Sequences: Finding the Explicit Formula VIDEO

Finding the explicit formula of a sequence

Athenian Education During Antiquity

Greek education has influenced the Western world strongly. We will look at Greek education, in particular, Athens in this post. Also, we will look briefly at the views of Plato and Aristotle concerning education.

Athens

The worldview of Athens was one of individualism and liberty. Speaking freely and having a choice was deeply ingrained in Greek culture. Even education was democratic as slaves also received some form of education.

There has been speculation as to way Greeks were so more individualistic. Some have suggested that the rugged mountainous terrain allowed people to be more independent because the threat of invasion was low. In contrast, many parts of Asia are readily available because of the wide-open spaces and flat terrain in many parts. Whatever the reason, individualism was just more accepted in Greece compared to Asia

Schools in Athens were private but the government kept an eye on what was happening. School began at the age of 7  and continue until the age of 20. A young boy was often accompanied to and from school by a slave called a pedagogue whose job it was to watch the child and keep him out of trouble.

School lasted for everyone from about the age of 7 until 14 years of age. The early years are focus on physical education such as gymnastics combined with rudimentary training in the 3Rs. A 14, the lower classes would leave school to work or learn a trade while the rich continued.

From 14-20, upper-class Greeks would study music, rhetoric, grammar, and philosophy. At the age of 20, a student’ss education was considered complete and he began whatever vocation he was called to.

Plato

Plato had some somewhat radical views on education compared to mainland Greeks. For example, unlike the strong individualism of the typical Greek, Plato believed that children along with everybody belonged to the state, which is a view held by many Asia countries. Plato stated that marriages should be arranged by the state, weak children should be killed, and children should be raised by the community and not by their parents. Naturally, you can infer from this that Plato never had a wife or children.

For Plato, there were 5 levels of education. The first three were for everyone and the last two for the elite. Level 1 was from 0-7 and focused on physical training. Level 2 was from 7-13 and included both physical and mental training. Level 3 was from 14-19 years of age with the same emphasis as level 2. Level 4 was for the best students and lasted from 20-30 years of age. Finally, level 5 was from 30-35 and was for the best of the best of those from level 4.

Plato also went on to propose a caste system based on education among other things. Common people completed anywhere from level 1 all the way to 3. Citizens completed level 3 and maybe 4. Lastly, The rulers would complete all 5 levels of education.

To say that Plato’s views were radical would be an understatement. However, Plato was a radical thinker and these ideas of his are just a reflection of his independent thinking.

Aristotle

Aristotle’s views on education are more practical than Plato’s.FOr him, education is a life long experience. For children, education was divided into three levels. From 0-7 the child was at home. From ages 7-14 the child’s mind was trained in academic studies. Some of the subjects studied included music, drawing, grammar, math, dialectics, political science, and philosophy.

From 14-21 a child was trained for life preparation. This would vary depending on the future occupation of the child. Future leaders got involved in leadership, soldiers went into military studies, etc. There was no need to continue formal education beyond 21 because people continued to study informally when the had time.

Aristotle also made comments on teaching. He proposed that teaching should move from the concrete to the abstract. From the literal to the symbolic. This is essentially what Piaget said 3,000 years later with his stages of cognitive development.

Conclusion

Athenian education provided an opportunity for individual growth in a way that was not even considered in Asian education. The state was there for dealing with the occasional external threat for the Greeks. In contrast, the state was there for its self in the Asian context. This difference in who serves who is reflected in the style of education as well.

Christian Education in Antiquity

The dawn of the Christian era brought deep change to Europe and the Roman Empire specifically. This post will provide an overview of Christian education from antiquity.

Early Efforts

Initially, it was difficult for Christians to have schools in the traditional sense. This is because the frequent persecution made it difficult for Christians to settle in one place for long periods of time. For about the first 200 years, Christian education was focused on teaching adult new believers the basic principles of Christianity. These schools were called Catechumen schools. With time these schools would also be opened to children.

The next innovation in Christian education was the Common Schools of the second century. These schools were founded by Protogenes. The curriculum focused primarily on learning to read and to write. Advanced education was not yet a concern.

At about the same time as the founding of the common schools was also the development of catechetical schools. The first of these schools was found in 181 AD by Panteaus in Alexandria, Egypt. Catechetical loosely translated means “question and answer” which is a reference to the teaching style of the school.

