A teacher, I feel, gets better over the course of a teaching career. In my own case, this is true. Though I have been a teacher all my life, I am continually learning.
After a decade of teaching, I am an immensely better teacher now than I was ten years ago. It would be sad if this were not the case…
I have spent the past ten years engaged in continuous development, reading, writing, reflecting, sitting literally at the feet of some of the greatest teachers in the ELT profession…
Call their names, and I assure you, I have sat in their shadows, listened to these giants, watched them, learned all I could from them…
My personal successes I have built on, when I have been unsuccessful I have studied harder, analysed the causes of performance, and used the knowledge gained to reach better outcomes.
Above all, I retain a sense of joy and wonder that makes each day in a classroom fun, enjoyable, memorable.
When we consider teaching and learning, learning comes first. It has more importance than teaching, because counter-intuitively, learning can happen in the absence of teaching…
Innovation stems from risk-taking. An innovation is not to be confused with an invention. An invention is a creation of something new, while innovation means taking the risk to do something a different way. Because there is already an established way of doing things, you run the risk of having poor results by trying something new.
Innovation therefore, requires courage, and above all, a supportive environment that has a tolerance for unsuccessful attempts at implementation. If this tolerance condition does not exist, then, you are well advised not to try to innovate. You would be better advised to seek out the time and the place where the conditions exist to support innovation and creativity.
A great educator, John Dewey once said, “Education is not preparation for life; Education is life itself.”
I think I understand what Dewey meant by those words. For me, Dewey was saying that in the process of educating, you were living life, not waiting for some future moment when your education would no longer interfere with your life.
How does that concept work in pedagogical terms? Your students, from a holistic standpoint, are more than learners who are waiting to receive your knowledge. They are more than the sum of their test scores. They are the present, and what you do or do not do, say or do not say, will stay with them forever.
So, Dewey was saying that teachers affect eternity, through their students. That’s awesome. Eternity begins now, in the present, and it carries on to posterity. That’s how I interpret Dewey’s quote about education.
Maybe you agree, others might not share my interpretation, yet we can agree that pedagogy requires a holistic vision of teaching and learning. Yes, I know, historically there have been and will continue to be new models of pedagical thought. However, at the center of any pedagogical focus will always be the well-being of the student.
I draw three short interrelated conclusions from the above reflections. One, teachers are the key to any successful school system. Two, teachers are the key to innovation in education. Three, teachers are the fundamental pillar upon which education itself rests.
The implication is an obvious one: a great teacher for every school, a great teacher for every classroom, a great teacher for every student. Teachers, teachers, teachers…
**How the world’s best performing school systems come out on top
Quote: “The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers; the only way to improve outcomes is to improve instruction; and achieving universally high outcomes is only possible by putting in place mechanisms to ensure that schools deliver high quality instruction to every child.” – Barber et al 2007: 43
Pacific Tigers: South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore are 4 of the Top Ten school systems in PISA and TIMMS. – Barber et al. in “Oceans of Innovation”, 2012
What explains their excellent performance?
“First, they all attach high value to the teaching profession.
Indeed, teachers are revered.
In Korea, a key part of the strategy over decades has been to attract great people into teaching by paying them excellently – and finding the money to do so by having large classes. The strategy has worked.
The systems ensure that the teachers they attract also develop themselves continuously so that over a career they become better and better.
In Shanghai, teachers are required to watch other teachers teach regularly.
In Japan, often a small group of teachers will plan a lesson together, watch each other teach it, then refine and improve it collaboratively;… It is called Lesson Study.
Innovation requires, first of all, people with the right skills and attributes. In the modern world, individuals must be creative, tenacious and passionate, striving for excellence and the pursuit of new ideas. Regurgitation of existing knowledge, the historical focus of education, is no longer sufficient.
Second, these individuals must be selected and combined into effective teams. Top teams bring individuals with diverse backgrounds and perspectives together around a shared mission and set of values. The best teams learn to rely on, support and teach one another – creating a culture of learning and supportive feedback that improves the individual and, therefore, the team. They argue and debate in pursuit of a closer understanding of truth. Together, they take responsibility for their mutual success and strive to perform above expectations to improve their organisation.
Third, organisations should be structured to be cross-functional and have fluid organisational roles. As mentioned above, there should be a balance of chaos and order: enough order and structure to drive to action but enough ambiguity to keep people uninhibited by the past and challenged by questions. Innovative people, teams, and organisations need a constant source of challenging and informed feedback. – Barber et al. in “Oceans of Innovation”, 2012
This book, “Unlocking Reading For All Students, shares reading fundamentals that were presented to a group of teachers at a school where I worked, Colegio del Verbo Divino, in Las Condes, in the city of Santiago de Chile. In this sense, it has undergone actual practical application of the concepts presented.
Further, in terms of theory, this book aims to share research on reading, and more importantly, how to help students unlock the key to a lifetime of pleasure and learning. It does not seek to cause controversy, rather, it seeks to serve as a reference for the first time teacher of reading and for the experienced teacher of reading who wishes to return to the basics of reading, as defined by the National Reading Panel in 2000.
Moreover, this book was made available, freely to the general public on “Slideshare.” After it has been viewed over seventeen thousand times (17,000) by teachers from all over the world, I am convinced of its value to you, dear reader, in your quest to “Unlock Reading For All Students“…
The global search for high-quality education, embedded in high-performing education systems, has taken on mythical proportions, almost resembling the alchemists’ quest to turn common metals into gold.
It is my hope that the present day search for global education, equitable and providing equality of opportunity for all, shall not cease until the “gold” we seek, has been found.
I therefore dedicate this book to all the educators, researchers, parents and students the world over, who strive to achieve this elusive goal,high-quality education for all the citizens of the world.
In this endeavour, it is my belief that the International Baccalaureate merits a closer look, based on their more than 40 year history of delivering consistently excellent results.
I add that all of the reflections and views in this book are mine alone, unless otherwise noted, and can not be attributed to my employer or any other organization I am affiliated with, past or present. For any errors or oversights, I bear the complete responsibility.
Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He is the Head of the English Department at Colegio Internacional SEK in Santiago, Chile.
He is the Co-Founder and Co-Organiser of EdCamp Santiago, free, participant-driven, democratic, conversation based professional development for teachers, by teachers. EdCamp Santiago 2012 was held at Universidad Mayor in Santiago.
Thomas is also a member of the Advisory Board for the International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association (HETL), where he also serves as a reviewer and as the HETL Ambassador for Chile.
Thomas enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. Thus far, he has written the following genres: romance, historical fiction, autobiographical, sports history/biography, and English Language Teaching. He has published a total of forty four (44) books overall.
The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family, his wife Gabriela, and his son, Thomas Jerome Baker, Jr.