Category Archives: teaching

Reciprocal Teaching VIDEO

One goal of many teachers is to help their students to become independent and self-directed learners. One tools for achieving autonomous learners is the use of reciprocal teaching. The video below explains the steps involved in utilizing reciprocal teaching in the classroom.

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Types of Planning

Planning is a critical part of the educational process. Teachers plan every day what they will do. Administrators might actually do more planning than the teachers at times. Due to the nature of their position, leaders need to make many different types of plans to guide their institutions. In this post, we will look at some of the different types of plans that are used by institutions.

Hierarchical Plans

Hierarchical plans are plans that have levels to them. There are several types of hierarchical plans. Some of the hierarchical plans include strategic administrative and operating plans. Each of these plans serves a specific purpose within an institution.

Strategic plans explain the general position of the school in terms of mission and vision. The strategic plan may also include a philosophy statement of what the institution is about. This is perhaps the highest level at which planning can take place. In addition, most accreditation agencies expect some sort of mission and vision statement along with evidence of how these statements are communicated to shareholders.


The administrative plan is for determining the allocation of resources within an institution. Another way to see this is the administrative plan explains how resources are distributed for the achievement of the mission and vision statement of the strategic plan. The purpose behind this is that resources must be shared to achieve the mission statement of the institution and thus the strategic plan guides the administrative plan which is focused on implementation.

Lastly, the operating plan deals with the day-to-day running of the institution. After the vision is set, and the resources are distributed, the operating plan uses the resources daily. This can include salaries, lesson plan development, grade submission, activities for students, etc.

Frequency of use plans

There are of course other plans besides the hierarchical plans mentioned above. Another type is frequency of use plans. These are plans that are referred to often in the day-to-day of the institution. Standing plans include the rules, policies, and procedures of an organization. Policies guide decision-making and guide behavior. Examples can include policies and professional development which are often not rigid and can be negotiated with the school or committee in charge of this process.

Rules are stricter than policies and remove the interpretation that can happen under policies. For example, it might be a rule that teachers can only spend a certain amount of money on travel per year. Lastly, Procedures specify steps to take to complete a task, such as logging into the institution’s email system.

Some plans might only be used once. These can include budgets that are used once a year and then updated. Other examples can be plans for a project which has a specific start and end date. Once the project is over the plan will probably not be reused again.

Other PLans

There are also several other miscellaneous plans. Time-frame plans are plans based on the duration of the plan. Short plans are less than a year and an example would be most lesson planning. Medium plans last up to five years and are generally institutional-level plans to meet accreditation expectations. Lastly, long-term plans are over five years in length and are generally long-term development plans for an institution.

Plans can also be focused within a specific scope of the institution. There could be specific plans for various departments within a school. In addition, plans might only involve specific stakeholders. For example, there might be plans that only affect teachers or only affects students. Lastly, there are also contingency plans which are plans that usually deal with emergencies such as fires or natural disasters.


Planning is always going to be a major responsibility of institutions as they look for ways to support their stakeholders. The examples shared here are probably plans that many have made before but may not know the exact terminology involved. Therefore, hopefully, what was shared here is insightful.

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Strategic Management for School Administrators

Strategic management is focused on guiding an institution in developing a sense of purpose, directions, and ways of achieving various goals. All institutions need some form of strategic management, whether it involves developing this from scratch or modifying a pre-existing one. The process of strategic management is broken down into the bullets below.

  • Vision and mission
  • Strategic analysis
  • Objectives development
  • Strategy development
  • Implementation strategies
  • Evaluation

These bullets above are part of a strategy cycle, and as such, there is no true step 1. Institutions must go through each of these steps depending on where they are in the process. In addition, this process is similar to the process that schools go through to achieve and or maintain accreditation.

School Vision and Mission

Schools should have both a vision and a mission statement. The vision statement shares what the institution to achieve. What is missing from a vision statement are details on the strategy to achieve whatever the vision is. To simplify, a vision statement tries to explain why a school is in service or exists. Below is an example of a vision statement of a fictional school

To train students for tomorrow.

The vision above is vague but provides a general sense of direction for the school.

The mission statement provides details that are missing from the vision statement. The mission statement explains or provides how the vision statement will be achieved. IT’s still broad but not as broad as the vision statement. Below is an example that extended the fictional school’s vision statement above.

This school will provide students with interacting and engaging learning experiences that develop a child’s character’s social, emotional, and intellectual aspects.

The mission statement above provides hints as to how the vision will be achieved. Students will experience interactive and engaging experiences that develop their character. More details about what these experiences will be are provided in the objective stage of strategic management.

Strategic Analysis

The strategic analysis examines the external and internal environment that the school is experiencing. This could involve looking at the local community and potential sources for students for the external analysis. For the internal analysis, a school may collect statistics on faculty, staff, and students on various metrics. Common ways of completing this stage can involve a SWOT analysis, PESTEL, or Porter’s 5 forces.


This analysis aims to establish the context in which the school is functioning. For new schools, this provides insights into the community that the school may not be aware of. For older schools who are repeating this process, the strategic analysis helps the school to keep abreast of changing demographics and culture both within and outside of the institution.


The process explained here is incomplete and only covers two of several steps in strategic management. For now, the point is to understand the importance of developing a vision and mission and exploring the context in which a school works.

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Cultural Intelligence

Today people live in a multi-cultural environment which necessitates the ability to understand people who are different but also be able to adjust one’s approach in the classroom. These skills are even more needed if a teacher moves into a different cultural context, such as working overseas. In this post, we will look at cultural intelligence and some of the teaching and training approaches available for educators who may choose to work overseas.

Cultural Intelligence

Cultural intelligence measures an individual’s ability to perform in diverse cultural settings. Someone with high cultural intelligence can function well and with little difficulty in a culture that is foreign to them. This concept is broken down into four dimensions which are cognitive, metacognitive, motivational, and behavioral.


The cognitive dimension measures an individual’s knowledge of the new culture they are experiencing. The metacognitive dimension measures a person’s ability to use their cross-cultural knowledge to understand and adjust to the new cultural environment. The Motivational dimensions assess the desire to continuously learn about the new culture. Lastly, the behavioral dimension is a person’s ability to practice culturally appropriate actions.

Preparing for a New Culture

There are several commonly used approaches to preparing employees, such as teachers, for overseas cultural experiences. For example, low-rigor training exposes a teacher to critical information to understand the basics of the new culture before experiencing it. An example of low rigor training would include reading books on the culture, lectures, or taking a course in managing foreign students. Most of the approaches at this level are passive in nature.

High rigor training is cultural training in which the participants are actively involved. Examples of this form of training include language classes, case studies, and on-the-job training that takes place after leaving home. Such an approach allows the teacher to experience the culture and learn how to function in the new context.

The timing of training also matters, and this can take place before arriving in the new culture or after arriving in the new culture. In general, the longer a person plans to be overseas, the more training the will need to succeed. If the trip is only for a month, there will not be a huge need for extensive high rigor training because of the short duration of the trip. However, if teachers are overseas for years, they will require more support to adjust to the new culture.

Another factor to consider is how different the culture is from the one a teacher is coming from. For example, a US citizen going to Canada or Mexico will need much less support than a US citizen moving to China. This is because Mexico and Canada have much more in common with the US than with China. However, there are a lot of factors left out of this example, such as the ethnicity of the person who is moving and their prior experience with other cultures.


Having the opportunity to work in another country or culture is always an exciting opportunity. However, it doesn’t take much to fail if one is not prepared. Having an idea of how to function in the new culture through developing one’s cultural intelligence is beneficial for the teacher and the students under their care.

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Responsibilities and Skills of Teachers

Every job has its list of responsibilities and skills required for the position. This post will look at some of the common skills and responsibilities associated with teaching.


Teachers are expected to spend a large amount of their time making daily and long-term lesson plans. Developing these plans can include setting long-term goals, short-term objectives, procedures, assignments, and more. However, Once plans are developed, they have to be implemented, which involves coordinating students’ behavior and, at times, working with people outside of the class for various reasons.


