaching and learning process.

 Stay tuned for more in this special feature…in the mean time. feel free to share your thoughts.

*Picture taken from google image

WHERE DID ROTE LEARNING GO?

12 Jun

Two one’s two, two two’s four, two three’s six….

 

Here it is. Do you remember having one of these?

Do you recall saying (or should I say singing/chanting) this after lunch while you were in primary school? It was the highlight of the day. During that time, our little exercise book had them laid out in detail at the back. Without fail, you could enter almost any school compound after the lunch break and there would be at least two classes reciting timetables…I seldom hear this anymore.

Do you recall reciting poetry? The teacher would write it on the board or on a chart and you would have to learn it by heart. One of my favourite was “The Revolt of Chief Tacky” by Alma Norman. There were slots allotted for reciting the poetry in class. At that time the teacher would tell you to say it with lots of facial expression. He/she would help you interpret it so you understand it so you could find the right expression. Thus, learning poetry was fun…I seldom hear this anymore.

I still remember my timetables; I still remember some of the poems learnt then…So I ask the question, is rote learning bad?  With reform in education, so-called experts ruled that using rote is not learning and students need to learn higher order thinking skills. I wholehearted agree that children must be made to develop higher order thinking skills early but I also contend that there are somethings that are best learnt through rote. Some persons may disagree with me but that is okay.  I was recently  doing some calculations with a student and when I asked her seven times seven (7×7), she paused and it took her a while to give me the answer. Out of curiosity, I started asking her some others in the same way they were asked of me in primary school and she was stunted. She did not know.

The fact is, despite higher order thinking being the best way to go, rote learning has a place and serves a valuable function in our education system. We should have found a balance between the two; instead, we threw out the baby with the bath water. We aim to improve numeracy but how will we do that when our students do not know timetables? How are we going to improve literacy when our students do not read and are not having fun learning poetry, prose and short stories?

There are some things that as educators we must revisit and implement; see their worth and determine where they best serve their purposes.

Did you recite timetable regularly and do you still remember them? Do you recall poems learnt in primary school? Is there anything you learnt through rote and you still remember it? Share your thoughts here.

 

TEACHERS ARE MOTHERS TOO!

12 May

 

“Mommy! Mommy!” Were the words uttered by a high pitched voice as I made my way across the school’s compound in the boiling sun. But of course I didn’t I respond because I didn’t know or even expect someone to be referring to me. I suddenly felt a small pair of arm engulf my waist accompanied by the words: “mommy why you ignoring me? You didn’t hear me calling you”? I turned my head in the direction of the voice and was met with the most radiant smile and full eyes shining bright with excitement. The polite teacher came to the fore and I smiled, return the embrace and explain my ignorance to the title. (All this time while smiling I am saying in my mind: God, why this picney think I’m her mommy)
But, you know what, she is good student, so the pleasantries ended just as they had began as she merrily skipped off to class.

Weeks later, loitering in the school yard with a colleague and I heard the familiar expression “hi mommy” but this time it was not directed at me and it wasn’t my supposedly “daughter”. Another young lady has decided to bestow upon my colleague the title of mommy. As I watched the interaction between the two, I smiled and thought it was an appropriate title.

I believe if the students did not genuinely feel like teachers treated them as their own children, then they would not have had this sense belonging to use such title.

I could outline several stories of how motherly teachers can be but I would not be finished. As I write, the one that jumps out at me was call I received late one night…

 

Flashback

It’s 10:30pm.   The loud ring of the phone rudely interrupted the savoring intimate moment  in bed having with one of my scintillating John Grisham book. I uttered unintelligibly sounds (I call them that because no phrase was completed I’m sure) and angrily grabbed the phone. When I look at it I didn’t know the number but I was ready to tell the person on the other end of the line a piece of mind but I was beaten to it. As I pressed the answer button, an irate voice came through:
“miss Reid, you better talk to da picney ya because me naa go put up wid har; it look like stick bruck inna har ears. She nuh seem to listen to nobody but miss, me a tell yuh, it goin be judgement in yah…”
And she went on and on. I listen and when I thought she was finished ranting, I inquired what the problem was, then I connected with the child. I will not go into the details of the incident.

I recalled this to highlight the motherly role teachers play in the lives of their students.
Teachers play multiple roles daily. They are mothers. So much so that some become burnt out and have nothing left for their families. Ever heard the saying that teacher picney (meaning: child) bad? Well one reason (and I’m going out on a limb here) may be that they are so busy during the days nursing & parenting students, there is not much left to give their children when they get home. (Look, I have no empirical data to support this hypothesis so don’t start going kittens about it but… it is something worth considering). It is worth considering because we often do not look at the psychological effect the rigors of teaching may have on teachers. I draw this conclusion based on an assimilation I’m making with another situation. Last August (2013) I analyzed some data for the Child Development Agency (CDA) of Jamaica and the findings showed serious psychological implications on the part of caregivers. A caregiver in one state home facility complained about not wanting to face her kids or deal with them when she gets home in the evenings because of the strain of the day. Now, when I examine the situation, I realized that some of the issues in those state run homes are similar to some in some schools. So I conclude that if these caregivers feel that way then it may be the same for some teachers…anyway let’s get back on track.

The fact is, students are left in the care of teachers each day and it is our duty to do what’s right by them. A friend of mind posted a facebook question recently asking if we were “teachers or cheaters” (thanks for that Alcia Morgan). Teachers do not relinquish the motherly role. Each child is seen as your own. As hard a task it may seem, the students and the biological parents do appreciate it. If you have failed to mother these students, then you are in the category of a cheater.

It may not be a financially rewarding profession but remember, mothers do not get financial reward. The satisfaction of a student coming back to say thanks ( even if it is one out of the hundreds/thousands you have interfaced) is just as rewarding as a biological child being their parents pension..and who knows, one of your students may very well become your pension. I’m just saying…

With teachers day just past, today being mothers day, I want to take the time out to say…Happy mother’s day teachers