The Catechetical schools are famous in part because of their alumni. Both Clement (150-215 AD) and his student Origen(184-253 AD) studied at the Alexandrian school. Clement was a former student of the founder Panteaus.  Origen became a teacher at the school while a teenager, which was an amazing feat. Origen taught at the height of the school and the decline began after his death.

Towards the Middle Ages

By 529ADm the Byzantine Emperor Justinian had outlawed the pagan schools within the empire. For a long time, the Christians and the pagan schools and competed for students and influence. Eventually, Christianity saw the pagan schools as a threat to believers and use their resources to suppress them. As Christianity became the state religion, pagan schools declined and Christianity took over as one of the main bodies for providing education.

By the Middle Ages, some of the educational duties of Christianity had been given to the monasteries. The church had tremendous power and the monks owned as much as 1/3 of Europe. The education consisted primarily of the seven liberal arts divided into the trivium (three) and quadrivium (four).

Towards the end of the Middle Ages,  there began to be resistance to the monastic education in the form of a philosophy called scholasticism. Scholasticism supported the use of reason to learn while monasticism focused on the authority of the church. While monasticism avoided most classical literature as pagan scholasticism embraced and tried to harmonized classical ideas with Christianity. The split that began with scholasticism would have an influence on the church for several centuries as people continue to argue over the role of faith in education.

Conclusion

Christianity started as a persecuted religion to moving to become a state religion. This change in status also brought about a change in how education was viewed and conducted.

Indian and Persian Approaches to Education

India and Persia are two fo the oldest civilizations known to man. Both of these civilizations have had a strong influence on many in the world today. This post takes a brief look at the system of education that each of these civilizations employed during their time.

India

In India, parents raised their children to be absolutely obedient. Children were also expected to demonstrate politeness, patience, and modesty. These were the traits that parents focused on when raising children.

India has had a rather stringent caste. There are four basic castes and they are the

  1. Brahmans-Priest and teachers
  2. Kshatriyas-Warriors
  3. Vaishya-Merchants and farmers
  4. Sudras-Peasant and laborers

You can see from the above list that it was the Brahmans who provided education to the other classes. This was done through a system that emphasized memorization. The students would memorize what the teacher said in a sing-song call and response style. Students simply did what they were told and never thought to ask why they were learning this way.

Only Brahmans received higher education. However, for those who went into teaching, there was no real preparation. As such, everyone taught in whatever manner they saw fight as there was no real philosophy of education.

Persia

The Persian system of education is relatively different from India’s. Early obedience of the children was not as important to Persians as it was to Indians. For example, children were not taught right from wrong in Persian culture until about 5 years of age. Also, children were not spanked until about 7 years old.

Persia also had a more militaristic outlook given that it was several times a world empire. As such, children were seen as belonging to the state. Therefore, at the age of 7, it was the state who educated the child and not the parents or some form of private tutoring. The government educational system was divided into three levels and was primarily a military training, which means it was focused on boys rather than on girls.

The first stage of education lasted form 7-15 years of age. This stage focused on physical training for war and memorizing proverbs. Memorization is a major characteristic of education in the past. This is looked down upon now but living in an age without books, paper, and or computer, memory was much more important in the past than today.

Stage two continued from 15 to the age of 25. This stage involved even more military training. Academics were never that important for the typical Persian. AS such, heavy emphasis on the physical aspects of military preparation was most important.

The final stage of education technically doesn’t end and went from 25 to the age of 50 when a soldier retired from the military. This implies that there was always some form of trying and educating happening within the military. The best soldiers would retire and then become teachers of the same system in which they had gone through.

Conclusion

Indian and Persian education had different goals. India’s education was focused on memorization and caste structure while Persia’s system was geared towards the maintenance and expansion of the state. These differing goals are reflected in how each nation educated their children

China’s Education in the Past

The Chinese system of education has a rich and unique past. This post will discuss briefly some of the traits of this ancient system that has had a strong influence on many educational systems in Asia.

Memory

Chinese education in the past and perhaps still so in the present relies heavily on memorization. This is seen in the development of the written language. The written language of Chinese does not have an alphabet as we think of an alphabet in the English language. Rather, there are over 50,000 different characters that need to be memorized to read. This is a massive undertaking in which it is common for many if not most people to never know all the characters. The only tool for learning to read is to attempt to memorize enough of the commonly used characters, which would be mind-blowing to English speakers.