Teachers have to constantly observe the behavior of their students and make adjustments to what plans or goals they have in mind. For example, if students are struggling, the teacher needs to slow down and reteach. Suppose the problem is not comprehension but a rather poor attitude. In that case, the teacher needs to modify how they enforce rules.

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Teachers also have to track resources such as paper, pencils, books, time, etc. These things must be observed while also trying to move forward in the curriculum and maintain learning.

Professional Development

Teachers also must stay abreast of the latest developments in their field. This includes changes and innovation in teaching and in one’s area of expertise. Different fields change at different speeds, but all teachers have to stay current to help students to be prepared for the workforce and or college.

Staying current in one’s profession is not overly time-consuming. The real challenge is doing this along with the other responsibilities of teaching and the demands of one’s life outside the classroom.

Skills of Teachers

The skills of teachers can be broken down into three categories

  • Technical skills
  • Human relation skills
  • Conceptual skills

Technical skills are essentially the expertise of the teacher. For example, a math teacher knows math and can use it practically. In addition, teachers must have technical knowledge of teaching, such as familiarity with pedagogy and various approaches to instruction. Generally, a teacher must have a high degree of technical skill because they are a teacher to others.

Human relation skills are the ability to work with other people. Teachers need to have ways to connect with students to inspire enthusiasm and growth. In addition, teachers also need to maintain relationships with other teachers, parents, and the administration. Working with others is often dicey, and surprisingly, teachers can often struggle to maintain a cordial relationship with their peers, students, and community members.

Conceptual skills relate to planning and seeing the big picture. Developing this skill comes with experience. For example, new teachers often cannot see beyond developing daily lesson plans, while more experienced teachers can plan months or semesters at a time. Conceptual skills become more important if a teacher moves more in the direction of leadership after a few years in the classroom.


Teaching is a challenging field in that it calls on a person to keep track of several important tasks while also developing themselves and working with others. Since doing this is no easy task, perhaps that is why so many teachers can find their jobs challenging.

DNA, Proteins, & Origins

DNA and proteins are critical building blocks to life. However, the origins of these important components are not clear. IN this post, we will explore some of the challenges to the origins of DNA and proteins.


A major problem that scientists wrestle with as they try to explain the origins of man as to do with DNA. DNA is the basic blueprint that allows for the various life that is found on this earth. DNA serves many purposes but among them includes giving instructions to cells for protein production and passing this information to the next generation.


One of the main obstacles facing evolution is that DNA is necessary for the formation of proteins. However, proteins are needed for copying and translating DNA into proteins. This implies that both DNA and proteins had to evolve at the same which does not currently seem to make sense. How could two key components of life evolve at the same time and also need or know that they must work together?

RNA & Proteins

One suggestion has been that RNA evolves before DNA. However, in its own way, RNA is just as complex as DNA and it is hard to find evidence that supports RNA or DNA evolving spontaneously. So far there is no evidence of even one DNA or RNA molecule evolving from lifeless chemicals to make one protein. Nor is there any evidence of proteins forming naturally.

Once DNA is here things do not get any easier. The order of the DNA letters used in the genetic code must be in the right order. IN addition to the challenge of sequencing, there must also be sequences of code around a sequence that controls the production of the sequence. For example, nobody wants their genes constantly telling their body to control. If such a thing happened it can and has led to health dangers for people. The odds of all this happening even over billions of years is essentially zero.

Proteins are made of amino acids and this presents another problem. There has been speculation that life evolved in the ocean billions of years ago. However, it is difficult for amino acids to form in the water to make proteins. Proteins are absolutely essential for life and if the amino acids cannot form or are hindered it could have major ramifications. What this implies is that there are major questions that need to be answered in order to validate the theory of evolution.


There are many unanswered questions concerning DNA and the origins of life. With time perhaps an answer will be found. Right now, there is only speculation.

Roles and Status in the Classroom

ROles and status are terms related to societies that can also be examined from the classroom perspective. This post will look at roles and status and how they influence the classroom learning environment.


Roles are behavior patterns that are associated with a person’s status. In the classroom, the most common roles are teacher and student. However, this is an overgeneralize as the roles of an individual could be nuanced and complicated by various factors. In addition, a student and or the teacher’s role in the classroom can be influenced by their roles outside the classroom, as we will see.

Status is a term related to a role and is the benefits and burdens of a person’s role. For example, there are advantages to being a teacher in the classroom. One is the leadership position in which the teacher tells students what to do instead of being told what to do. However, there are also burdens such as discipline problems, dealing with difficult parents, and low pay. There are also pros and cons to being a student. Students have much less responsibility compared to teachers but are also under constant surveillance and control by adults.

Being a teacher is an example of an achieved status or a form of status that a person works for. Other examples of achieved status are entrepreneurs, actors, athletes, pilots, etc. Ascribed status, on the other hand, is a status that a person does not choose. Generally, many K-12 students have this status ascribed to them by their parents and the government, and many would prefer not to be a student.

Teachers and students often have multiple roles, which is called a role set. A teacher could be a parent, spouse, family member, friend, leader, a musician in addition to their teaching role. A student can also have multiple roles such as child, sibling, athlete, worker, to name a few.

If a person has to perform too much under their role, it can lead to role strain. For example, teaching is often demanding enough for many individuals. If the job becomes too burdensome, burnout can take place. The same is true for students who are struggling with academics.

If two or more roles lead to conflict, this is an example of role conflict. For example, suppose a teacher is having problems in their role as a parent. In that case, it can carry over and affect their performance in the classroom. The same can also be said of a student whose role as a child can bring problems into the classroom.

All of the ideas mentioned here have ignored the classroom to a large extent. Students can have different roles within the classroom. Some are more of the leader type, others are the class clowns, while many are simply followers. Teachers can also have varying roles based in part on their teaching style. Some teachers are more controlling, while others are more hands-off. Status can also play a role. An older respected teacher has a different role in their classroom than an untested young teacher.


Roles and status are things people acquire and seek throughout their lives. Sometimes this is good, but not always. Students and teachers need to be aware of their roles so that they can understand when things may not be working well in the classroom.

Acquired Characteristics & Natural Selection

Acquired characteristics is an ancient idea and goes by several names. The ideas behind this term are also called the Law of Use and Disuse and Lamarckianism after the French scientist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. The idea behind acquired characteristics is that if an animal “acquired” a trait in its lifetime, it would be passed to its offspring.

Common analogies to explain this idea include the idea that if a horse had large muscles through hard and strenuous work, its offspring would inherit these muscles. However, the Law of Use and Disuse also meant that if an animal stopped using some part of its body, it would not manifest in the offspring. If we follow this line of thinking, if the person who cannot use their sense of smell has children, then this implies that the children will not be able to smell either. This is possible but not guaranteed.

Charles Darwin also adopted acquired characteristics in the development of his Theory of Evolution. However, a few years after his death, August Weisman conducted an experiment using mice. In the experiment, Wiesman cut off the tails of the mice and then had the mice reproduce. The hypothesis was if the parental mice did not have tails, then the offspring would not have tails.

After cutting off the tails of mice for 20 generations, Wiesman found that the offspring were always born with tails. This simple experiment disproves the ideal of disuse and, by implication, the use aspect as well. Naturally, all this was happening when an understanding of genetics was in its infancy and thus did not wholly negate Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.

Natural Selection

One of the main pillars of evolution is natural selection which states that the strong reproduce and pass on their traits to their offspring and the weak are not as successful for this. Opponents of evolution say that natural selection only selects variation within a species and does not create or generate new species. For example, a dog change color, grow larger or smaller, faster or slower, but it is still a dog. The local environment plays a role in manifesting traits, but it does not necessarily create new genes.

The same argument is supported by artificial breeding. People can change the appearance and even the behavior of animals through breeding. Racehorses, show dogs, milk-producing cows are all results of artificial breeding. Yet, in each example, a horse is still a horse, a dog is a dog, and a cow is still a cow.

There are also limits on variability. For example, there are natural limits in place genetically for animals and plants in terms of such traits like size, color, shape, etc. For example, apples range in size from that of a golf ball to up to four pounds. Whether an apple can evolve to the size of a ton over the course of millions or billions of years is a hypothesis that no scientist will live long enough to test.

