As we approach Teachers’ Day, I am reminded of the messages, gift cards and handicrafts I have received over the years being an educator. They never fail to warm my heart to know that to my students, I am their ‘World Champion Teacher’.
Recently in one of our teacher professional development sessions at Crestar Learning Centre, I shared with the participants how important it is to deliver the best possible lesson each time we step into the classroom. When we are able to do that, we could well be on our way to become our students’ World Champion Teachers!
Allow me to share my thoughts on becoming one……
Begin each lesson with activation of prior knowledge, either with animation or objects that can capture attention of children. Seize the moment right from the start to probe their inquisitive minds to think! The feelings of openness, awe and wonder must be cultivated right from the start. This I believe will excite students about their world and fuel passion that will spur them on to further search for knowledge and understanding of their world around them.
Common thinking routines such as see-think-wonder is an approach. Involve as many senses possible from sight to hearing, to touch and even movement. Use a diverse approach to reach out to different individuals with different learning styles from visual to kinaesthetic!
I recall in one of my classrooms, I had a ASQ poster in class to remind 11-year-old students to ‘Ask Stupid Questions (ASQ)’. It was an uphill climb. The fear in sounding ‘stupid’ is real. Most of us have grown up in an environment that has taught us not to ask questions, only need to know the answer. Some parents have shared that their children have been ticked off by their teachers for asking questions. This ‘ask no questions’ culture is unhelpful. My conclusion through my years of classroom experiences is that we can be informed about our students’ learning by the questions they ask. In fact, it is more important than having them spout out answers.
The role of teachers has to change to embrace this new culture. The teacher is no longer the imparter of knowledge and information. The shift must be one towards facilitating learning to firing the imagination of their students, igniting their passion for learning, encouraging them to ask questions, and challenging students to learn even beyond the classroom.
Model the importance of asking questions- A world champion teacher needs to ask questions intentionally to facilitate learning. We no longer can provide information as fast as Google. Didactic teaching alone, or when overused, will no longer make the cut for one to be the world champion teacher! The shift is now for teachers to be able to ask good questions at ‘hinge point’, to help students take their learning forward. Our questioning skills now play a vital role to lead discussion, to guide understanding, to develop thinking skills.
Change is a constant in this world. In this age of technological advancements, many organisations have positioned themselves to be leaders in innovation.
Think of your classroom as one of such organisations. In all your classroom activities, be innovative. Think of new ways to engage your students, new ways to carry out administrative processes, new ways to instil new habits or actions in your classroom routines. Create surprises, introduce innovative methods to learn things with your students.
Very often, we are hampered by the fear of failure that hinders us from exploring possibilities. Next time when you fail, try re-framing the problem, an approach that is promoted in Design Thinking cycle in finding solutions especially in complex situations.
As you explore possibilities, there will be ‘unsuccessful’ moments. Even if it is the umpteenth time of failure, there must be acceptance of individuals (including yourself) so that they are without guilt, shame, blame or embarrassment. The mindset is to encourage yourself to ‘never stop learning’ from mistakes and, or failure. Daring to fail and trying again should be the hallmark of any innovative organisation, including your classroom. Your students will soon catch the ‘innovative bug’ from you!
It is through failure that one develops grit, and other character traits that will helpful for life. It is a natural tendency for parents (and teachers) to over-protect children from all harm. The truth of the matter is giving children some ‘child-size’ adversity and allowing them to fall down and get back on their own is good for them.
May your enjoy your journey ahead as you seek to be the World Champion Teacher to your students – by being inspirational, inquisitive and innovative! Believe in yourself! You can.
Happy Teachers’ Day!
Ms Soh Bee Ling/ Head of Enrichment Division/ Crestar Education Group shares her experience of more than 20 years as a trained educator, with both teaching and leadership experience in Singapore MOE schools as well as schools overseas.