The heavy emphasis in memorization allowed for the preservation of manners and customs. The criticism of this, at least to some, was that innovation was often excluded. However, this was not always the case as the Chinese invented numerous things such as paper and gun powder. Critics will concede that the Chinese invented many things but that they often did not exploit some of these innovations. For example, gunpowder was ignored for several centuries before being used for fireworks and finally as a weapon. Imagine if it took the United States several centuries to figure out the uses for the Atom Bomb.

Teaching and Examinations

Students were taught by a teacher who was located at a temple or his home. Education was divided into three stages. Stage one focused on reading, writing, and arithmetic. At this stage, the student would copy what the teacher said or wrote. There was little focus on the expression of the individual.

Stage two involved the translation of textbooks and lessons in composition. Here students learned to express themselves somewhat. In stage three, students learned how to write essays and this was perhaps the time in which they learned to share their thoughts in writing. For a long time in its history. China did not have high schools as we define them in the West.

China is famous for its complex system of examinations. Passing the exams was considered the equivalent of earning a degree at a university during modern times. There were three levels of exams with an optional fourth level. The first exam, if a person passed, was called “Budding Intellect.” This was not an easy exam because the pass rate was 1%.

The next two levels of exams were given every three years. Level 2 was called “Deserving of Promotion” and people who passed this could reach higher levels in the government bureaucracy. Level three was called “Fit for Office” and allowed those who passed even better government positions.

The final level was reserved for government officials of the highest positions and was called “Forest of Pencils.” To even take this exam a person had to be a member of the royal academy. Passes this examination was highly prestigious and perhaps almost impossible.

The examination system of China wasn’t abolished until the early 20th century. This long time of  services indicates the staying power of this style of assessment. Success in these exams commanded an impressive amount of memorizing that few can obtain. Naturally, when individuals have success in the current system they are not motivated to change it. This may explain why this system refused to change for so long because so many had had success with it.

Conclusion

The Chinese model of education is one in which memorizing and obedience were highly valued. Whether this was right or wrong is s second manner. What is clear is that this system of education served the country for centuries despite whatever flaws this approach may have.

Different Views of Research

People have been doing research formally or informally since the beginning of time. We are always trying to figure out how to do this or why something is the way that it is. In this post, we will look at different ways to view and or conduct research. These perspectives are empirical, theoretical, and analytical.

Empirical

Perhaps the most common form or approach to doing research is the empirical approach. This approach involves observing reality and developing hypotheses and theories based on what was observed. This is an inductive approach to doing research because the researcher starts with their observations to make a theory. In other words, you start with examples and abstract them to theories.

An example of this is found in the work of Charles Darwin and evolution. Darwin collected a lot of examples and observations of birds during his travels. Based on what he saw he inferred that animals evolved over time. This was his conclusion based on his interpretation of the data. Later, other researchers tried to further bolster Darwin’s theory by finding mathematical support for his claims.

The order in which empirical research is conducted is as follows…

  1. Identify the phenomenon
  2. Collect data
  3. Abstraction/model development
  4. Hypothesis
  5. Test

You can see that hypotheses and theory are derived from data which is similar to qualitative research. However, steps 4 and 5 are were the equation developing and or statistical tools are used. As such the empirical view of research is valuable when there is a large amount of data available and can include many variables, which is again often common for quantitative methods.

To summarize this, empirical research is focused on what happened, which is one way in which scientific laws are derived.

Theoretical

The theoretical perspective is essentially the same process as empirical but moving in the opposite direction. For theorists, the will start with what they think about the phenomenon and how things should be. This approach starts with a general principle and then the researcher goes and looks for evidence that supports their general principle. Another way of stating this is that the theoretical approach is deductive in nature.

A classic example of this is Einstein’s theory of relativity. Apparently, he deduced this theory through logic and left it to others to determine if the theory was correct. To put it simply, he knew without knowing, if this makes sense. In this approach, the steps are as follows

  1. Theory
  2. Hypotheses
  3. model abstraction
  4. data collection
  5. Phenomenon

You collect data to confirm the hypotheses. Common statistical tools can include simulations or any other method that is suitable in situations in which there is little data available. The caveat is that the data must match the phenomenon to have meaning. For example, if I am trying to understand some sort of phenomenon about women  I cannot collect data from as this does not match the phenomenon.

In general, theoretical research is focused on why something happens which is the goal of most theories, explaining why.