Mutations happen naturally, but for an animal to grow a tail or lose an eye or develop the ability to fly, it would take more than one error in a long line of genetic code. Instead, it would take the changing of thousands of letters that have to be wrong in the right location and the right sequence.

The probability of this happening is not zero, and it could happen over millions of years. This requires a goal-directed approach that is being conducted randomly. It also assumes that the environment remains highly unchanged for long periods of time. This means no major changes in the climate, no catastrophic natural disasters, no dangerous diseases, etc. The changes also must be beneficial, and the organism must be lucky enough to reproduce, which is not a given—considering the time required and the need for some general stability, it would be difficult to conduct an experiment that confirms this.

Spontaneous Generation and Evolution

This post will look at the origins of spontaneous generation, how it was eventually disproven, and the rise of evolution in its place.

History of Spontaneous Generation

Spontaneous generation was the belief that living organisms could come from nonliving matter. This theory of life was believed for over 2,000 years until the work of Louis Pasteur and Charles Darwin in the late1850’s. The ideas of spontaneous generation begin in ancient Greece.

A presocratic philosopher named Anaximander is believed by many to be the first purpose that life began spontaneously, around the 5-6th century BCE. In so doing, Anaximander removed the agency of the Greek gods in the creation of man. About200 years later, Aristotle expanded Anaximander’s thoughts in several books that proposed spontaneous generation.

By the middle ages and the enlightenment, several experiments claimed to prove the validity of spontaneous generation. Below are several examples, along with some of the errors in the conclusions.

  • Jan Baptist van Helmont noted that trees grew bigger without any noticeable decrease in the soil around the tree. This indicated to him that the tree was growing spontaneously when the reality was that scientists were not yet familiar with the mechanisms of photosynthesis.
  • Van Helmont also mentions an experiment with wheat. He stated that if you put wheat in a jar and wrapped it in dirty wet underwear, a mouse would “appear” and eat the wheat. In actuality, the mouse would crawl inside when nobody was looking to eat the wheat.
  • Another experiment involved the fact that rotten meat would start to have maggots consume it. With the invention of the microscope, scientists realized that flies were laying eggs on the meat, and that was where the maggots came from. In addition, the experiment was further disproven by wrapping the rotten meat in cheesecloth which prevented the flies from laying their eggs on the meat. Francesco Redi conducted this falsification in 1668.

All of the examples above sowed seeds of doubt, but scientists often would not accept this evidence. This was partly because spontaneous generation was an old and established theory and firmly entrenched as the answer for the origins of life. Rejecting this was difficult personally and professionally, and one did not stand to gain much for this sacrifice. This all began to change with the work of Louis Pasteur.

Louis Pasteur

Pasteur had a radical idea at the time. He proposed to test the theory of spontaneous generation. He did a variation of the pond scum observation that supposedly supported spontaneous generation. Supporters of spontaneous generation stated that the green stuff (algae) grows by itself along with other things in the water, which provided additional evidence of life developing spontaneously. This same scum would grow even in water that was boiled first and then left outside long enough.

Pasteur conducted an experiment in which he placed chicken broth inside a flask. He then boiled the chicken broth to kill anything that was in it. What was different in this experiment from others was that flask had an s-shape top. This s-shape prevented anything from the air from getting inside the chicken broth because this would involve the particles traveling from the sky and then up the s-shape top of the flask.

Pasteur found that nothing ever grew inside the chicken broth. He replicated the experiment in different locations, elevations, weather, etc., and continued to get the same results. When he shared his results, it was the final nail in spontaneous generation. Others had provided evidence, but Pasteur provided evidence at a microbial level. Pasteur was developing his germ theory and was looking to disprove spontaneous generation to strengthen his germ theory position. However, he also had sunk the main view on the origin of life in the process. All this happened in the year 1859.

Darwin & Evolution

Naturally, scientists were distraught at the loss of spontaneous generation. Now the question was, where did humans come from? If life comes from life, does this mean that there is some supernatural explanation for life? Acknowledging a supernatural power that cannot be observed and tested is considered unscientific; however, in one of the incredible coincidences of scientific history, Charles Darwin published his theory on evolution in 1859. In other words, the same year that spontaneous generation was disproven scientifically, another explanation for the development of life was already on the scene.

There had been rumbles of evolution in the past, such as Lamarckianism, Catastrophism, and Uniformitarianism. The difference now was that the audience was much more receptive to another explanation after the most established view was destroyed. Suddenly, Darwin’s theory became the primary explanation for explaining life.

Darwin’s theory of evolution is the main explanation of the origin of life in the scientific community. It has achieved perhaps the same unquestioned standard of acceptance as spontaneous generation. A significant difference between spontaneous generation and evolution is that it is impossible to test evolution. You cannot do an experiment to prove or disprove it. Everything that happens in evolution happens millions of years ago or takes millions of years to happen.

There is observational evidence of evolution from million years ago, but two people can see the same data and come to different conclusions, especially when they are observing things rather than actively causing something to happen, such as in an experiment. Pasteur’s experiment can still be performed today, and the results will not change. Such an experiment (that develops new species over time) is still waiting to happen for evolution, and thus the cause-effect standard of an experiment

Theories of Motivation and the Classroom

Motivation is a crucial driver for success in education. This post will look at two theories of motivation and briefly connect them when appropriate to the classroom. These two theories are Manifest Needs Theory and ERG Theory.

Manifest Needs Theory

Henry Murray developed a theory of motivation called Manifest Needs theory. For Murray, needs are divided into two broad categories called primary and secondary needs. Primary needs are physiological needs, such as food, water, shelter, etc. Secondary needs are needs that people acquire or learn about through life. Examples of secondary needs are achievement, affiliation, etc.

This theory assumes that people are driven to satisfy these needs. If a student is talkative, they probably need affiliation. If a student is hard-working, they probably need achievement. People’s behavior is often an indication of what they need. There is an exception to this, and this is what Murray calls a latent need.

A latent need is a need that cannot be inferred by a person’s behavior. This is probably because the person is not able to satisfy this need. For example, a student may be disruptive because they are bored in class. The behavior indicates a need for affiliation, but the real need is achievement.

The point is that the behavior of a student can often be a clue to what motivates them. However, this comes with exceptions, as was already discussed.

ERG Theory

Clayton Alderfer took a different view of motivation. Alderfer proposes three categories of needs, which are existence, relatedness, growth. These three categories are where the acronym ERG comes from. Existence needs are physiological and material in nature, such as food, water, safety, etc. Relatedness needs are social and include esteem and interpersonal opportunities. Growth needs are related to personal development and include self-esteem and self-actualization.

These categories are ranked. In other words, existence needs must be met first, followed by existence, and lastly by growth. There are four different ways to move or stay in a particular category. Satisfaction progression involves satisfying the needs in one category and then focusing on the next category. For example, if food, water, and safety are taken care of, many students will focus more on relationships.

Frustration happens when people want to satisfy a need but cannot satisfying the needs that belong to a category. This can lead to over-focusing on the need. For example, a student needs attention and interaction but is told to be quiet in class. Being forced to be silent makes the need for socializing even stronger.

The third form is frustration regression. Frustration regression happens when a person cannot satisfy higher needs, so they double down on satisfying lower needs. If a student is not allowed to talk, they may focus on eating or drinking or asking to go to the bathroom. Since socializing is blocked, there is a greater focus on existence needs such as food and hygiene.

The final form is aspiration. This form explains the inherent satisfaction in growth. As people are allowed to grow, they become more and more satisfied with growing.


People are motivated by similar things, but there may be a difference in their behavior and how they satisfy their needs. As teachers, we need to be able to look at our students and determine ways to motivate them to succeed.

Barriers to Decision-Making

A google search will show you that the average person makes 35,000 decisions a day. This seems like a large amount, but teachers make 1,500 educational decisions a day. Making such a vast number of decisions can lead to fatigue, among other problems. A greater danger may be making poor decisions. Here we will look at some common barriers to decision making.