Analytical

Analytical research is probably the hardest to explain and understand. Essentially,  analytical research is trying to understand how people develop their empirical or theoretical research. How did Darwin make this collection or how did Einstein develop his ideas.

In other words, analytical research is commonly used to judge the research of others. Examples of this can be people who spend a lot of time criticizing the works of others. An analytical approach is looking for the strengths and weaknesses of various research. Therefore, this approach is focused on how research is done and can use tools both from empirical and theoretical research.

Conclusion

The point here was to explain different views om conducting research. The goal was not to state that one is superior to the other. Rather, the goal was to show how different tools can be used in different ways

Medieval Universities Costs

The post will talk about some of the characteristics and costs of university studies during the Medieval time period. Naturally, there are a lot of similarities to modern times. However, many aspects of university life took time to grow and develop as we will see.

University

Universities during the Middle Ages were distinct from what we see today. There were essentially no buildings that made up the university. This means that initially in many situations in Europe there ewer no libraries, no laboratories, no halls, no endowments or money, and even no sports. Today, we often think of universities in terms of there physical presence. In the past, universities were thought of in terms of the students and teachers who learned and taught regardless of the physical location.

A university was defined as the totality of students and teachers in a particular location. Both the teachers and the students organized themselves into groups for bargaining power. The university of students would work together to control rent, book price, and tuition. If local businesses tried to abuse them the students would threaten  to leave. The students also placed expectations on the teachers such as no absences without permission, no leaving the city without leaving a deposit (this prevented crooks from taking tuition and running), maintain a regular schedule.

College

Professors formed their own guild called the college and set expectations for people who wanted to become professors. In addition to colleges, teachers would form themselves into faculty, which is several teaches from the same discipline. Faculties were allowed to confer degrees and promote students to the academic rank of masters. In addition, it was common for teachers to be celibate

The term “college” was also used to refer to the hospice or residence hall where students live. This is similar to the modern-day dormitories. Originally, colleges were for religious students and not for secular. To this day, institutions of higher learning are referred to as colleges and or universities. The success of universities put the cathedral, monastic and provincial schools a=out of business.

Textbooks

Textbooks were hard to find during the Middle Ages. This was before the printing press which means that books were copied by hand. this was highly time-consuming and kept the price of books high. To get around this, it was common for students to rent books rather than purchase them. This is a strategy that is stilled being used today, especially with ebooks.

Books were so valuable that they were not even supposed to leave the city. In  addition, professors were expected to turn over their lecture notes occasionally so that they could be converted into books. Famous textbooks from this time include Peter Lombard’s “Sentences” a theological book and the jurist Gratian’s text “Decretum.” With the rental system, it actually postponed the need for libraries

Degree

Completing the degrees involved 3-4 for the BA which included completing an examination before 4 teachers. Since nobody owned books, memorizing was heavy. For many students, the BA was the end of their academic career but for those who wanted to continued they were often expected to teach for two years before taking the masters.

The masters was often focused on obtaining the license to teach. This process involved attending lectures until a student believed he was ready for the examinations. This varied by disciplined but after the BA a student could take 2-4 years after completing the BA for a total of 5-8 years

Conclusion

University life was different yet somewhat similar to the modern era. The features of the modern university crept in gradually as the schools adjusted to the demands of modern life. As such, we can be sure that higher education will continue to change as it continues to adapt to the needs of the students

Scheduling & Tracking Challenges in K-12

Time management is a constant problem in teaching. How long should class periods be? How often should students meet for one class? These are just some questions that need to be addressed.

Despite the challenge and confusion, determining how much time students spend with a teacher has some flexibility to it. In this post, we will look at options in terms of scheduling the time that students spend with teachers.

Looping

Looping is a scheduling strategy that involves the teacher moving to the next grade or subject with their students. For example, if the teacher is a multi-subject teacher at the primary level he or she may move from 1st to 2nd grade with their students. If the teacher is a subject teacher they may move from Algebra to Geometry with their students. This experience can last anywhere from 2-5 years for the students and teacher.

One of the main benefits of this is the relationships that develop between the teacher and students. The students benefit from the continuity of expectations. The teacher does not have to reestablish routines and procedures every year and can move straight to teaching rather than classroom management. Lastly, the teacher also knows the strength and weaknesses of all the students and can adjust accordingly.