Sunk Cost

Sunk cost happens after a decision is made. What has happened is there are signs that a decision is terrible, but the leadership sticks to the decision because of the investment that has already been made. It is common for teachers and administrators to invest in products and services that later turn out to be inferior. However, because a commitment has been made and resources spent, there is a hope that staying the course will allow for an improvement in the situation.

To avoid this trap, administrators must realize that not all decisions are good ones. This means that when an idea is not working, the administrators or teachers who made the wrong choice to own the mistake shrink the mistake’s cost. Ignoring this to look like you’re in control and know what you are doing can be highly damaging to an institution.


Decision-making should be as informed as possible. However, we never have access to all knowledge. This implies that there is always a measure of risk. Due to the uncertainty, leadership generally will choose the most conservative option available to minimize risk. This is wise at times but can leave tremendous opportunities on the table.

An idea related to uncertainty is a concept called bounded rationality. Bounded rationality states that people who face complex or uncertain situations often cannot make entirely rational decisions. In other words, when facing uncertainty, people’s decision-making can become uncertain or unpredictable. This commonly happens in novel situations in which it is unclear what to do. In such cases, people are limited in how much they can process and thus utilize their intuition to overcome.


People generally want to avoid conflict. This is particularly true when decision-making involves conflict. Despite this, there are times when conflict is the best decision, such as when a student will not obey a teacher. If the teacher avoids the conflict, it sends a message to other students to duplicate the disobedient child’s behavior, which will lead to more significant problems and harsher conflict in the future.

There are at least two ways to think of conflict, and the difference is in terms of what people focus on during the disagreement. Process conflict is focused on improving how to do something and can lead to improved performance. Relationship conflict is a conflict between people that can often gt highly personal and should be avoided. The challenge is that people confuse process and relationship conflict. For example, a student is disrupting the class, the teachers reprimand this, and the student takes it personally.

As a teacher or administrator, it is crucial to keep conflict focus on process and behavior and not on people. When people become the problem, relationship conflict is sure to follow.


Decision-making is a crucial component of everyone’s life. Every day we are all called to make many different decisions. The implications of our choices could be tremendous. Therefore, that is why it is essential to be aware of common roadblocks to making sound decisions.

Decision-Making and Teaching

Decision making is a critical requirement of being a teacher. In any single day, teachers are making dozens of decisions that affect students and others’ lives. In this post, we will look at decision-making methods and the role of emotions in this complex process.

Two Systems of Decision Making

There are two ways in which the brain makes decisions. These two ways are the reactive system and the reflective system. The reactive system is a way of making a decision that does not involve deep contemplative thought. Instead, the teacher is making a decision based on experience and or expertise. Sometimes there is not enough time to go through a thorough thought process, such as during an emergency.

The reactive system is related to the idea of programmed decisions. Programmed decisions are decisions that are made frequently and are often based on some criteria. For example, following a general schedule of teaching is programmed decision-making. Generally, the requirements will be time, but there are instances when the schedule will go off course for learning.

The reflective system is the opposite of the reactive system and is a way of thinking logically, analytically, and deliberately before taking action. This style of decision making is instrumental when facing novel situations or highly complex situations. For a teacher, planning teaching is often a reflective process as it involves deciding the future in advance. When time allows, the reflective system is usually a better choice. However, when time is short, there is no time to think, and the reactive system may be a better option.

Non-programmed decisions are associated with reflective thinking. These types of decisions are for unusual situations in which reflective thinking is needed. When the involvement in the decision is high, the problem probably calls for non-programmed decision making. However, when the involvement is low, then programmed decisions may be a better alternative.


Emotions also play a role in decision making. If feelings are strong, it can often prompt teachers to make poor reactive choices. For example, if a student is disrespectful, the teacher may lose their temper, leading to all kinds of problems. Therefore, when emotions run high, it may be better to wait to decide so that a poor reactive choice is not made.

Emotional intelligence is the skill of recognizing/understanding one’s feelings and the feelings of those around us. When a teacher understands their emotions and their students’ feelings, they can use the information to make better decisions rather than the worst ones. The challenge is feeling the feelings without them overwhelming you. Being in a leadership role in the classroom calls on a higher degree of self-control than what is required of the students. We all know this but it does not prevent people from making mistakes.


Insights into the processes that decisions involve can be beneficial knowledge for teachers. Understanding the harmful yet helpful role of emotions can help teachers avoid pitfalls when it is necessary to make decisions during highly charged situations.

Work Behavior of Students

Students all have their unique personalities. These unique traits that students bring into the classroom can influence their ability to perform academically. This post will look at several personality traits that influence students’ behavior and attitude towards work.


Self-esteem is what someone thinks of themselves. Students who have high self-esteem are often more assertive and ambitious in achieving goals. Naturally, the opposite is true of students with low self-esteem. This means that as a teacher, there may be times when the output and quality of a student’s work are influenced by the self-esteem a student has.

Self-esteem can be affected by the family as well as prior academic success or failure. In addition, self-esteem can also change based on the context. A student might be confident in one subject but timid in another. A closely related term to self-esteem is self-efficacy, which is focused primarily on the student’s belief that they can do something.

Locus of Control

Locus of control is how a person sees if what happens to them is due to their actions or something beyond their control. People with an internal locus of control believe that they have authority over their success and failure. People with an external locus of control believe that they do not have power over their success and failure.

Students who have an internal locus of control are often more motivated and see a connection between effort and reward. This implies that students with an external locus of control are less motivated and do not know the relationship between hard work and reward. In addition, external locus of control students often like to blame the teacher for their academic challenges.


Introverts are often solitary and care little for socially, while extroverts are the opposite. For students, the type of activities a teacher gives can help or harm them based on this trait. Introverted students may prefer to work alone and reflect, while extrovert students love group interaction and projects. Therefore, a combination of introverted and extroverted activities will help to have a balanced learning experience.

Authoritarianism & Dogmatism

Authoritarianism is a person’s view of authority. Students who authoritarian are demanding of people lower than them while being submissive to superiors. Furthermore, authoritarian students are rigid, fearful of change, distrustful, and hate restraint. Non-authortarians are more sympathetic to a democratic style of learning while supporting change.

If a student is authoritarian, they may need a rigidly structured classroom. Non-authortarian students, on the other hand, will thrive better in a more relax, negotiated learning experience.


Working with students requires knowing how the students think and are motivated. Insight into personality is one step in determining how to approach and support students for academic success.

The Shocks of Teaching

New teachers often experience the shock of being a teacher. In this post, we will look at three common shocks new teachers face. These shocks are the shock of the classroom, administration, and peers.

Shock of the Classroom

A new teacher has to deal with the reality of the classroom. The problem here is that teachers are highly familiar with the classroom experience as students. This warps their perception of the classroom as they are no longer a student but a teacher. In other words, the student is now on the other side of the desk as a teacher.

This change can be difficult to adjust to. For example, it is common for new teachers to struggle with developing appropriate relationships with students. By appropriate it is meant avoiding the pitfall of trying to be buddies with the students. Cordial relationships are good as a teacher but the teacher is still an authority figure who needs to respected and obeyed by the students. This balance is difficult for many teachers to find as many new  teachers want to be liked.

Another major challenge is the implementation of all the various teaching strategies that were acquired as a student-teacher. All teaching styles work but all teaching styles do not work for all teachers. It takes time to develop a personal style of teaching and this is learned mainly through trial and error. Unfortunately, the students are the guinea pigs in this process of instructional mastery.

Shock of Administration

Working with the principal also demands a shift in perspective. All teachers were students who interacted with principals before but at a larger social distance. Now as a teacher, the social distance is smaller but this can actually make things more confusing in terms of how to relate.

The principal is a colleague but also superior. They can support a teacher’s teaching with advice and counsel but could also, and even simultaneously, believe that a teacher is unfit for their school. This dual role of supporter and judge can be uncomfortable for many.

Some principals have an open door policy while others say they have an open-door policy because that is what they are supposed to say. Some will help while others will say they will help because that is what they are supposed to say. The mixed messages can be frustrating. However, if there are any significant problems at a school it is the principal who is the first to pay the price. Therefore, many leaders are not only looking at the teachers but also trying to watch their own back.