Among the problems with this is actually a prior benefit. If the students get along well with the teacher looping can be a fun experience but if the students and teacher do not get along well this can mean spending up to five years with students or a teacher that is disliked. This can lead to serious problems with performance and motivation as well as stress for the teacher.

Another problem is the workload for the teacher. Every year the teacher is preparing new materials, not for a familiar class but a completely new one. This is particularly challenging when the teacher is going through the loop the first time. Essentially it can take up to five years to make it through one loop, which is a substantial amount of time for a teaching career. This kind of context is almost impossible for a new teacher and difficult for an experienced one with constant year-to-year changes.

Block Scheduling

Block scheduling involves extending the time of a traditional period from 50-60 minutes to 80-90 minutes. Essentially, block scheduling involves extending the class period by 50%. This gives the teachers more time to go deeper into content, it reduces the amount of time spent on transitions, and provides students with a glimpse into what class periods are like at the college level.

There are two common variations of block scheduling the 4×4 plan and the A/B plan. The 4×4 plan involves taking four classes in the first semester using the block schedule and a different four classes for the second semester. For example, if a student is taking algebra first semester, using a block schedule they would not take algebra the second semester because they have already completed all the hours they need. This can be a problem because the students would not be exposed to any math for almost a year.

The  A/B plan involves having students take all 8 subjects at the same time. The difference in this approach is that students will have the same classes every other day. For example, if a student is taking Algebra, they may have that class on Monday and Wednesday instead of every day. This allows the class to meet for the entire year, which helps to keep academic skills stronger.

The main complaint about block scheduling comes from non-core teachers. Subjects such as music and foreign languages benefit from meeting every day rather than every other day or for only one semester. The same can be said of PE as students need frequent exercise. Another problem is one similar to looping. If the teacher or students are bad it can be torture to have to deal with them for an additional 30 minutes.

Conclusion

Managing the time that teachers spend with students has several options to consider. There are strengths and weaknesses to all approaches but it is still important to know what your options are when making these decisions.

Titles & Degrees of Early Universities

When universities began to sprout during the Middle Ages any things were not standardized. An example of something that was not standardized was the titles and degrees associated with the completion of one’s studies and working at a university.

As early as the 4th century AD there were people who were claiming academic titles they had not earned. As such schools began to examine the process of what constitutes a degree and how to earn one.

Degree System

The universities loosely copied the guild system used by artisans. In the guild system, it is made up of three levels the apprentice, journeyman, and master. This is what the three tiers of education in universities may be inspired by (Bachelors, Masters, PhD). Bachelor students were called apprentices, masters were called assistants, and PhD were called companions. The word bachelor comes from baccalarius and is loosely translated as an assistant.

The first distinction was made between the bachelor’s degree and the masters and PhD. After this separation, a distinction was made between the master’s degree and PhD. Another degree common during this period and still today in some parts of the world was the licentiate. In some situations, the licentiate was the same as a Master’s degree while in others it was a step above a master’s degree.

Degree Completion

Bachelor’s degrees students often completed their studies in their late teens. This was because for several centuries students started university studies at 12-13 years of age. Eventually, the content of this bachelor was placed at the high school level as educators thought that preteens were too young for higher education.

To complete their degree, a bachelor’s degree student had to study for several years and pass an examination before four professors. If they desired to continue on to the master’s degree, they had to agree to teach for two years while working on the master’s degree. This helped to provide them with practical experience in the art of teaching.

To complete a master’s, a student went through a similar yet more rigorous process to complete the degree. If they desired a doctorate they would teach for several more years while studying. In all, masters could be completed by mid-twenties and a doctorate by early to mid-thirties.

Titles

Upon the completion of studies, there was also confusion over titles. At first, professors, magister, and doctor were all synonyms and these titles were used for people with and without a doctoral degree. Certain disciplines gravitated more towards one title or the other. For example, it was more common to call theology professors doctors compared to the arts.

With time things become more formalized. Now there is a strong distinction between bachelor, master, and doctoral degree. In addition, there is also a clear hierarchy in terms of the titles for professors based on seniority and the highest degree completed. It would be considered strange to call someone with a bachelor’s degree “doctor” in the world today.

Conclusion

Whenever people come together to try and do something there is always some initial confusion. Rules and policies need to be established and people need to determine what is their function within this system. This can also be seen in the growth of the university system of education which has had its own growing pains as well.