Shock of Peers

Another shift in perspective needed is dealing with peers. Again, a new teacher brings their viewpoint of being a former student with them when interacting with fellow teachers. Now as a teacher,  a new teacher gets to see what teachers are really like. The gossip in the breakroom, politic intrigue with the administration, complaints about parents and students, and more. Sometimes the atmosphere can be somewhat negative, to say the least.

Dealing with other teachers is not always negative. There are opportunities for collaboration and learning from more experienced teachers. However, it is important to know both sides of the experience so that a new teacher is not disappointed with what they see.


The main problem here is that a new teacher has to deal with changing their perspective on how they see education. Going forward, a new teacher is an authority figure and not a friend and a colleague/employee and not a student. With this transition comes confusion that can be overcome with time.

Contracts and Tenure for Teachers

Finding that first teaching job and signing that first contract is the dream of many young students. Another goal for many is to achieve tenure. In this post, we will look at the teacher’s contract and tenure.


A contract is an agreement with obligations between two or more peoples or parties. It clearly explains the duties and rights of both sides. From the teacher’s perspective, duties can include such things as the teaching assignment, length of the school day, and length of the school year. In terms of rights for the teacher, it may address such items as salary, max class size, and the process for grievances. A grievance is a way to complain about working conditions such as classes that are too large or neglect of building maintenance.

All teachers, including teachers with tenure, sign a contract. The contract is generally of one academic year in length. One reason for this length is because budgets are generally year-to-year and it may be necessary to not renew contracts of teachers. Another reason is that if a teacher who does not have tenure is not performing it is easier to let go of them after a year than if they are signed to a multi-year contract.

Once a contract is signed, it needs to be approved by the school board, the principal or HR Director represents the school board but the contract is generally not considered official until the school board approves it. This is often a formality as the school board usually empowers the local administration to select the faculty.

A breach of contract takes place when either party does not fulfill its obligations in the contract. For example, a school does not pay a teacher or a teacher stops working for the school. The penalties for this vary. For the teacher, it is possible to have your teaching license suspended or revoked. A school that breaches a contract can be fined. However, this varies from state to state.

If it is ever necessary to breach a contract as a teacher it is best to ask for a release through a resignation letter. Often, employers avoid keeping workers who no longer want to be there and the release is granted. Also, the administrative headache of keeping someone employed who does not want to be there is not worth it. Most contracts have some explanation of how either party can get out of it.


Tenure is a removal of the probationary status of a new teacher. With tenure, a teacher moves to what is called a continuing contract, which stays in effect until further notice. This means that signing a yearly contract is mainly a formality until otherwise. Obtaining tenure varies by state. In some places, it based on time serve while in others it takes an action from the school board.

The primary purpose behind tenure is to allow the teacher to focus on teaching without concerns with interference. One example of interference would be worrying if you had a job next year because of philosophical differences with the administration.

Tenure is not a guaranteed job, rather it means that there must be grounds for dismissal. There must be a strong reason to dismiss a tenured teacher as the job now belongs to the teacher. Examples of ways to get fired for teachers with tenure include gross negligence, clear incompetence, or inappropriate behavior with students. Even when a tenured teacher should be dismissed many states require that the tenured teacher is given a chance to change their behavior. The exception being for highly offensive behavior such as being convicted of a crime.

The exception to this is when a school has to reduce the size of its workforce. When a school is struggling financially even tenured teachers are not safe. The school simply needs to demonstrate that they do not have the finances to support all of their current teachers.


A teacher needs to be aware of the hiring and dismissal policies for their own protection. Failure to be aware of the ideas covered in this post could put the teacher in a bad situation in which there appears to be no solution.

Due Process

Conflict is a natural result of interacting with people. Whether in the home or job there are times when rules are ignored and subordinates clash with leadership. In the context of the school, it is important that certain processes are respected and observed when it may be necessary to discipline or terminate a teacher. In this post, we will look specifically at due processes and it’s role in administrative concerns with teachers.


Due process within the context of education means that teachers are treated fairly and their rights should not be violated. Of course, there is always a problem with determining what is fair and what is a violation of a teacher’s rights. Determining these two things is left to the courts to decide for each case.

The idea of due process is derived from the 5th and 14th amendments of the United States Constitution. The fifth amendment speaks of how a person will not be deprived of life, liberty, or property with due process of law. The 14th amendment essentially says the same thing but indicates that the state governments also cannot take away things without due process.

When attempting to determine the fairness of an action an administrator may take against a teacher. There are two forms of due process that need to be considered which are substantive due process and procedural due process.

Substantive due process is essentially how big of a deal the issue/problem is and whether the action of the administration is reasonable for the issue/problem. An example of a substantive process being unfair is if a teacher is terminated from their employment for being 10 minutes late one time. The problem in this example is tardiness and the action was termination. The question to consider is whether being late one time for ten minutes is substantive, or a  big enough of a deal, to justify termination?

Procedural due process relates to how fair the process was for making a decision about a teacher. Returning to the example of the late teacher, if the teacher was dismissed without even hearing their side of the story, many would see that as a violation of procedures. This is because the teacher was not given an opportunity to explain what happened.

Other Factors

The definition of due process varies from one state to the other. However, below are some examples of proper due process when needing to handle disciplinary measures with a teacher.

  • Provide an opportunity for the teacher to share their side of events.
  • Depending on the sensitivity of the situation, a teacher should have an opportunity to confront witnesses
  • Be sure to give ample notice of the termination and evidence for why.
  • The right to an attorney
  • Impartial, objective, decision-making

This is not an exhaustive list. Rather, it is just some of the ideas that one needs to be aware of.

The ideas presented here are primarily limited to the United States. Due process is found in other countries. However, in some contexts, the law is on the books but not enforced. This can leave a teacher in a bad situation without help. This is especially true if foreign teachers who often have no protection when working abroad.


Due process is a tool meant to not only protect the teacher but to also protect the school as well. If a process is conducted fairly the teacher cannot make false claims against the school. As such, both sides need to be familiar with this process just in case it is necessary to make decisions that may appear to be detrimental to one of the parties.

Challenges in Teaching Math

There are challenges and issues in teaching any subject. Math is no exception to the challenge of teaching. In this post, we will look at a brief history of math teaching in the United States and how math is taught in many parts of America today.

Brief History of Math Teaching

Talk to most students, and they while share how it is difficult to learn math. One of the biggest challenges may be how abstract it is. When studying math it is often more of a mixture of drilling with an  expectation to solve problems that have no context or relevancy for the student. For example, solving 2x + 4 = 10 lacks a connection for many students.
Prior to the 1960s mathematics was taught in the United States with an emphasis on computation. Calculate over and over until you get was one of the main philosophies of this approach. During the 1960s, there was a change to an approach called “new math” which focused on the structure or the components/theories of mathematics. This made math even more abstract. In addition, at least with the focus on computation a student could memorize the steps to complete problems, with the “new math” approach the focus on theories without heavy computational practice made learning difficult.

Teaching Math Today

Today, whether to focus on computation or structure depends more on the level of math the students are studying. College bound students are still exposed more to structure while those who are not are often taught using more of a computational focus. The challenge  with this is that everyone wants every child to be  college bound which means essentially that most students are taught with a focus on the structure and theories of mathematics with a goal of understanding why certain steps are taken when calculating something.

Generally, it is common for math  teachers at the high school level and above to focus on teaching conceptual understanding first before procedural steps (elementary is usually hands-on). In other words, explaining theory and the why of the steps before actually using the steps to solve problems. This can sometimes lead to the teaching of long complicated mathematical proofs for various concepts such as the quadratic formula. For a math expert, proofs are critical to knowing why a certain approach works, however, for the average person, proofs can be incredible confusing because they involve math that the learner is not total comfortable with in many situations with little practical application.

The downside of learning procedural steps first is that it becomes difficult to apply them in different situations or to transfer the knowledge to new contexts. For example, in my own experience, it was common for a math teacher to teach the steps of how to solve a problem but then when it was time to practice, the problems were always slightly different from what the teacher taught. I would need to square something that the teacher did not square or factor something that the teacher did not factor in order to have success. The focus  on the steps made it impossible to bring in other tools or handle situations that called for other steps.

For the math teacher, who was a natural expert, seeing a problem and bringing in other tools and adding and taking away steps was easy because of their understanding of theory. However, for the rest of us, there is a need to drill and become comfortable before expanding the use of the concepts to unknown situations.


The goal is not to indicate that there is one particular way of teaching math. The challenge is really how to help non-math students have success at math. This involves using both concepts and drill in a combination that allows weaker students to survive or even succeed in a difficult academic situation for them.

Academic Cheating

Academic dishonesty, in the form of cheating and or plagiarism, is one of the unfortunate consequences of education. For example, in Southeast Asia, a group of students were caught cheating on an exam to enter medical school. Their strategy involved the use of smartwatches. People outside the building were sending wireless messages to the students through their smartwatches with prospective correct answers. The students who were caught paid around $30,000 for the illicit support, which is about 10 times the yearly minimum wage in the country.

Another example involves students wearing what has been referred to as “anti-cheating hats”. These hats essentially involve wearing paper on one’s head to block your view of all the people around you so you can only see your own answer sheet. Locally, this is done as a joke to remove the stress of the exam. However, when international media found a photo of this on social media they took it as a sign of intense cheating and dishonesty,  which embarrassed the school.

The majority of high school and college students have admitted to cheating in one form or another. This includes critical fields such as medical school. Such rampant behavior must have some causes. At such, in this post, we will look at causes and simple solutions for cheating. In this post, we will look at motivations for cheating as well as solutions to alleviate the problem.


One reason for the large amounts of cheating is that it is highly successful with less than 2% of students being caught when teaching. With a success rate of almost 100%, there is almost no reason to be honest if your grade is in danger. If an adult knew that there was almost a 99% chance of getting away with a crime, such a crime is highly likely to increase.

Another factor is the fact the students can be inattentive to their studies. With all the distractions of friends, family, work, and entertainment it can be hard for students to exercise the discipline to study. Besides, when students do study it is often for the goal of memorization rather than comprehension. Understanding is hard to forget but the memory is weak. Add to this the belief of cramming and staying up late before exams and students will experience intense anxiety when they cannot recall a key idea or concept.

Teachers can also contribute to cheating. If a teacher is unclear, heavily focused on memorizing, provides little feedback, these can all contribute to students cheating to “survive.” If students think a teacher is unfair in their assessment and or instruction they will try to even the playing field through cheating.


Clear communication of what to expect on exams as well as preparation through reviewing can help to reduce cheating. If students know what to expect and believe they are prepared there is less pressure to cheat in order to control things students think they cannot control. However, it is up to the teacher that they understand the importance of consistency between what is taught and assessed in their classroom to establish the trust necessary that the teacher is not looking to fail students but to help students excel.

Another strategy is to move away from heavy memorizing closed question exams to critical thinking open-ended exams. Multiple choice, matching, true/false, etc. are all examples of questions with one answer. If there is only one answer, a student simply needs to memorize the one answer.

Open-ended questions require critical thinking and the development of a unique answer based on the student’s prior experience. Essay questions are one example of this. It is extremely difficult to memorize an essay question answer in advance. This naturally helps to reduce the temptation to cheat do to the hopelessness of that at the moment.

Providing alternative forms of assessment can also help. Some students just do not do well with exams. Considering that at some universities the mid-term and final exam can account for over 60% of the final grade such high stakes testing can encourage cheating. Through providing smaller more frequent assignments teachers can support learning while decreasing high stakes testing.


Cheating will always be a challenge in education. With the distractions that young people face, the culture of accepting academic dishonesty, and the incredible inability to catch students who do this. There is little hope that the current situation will change. A student cannot cheat without opportunity. Therefore, the use of preventive measures that help to reduce the risk of academic dishonesty.

Motivations for Teaching

Often, it is expected that new teachers have a reason for wanting to teach. In this post,  we will look at several common reasons why people choose the occupation of teaching.


This is probably a reason for not teaching. Teachers normally make enough money but not much more than that. Generally, there is an increase over time but it is often difficult to get ahead financially in the teaching profession. However, if you take the skills you develop as a teacher (communication, planning, leadership, etc.) you can pivot these skills into side jobs or other career fields.  Many famous writers and musicians were at one time teachers (JK Rowling, Stephen King, Gene Simmons, Sting).

Towards the end of one’s career the salary can be lucrative. This often takes 20 plus years in many countries and requires additional professional development in order to continue to progress of the step salary. If continuing to study appeals to you than teaching might be the right choice as a career.


Despite the apparent association with how poor the educational system, is teaching is still considered a highly respective occupation. Often, people speak highly of teaching in general but often have sharp criticism of the teachers of their own children or even of the teachers they experienced as a student.

The amount of prestige varies depending on the discipline and level of teaching. Often science and math are more prestigious than the humanities due in part to the higher expect salary of science and math majors. Teaching at the university level is often considered more prestigious than teaching K-12 due in part to the higher level of education required and the assumption of greater talent that is necessary to teach at the tertiary level.

In many ways, the respect given to teachers is almost tongue in cheek. People are suppose to say that teaching is important and respectable even if they rarely appreciated the hard work of their own children’s teachers or the teachers they studied under.


Teaching comes with a large amount of power and authority over students. The students  spend several hours a week with you as you play a critical role in shaping their character. This can be good or bad depending on the type of teacher. There is also a great deal of academic authority over students. As a teacher, it is not hard to find ways to fail hardworking students are to pass lazy ones. The difference is in the integrity of the teacher and how they use this authority.


Teaching still allows for a better work life balance when compared to other professions. This in part due to the holidays and built in vacations. However, during a given week in a semester a teacher is putting in about 50 hours a week in the US which is comparable to other occupations in America.

This means that once Christmas, Easter, and holidays are removed from the equation teachers a worker just as hard in terms of hours given to their job as others. However, there are additional burdens on teachers with meetings, clubs, field trips, and other extra-curricular activities at the school. Someone has to watch the kids during recess, lunch, etc and this is in addition to the teaching load of the teacher.

Students & Colleagues

Many people become teachers for the chance to interact with students and colleagues. For students, it is a chance to help them to develop and grow intellectual and socially as well as a chance to spark interest in learning in general. This opportunity to have an impact on the lives of young people is a primary motivation for entering the teaching field.

There are downsides to working with students as there are times when behavior becomes an issue. Nothing is more draining to a teacher than dealing with a group of students who do not want to learn. Navigating this disinterested in education can be discouraging to say the least.

For the colleagues, it is a chance to wok within what is usually a non-competitive environment. Unlike other industries where there is a best salesman or best manager, in teaching every teacher can be a great teacher because there is normally no ranking. However, with the pressures of standardized testing teaching has become more competitive.


Everyone must determine for themselves what is their motivation for becoming a teacher. This is really a personal decision and there is rarely a way to state conclusively that someone’s motivation to teach is wrong. The examples provided here are for giving reasons to think about why someone may want to teach.

Moral Demands of Teaching

As with many jobs, teaching comes with a certain moral expectation. Due to their influence over children, teachers are expected to be a positive moral example for their students. Naturally, what is meant as positive has changed and morphed overtimes. This post will try to trace how the moral expectations of teaching have changed over time in the United States.

19th Century

Originally, teaching was considered temporary work for young men as they made plans to move on to better things. This led to a great deal of turnover. Horace Mann, a leading political figure of the United States at the time wanted to change this. He wanted to move away from the stern male teacher to the gentle female teacher. For the most part, Mann was successful as by the end of the 19th century about 70% of all K-12 teachers were women which is a number that is about the same today.

The switch to a primarily female teaching corp had its advantages and disadvantages. Traditionally, women were more nurturing than men were which may be a benefit for young children. Despite this, it may be possible that at least some children would benefit from the strong hand of male disciplined as portrayed stereotypically during this time period. However, women teachers could be just as itinerant as male teachers as we shall see.

Moral Demands Teaching 19th-Early 20th Century

There were many restrictions on a teacher’s behavior that people would find completely unacceptable today. For example, teachers were expected to go to church every Sunday. Not only is this a church-state violation but it is also compulsory worship in a Christian setting. This would exclude most other religions from teaching in US public schools at this time.

There were also rules against smoking, drinking, dancing, playing cards, and even loitering at ice cream parlors. Even today, few teachers would complain about restrictions for smoking and drinking on-campus but would chafe at such a restriction after hours on personal time. No dancing and play cards would be indefensible. However, during this time, dancing was associated with sexual licentiousness and playing cards was linked with gambling which were both unacceptable behaviors in Christian America. These taboos have been lost over time. Lastly, loitering at ice cream parlors is no longer a concern due to changing times but during the time of these restrictions hanging out anywhere was considered unproductive to society especially for a teacher.

There were also restrictions in terms of dating. Male teachers needed to be careful about how often they were courting women. This was probably meant to make sure that the male teacher was not a womanizer. He could court but not too often or too much. Of course, we are using the word court instead of date because technically there was no dating for teachers at least officially. The purpose of courting was for the consideration of marriage and not premarital sex.

For a female teacher, marriage meant being dismissed from her teaching job. At this time, it was not considered acceptable for a woman to work outside the home once married especially in the teaching. Whether this was fair or not is opened to debate. However, there were not all the amenities that we have today available such as childcare, washer machines, microwaves, etc. that allow a woman to have a career while supporting a home. If the wife did not stay home the home would literally have collapsed.


As values changed so did the standards for morality for teachers. Over time women were allowed to return to teaching after pregnancy with the caveat that their job was still available. Eventually, in the US, maternity leave was no longer mandatory by the 1970s. Pregnancy discrimination was also banned.

As mentioned previously, there is a stronger separation between how teachers act on an off-campus. Behaviors that used to be unacceptable such as smoking and drinking are only problems if they happen on campus during school hours. Teachers are not the only ones held to such a standard. Even police officers are expected to abstain from certain behaviors when on duty.


Teaching is a rewarding profession that at times can place higher standards in terms of moral behavior. Being around impressionable youth requires teachers to uphold strong moral values because of their influence. Over time, however, the behaviors that are considered moral and acceptable has changed along with the moral expectations of teachers.

Teaching English

Teaching English  or any other subject requires that the teacher be able to walk into the classroom and find ways to have an immediate impact. This is much easier said than done. In this post we look at several ways to increase the likelihood of being able to help students.

Address Needs

People’s reasons for learning a language such as English can vary tremendously. Knowing this, it is critical that you as a teacher know what the need in their learning. This allows you to adjust the methods and techniques that you used to help them learn.

For example, some students may study English for academic purposes while others are just looking to develop communications skills. Some students maybe trying to pass a proficiency examine in order to study at  university or in graduate school.

How you teach these different groups will be different. The academic students want academic English and language skills. Therefore, if you plan to play games in the classroom and other fun activities there may be some frustration because the students will not see how this helps them.

On the other hand, for students who just want to learn to converse in English, if you smother them with heavy readings and academic like work they will also become frustrated from how “rigorous” the course is. This is why you must know what the goals of the students are and make the needed changes as possible

Stay Focused

When dealing with students, it is tempting to answer and following ever question that they have. However, this can quickly lead to a lost of directions as the class goes here there and everywhere to answer every nuance question.

Even though the teacher needs to know what the students want help with the teacher is also the expert and needs to place limits over how far they will go in terms of addressing questions and needs. Everything cannot be accommodated no matter how hard one tries.

As the teacher, things that limit your ability to explore questions and concerns of students includes time, resources,  your own expertise, and the importance of the question/concern. Of course, we help students, but not to the detriment of the larger group.

Providing a sense of direction is critical as a teacher. The students have their needs but it is your goal to lead them to the answers. This requires a sense of knowing what you want and  being able to get there. There re a lot of experts out there who cannot lead a group of students to the knowledge they need as this requires communication skills and an ability to see the forest from the trees.


Teaching is a mysterious profession as so many things happen that cannot be seen or measured but clearly have an effect on the classroom. Despite the confusion it never hurts to determine where the students want to go and to find a way to get them there academically.

Improving Lecturing

Lecturing is a necessary evil at the university level. The university system was founded during a time when lecturing was the only way to share information. Originally, owning books was nearly impossible due to their price, there was no internet or computer, and  there were few options for reviewing material. For these reasons, lecturing was the go to approach for centuries.

With all the advantages in technology, the world has changed but lecturing has not. This has led to students becoming disengaged in the learning experience with the emphasis on lecture style teaching.

This post will look at times when lecturing is necessary as well as ways to improve the lecturing experience.

Times to Lecture

Despite the criticism given earlier, there are times when lecturing is an appropriate strategy. Below are some examples.

  • When there is a need to cover a large amount of content-If you need to get through a lot of material quickly and don’t have time for discussion.
  • Complex concepts/instructions-You probably do not want to use discovery learning to cover lab safety policies
  • New material-The first time through they may need to listen. When the topic is addressed later a different form of instruction should be employed

The point here is not to say that lecturing is bad but rather that it is overly relied upon by the typical college lecturer. Below are ways to improve lecturing when it is necessary.

Prepare Own Materials

With all the tools on the internet from videos to textbook supplied PowerPoint slides. It is tempting to just use these materials as they are and teach. However, preparing your own materials allows you to bring yourself and your personality into the teaching experience.

You can add anecdotes to illustrate various concepts, bring in additional resources, are leave information that you do not think is pertinent. Furthermore, by preparing your own material you know inside and out where you are going and when. This can also help to organize your thinking on a topic due to the highly structured nature of PowerPoint slides.

Even modifying others materials can provide some benefit. By owning your own material it allows you to focus less on what someone else said and more on what you want to say with your own materials that you are using.

Focus on the Presentation

If many teachers listen to themselves lecturing, they might be convinced that they are boring. When presenting a lecture a teacher should make sure to try to share the content extemporaneously. There should be a sense of energy and direction to the content. The students need to be convinced that you have something to say.

There is even a component of body language to this. A teacher needs to walk into a room like they “own the place” and speak accordingly. This means standing up straight, shoulders back with a strong voice that changes speed. These are all examples of having a commanding stage presence. Make it clear you are the leader through your behavior. Who wants to listen to someone who lacks self-confidence and mumbles?

Read the Audience

If all you do is have confidence  and run through your PowerPoint like nobody exists there will be little improvement for the students. A good speaker must read the audience and respond accordingly. If, despite all your efforts to prepare an interesting talk on a subject, the students are on their phones or even unconscience there is no point continuing but to do some sort of diversionary activity to get people refocus. Some examples of diversionary tactics include the following.

  • Have the students discuss something about the lecture for a moment
  • Have the students solve a problem of some sort related to the material
  • Have the students move. Instead of talking with someone next to them they have to find someone from a different part of the lecture room. A bit of movement is all it takes to regain conscientiousness.

The lecture should be dynamic which means that it changes in nature at times. Breaking up the content into 10 minutes periods followed by some sort of activity can really prevent fatigue in the listeners.


Lecturing is a classic skill that can still be used in the 21st century. However, given that times have  changed it is necessary to make some adjustments to how a  teacher approaches lecturing.

Mentoring New Teachers

A career in teaching is an attractive option for many young adults. One of the major challenges in a career in teaching is the student teaching experience that is normally placed at the end of the degree program. This post will provide some suggestion for teacher mentors

Go Over Local Expectations

Every school has its own set of policies and expectations that all employees need to adhere too. Often, the student teacher is not aware of these and it is the mentoring teacher’s responsibility to provide some idea of what is expected. This includes such things as showing them around the campus, communicating expectations for how to dress, discipline procedures, and even how to deal with grades.

Knowing these little things can allow the new teacher to focus on teaching rather than the administrative aspects of the classroom.

Provide Feedback

Feedback is critical so that the new teacher knows what they are doing well and wrong. It is, of course, important to mention what the student teacher does well. However, growth happens by providing support to overcome weaknesses.

The temptation for many supervising teachers is simply to mention what the problems are and let the student figure out what to do. This approach may work for an experience or a highly independent teacher. However, for most new teachers they need specific support on what to do in order to improve their teaching and overcome a weakness.

Therefore, criticism without some sort of suggestion for how to overcome the problem is not beneficial. In addition, it is important to only address major problems that can cripple the educational experience of the students rather than every single weakness in the students teaching. We all have issues and problems with our teaching and for beginners, only the big problems should be corrected.

The student also should provide feedback on how they view their own teaching. Most teacher education programs require this in the form of a journal. However, the benefit of the journal is only in discussing it with others such as the mentor teacher.

Lead By Example

IN reality, in order for a student to be a successful teacher, they need to see what successful teaching is so they can imitate until perfection. What this means for you as a supervising teacher is that you need to lay the example for the student to imitate. Everyone has there own style but a good example goes a long way in molding the teaching approach of a student.

This also means that a mentor teacher needs to do a lot of verbalizing in terms of what they do. Often, as an experienced teacher, things become automatic in the classroom. You know what to do without much thought or discussion. The problem is that if there is a lack of explanation in terms of wqhat is happening the student teacher is not able to deermine why you are doing certain things. Therefore, a mentor teacher must explained explictiylywhat they are doing and why while they are provding the exmple of teaching.


Students who dream of teaching need support in order to have success. This involves bringing in people with more experience to support these young teachers as they develop their skillset. This means that even experienced teachers need some support in order to determine how to help new teachers

Elearning Academic Success

Studying online has become almost an expectation now. Even if you never earn a degree or take a class for credit online there are still many opportunities to train and develop skills over the internet. The role of the teacher is to try and find ways to engage and support their students as they begin their learning experience physically alone with support perhaps thousands of miles away.

In this post, we will look at ways to encourage the academic success of students while studying online. Two ways to support academic success in elearning involve providing feedback and encouraging engagement.

Provide Feedback

Feedback is critical in every aspect of teaching. However, in elearning, it is even more important. This is because the students have no face-to-face communication with you so they have no idea how they are doing beyond a letter grade. In addition, there is no body language to examined or other paralinguistic features that the student can infer meaning from.

Giving feedback requires timeliness. In other words, mark assignments quickly and indicate progress. In addition, if students do not meet expectations it is critical that you point them towards resources that will help them to inderstand. For example, students seem to neglect reading rubrics. When a student gets feedback from a rubric they can see where they were not succesfful.

In terms of a more formative feedback approach, there may be times where it is beneficial to live stream lecture. This allows the students to chime in whenever they do not understand an idea or point. Furthermore, the teacher can ask a question or two of the students and get feedback from them.

Engage Them

Engaging is almost synonymous with active. In other words, students should be doing something in order to learn. Unfortunately, listening is a passive activity which implies that lecturing is not the best way to inspire learning.

In the contest of elearning, one of the ways to inspire active learning is to have the students go out and do something in the real world and report what happens online in the form of a reflection. For example, students studying English will go out and teach English in the real world. They will then come and share their experience. The teacher is then able to provide insights and feedback to improve the students teaching. This provides a connection to the real world as well as a sense of relevance

In a more abstract subject, such as history, music theory, or engineering, students can become active through sharing these insights with laymen or explaining how they are already applying this information at their job or in the home. The goal of using provides the purpose for learning the content.


Feedback and engagement are critical to success in a situation in which the student is primarily learning alone which is found in the context of elearning.

Benefits of Coding in Schools

There is a push in education to have more students learn to code. In fact, some schools are considering having computer coding count as the foreign language requirement to graduate from high school. This in many ways almost singles that coding has “arrived” and is not a legitimate subject not just for the computer nerd but for everybody.

In this post, we will look at several benefits of learning to code while in school.


People often code to solve a problem. It can be something as small as making an entertaining game or to try and get the computer to do something.  Generally, the process of developing code leads to all kinds of small problems that have to be solved along the way. For example, you want the code to A but instead, it does B. This leads to all kinds of google searches and asking around to try and get the code to do what you want.

All this is happening in the context in which the student is truly motivated to learn. This is perhaps no better situation in which problem-solving skills are developed.

Attention to Detail

Coding involves the ability to see the smallest details. I cannot remember how many times my code would not run because I forgot a comma or a semicolon or perhaps I misspelled a variable. These problems are small but they must be noticed in order to get the code to run.

When students develop code they must write the code perfect (not necessarily efficiently) in order for it to work. This attention to the small things helps in developing students who are not careless.

Computational Thinking

Computational thinking is the skill of being able to explain systematically what you are doing. When developing code students must be able to capture every step needed to execute an action in their code. It is not possible to skip steps. Everything must be planned for in order to have success.

This type of thinking carries over into the real world when communicating with people. The computational thinking comes out when presenting information, teaching, etc. This logical thinking is a key skill in today’s world where miscommunication is becoming so common.

Employment Opportunities

Naturally, learning to code can lead to employment opportunities. There is a growing demand for people with coding skills. Some of the strongest demands are in fields such as Data Science in which people need a blend of coding and domain expertise to develop powerful insights. In other words, it is better to be well-rounded rather than a super coder for the average person as the domain knowledge is useful in interpreting whatever results the coding helped to produce.


There are naturally other benefits of coding as well. The purpose here was just to consider a few reasons. As a minimum, learning to code should be experienced by most students just as they are exposed to music appreciation, art appreciation, and other subjects for the sake of exposure.

Major Challenges of Teachers

This post will provide some examples of common problems teachers face. Although the post may seem overwhelmingly negative the purpose here is to provide insight into the actual realities of teaching rather than the romantic experience portrayed in many venues.


Administrators are in charge of the “big picture” of guiding a school towards particular goals that are often laid out by local laws and the results of the prior accreditation visit. This focus on large institutional goals can often cause the administrator to lose sight of the needs of the teachers (unless this was a recommendation from the last accreditation visit),

What results is a task-oriented leadership that is focused on attaining goals or at least showing progress towards goals. This can lead administrators to step on, overwork, and even mistreat teachers. It is hard to blame administrators because if they do not meet specific targets they could lose their own employment.

The constant meetings and incredulous policies that are derived to “help the students” can become exceedingly frustrating for any teacher. Rest assure that few administrators just randomly think up bad ideas. Often the inspiration is from a higher source that is abusing the local administrator.


There is a surprising amount of petty bickering and fighting among teachers that can become Machevellini in nature. Gossiping backbiting and of course backstabbing all take place. A teacher A confides in teacher B there having problems handling their students and teacher B spreads this to everyone on-campus that teacher A is a terrible teacher who cannot handle her duties.

I’ve heard of teachers complaining that other teachers do not collaborate during lunch with them as though lunchtime is meant to be a meeting that has required attendance. In another setting, I’ve seen teachers slander another teacher in order to help a friend get the job. Petty jealousy can lead teachers to isolate themselves to avoid political attacks which makes it harder to support students.

Parents & Students

Perhaps the biggest problem facing teachers is not necessarily students but parents. If a child is out of line it should only take a simple phone call home to resolve the problem. However, this is almost never the case. Today many parents are indifferent to the behavior of their children. This leaves the teacher only to provide intervention towards a wayward student.

The other extreme is the parent who overly protects and defends everything their child does. This undercuts the teacher’s authority in the same way as a parent who does not provide any sort of behavioral support. The same parents are often quick to get the attention of the administration which is always.

Class Administration

There are a bevy of things that a teacher must do in their own classroom such as

  • Class preparation
  • Marking assignments
  • Decorating
  • Meetings
  • Communicating with parents/students
  • Professional development

This all requires serious time management. It is hard to stay on top of all of these expectations if you are laid back and easy going. It requires strict discipline in order to keep some sort of sanity.


Teaching is tough. However, it is not all bad. There are many rewarding moments in being a teacher. Yet to be successful a teacher must be aware of the common problems that will face so that they are able to weather them.