Early Childhood Education in Ancient Rome

The Roman Empire was like any other empire in that it was made up of families. These families raised their children so that the children would, in turn, one day serve or rule. Therefore, it is reasonable to make the conclusion that there was some style or way in which the Romans raised their children. This post will provide a brief look at how Rich and poor Romans went about approaching the challenge of early childhood education.

At birth, a child was swaddled for about two months. This was done to ensure strong limbs and prevent the child from poking at their eyes. During the first seven years of life rich parents had little contact with their child. This was because the infant mortality rate was so high. By avoiding the development of a relationship with the child rich parents avoided a large amount of the grief associated with a premature death of their child. Among the poor, this was not an option and they raised their children from the beginning.

The rich employed slaves nutrix and paedagog to look after their children. The nutrix was a wet nurse. She raised the child until about the age of seven. There were actually qualifications for this job. The nutrix had to have perfect Greek/Latin pronunciation because everyone knew that the child would imitate her speech. A child needed to sound like a Roman and not as a slave. This was important because there is a story of how Hadrian, before he became emperor, read a letter out loud to the senate. The problem is that Hadrian was from Spain and like the proper pronunciation of a Roman Senator. He was, therefore, ridiculed because of his pronunciation.

If a child survived to seven they would begin formal education. This is when the work of the nutrix decreased and the paedaog took over. His job was to be a bodyguard/servant of the child. The paedaog went everywhere with the child. Accompanying them to school,  to the bathhouse, and to play with friends. One of their primary jobs was to protect the child from pedophiles.

Besides, the parents would become much more involved in the child’s life as the threat of death was normally much more reduced by this age. The purpose of education was to become an exemplary Roman citizen involved. A parent’s job was to provide an example of what that meant. Girls were taught to aspire towards marriages, having children and managing a home. Fathers had absolute authority over their children and could even lawfully put them to death.

Another key aspect of the early childhood experiences would have been practical matters such as the birth of a sibling or experiencing the entertainment of Roman. Gladiator fights, chariot races, and triumphs would have been experiences that all children would have had. Triumphs, in particular, could have a powerful effect on rich male boys who may have aspired to have their own one day

Conclusion

Childhood in Ancient Rome was really a time of separation from parents during the most formative years combined with the preparation of citizenship. Being a Roman  was considered inherently valuable and parents invest a great deal in this for their children

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.

Conclusion

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.

Paraphrasing Tips for ESL Students

Paraphrasing is an absolute skill in a professional setting. By paraphrasing, it is meant to have the ability to take someone else’s words and rephrase them while giving credit for the original source. Whenever a student fails to do this it is called plagiarism which is a major problem in academia. In this post, we will look at several tips on how to paraphrase.

The ability to paraphrase academically takes almost near-native writing ability. This is because you have to be able to play with the language in a highly complex manner. To be able to do this after a few semesters of ESL is difficult for the typical student. Despite this, there are several ways to try to make paraphrase work. Below are just some ideas.

  • Use synonyms
  • Change the syntax
  • Make several sentences
  • Condense/summarize

One tip not mentioned is reading. Next, to actually writing, nothing will improve writing skills like reading. Being exposed to different texts helps you develop an intuitive understanding of the second language in a way that copying and pasting never will.

Use Synonyms

Using synonyms is a first step in paraphrasing an idea but this approach cannot be used by itself as that is considered to be plagiarism by many people. With synonyms, you replace some words with others. The easiest words to replace are adjectives and verbs, followed by nouns. Below is an example. The first sentence is the original one and the second is the paraphrase.

The man loves to play guitar
The man likes to play guitar

In the example above all we did was change the word “loves” to “like”. This is a superficial change that is often still considered plagiarism because of how easy it is to do. We can take this a step further by modifying the infinitive verb “to play.”

The man loves to play guitar
The man likes to play guitar
The man likes playing guitar

Again this is superficial but a step above the first example. In addition, most word processors will provide synonyms if you right-click on the word and off course there are online options as well. Remember that this is a beginning and is a tool you use in addition to more complex approaches.

Change the Syntax

Changing the syntax has to do with the word order of the sentence or sentences. Below is an example

The man loves to play guitar
Playing the guitar is something the man loves

In this example, we move the infinitive phrase “to play” to the front and change it to a present participle. There were other adjustments that needed to be made to maintain the flow of the sentence. This example is a more advanced form of paraphrasing and it may be enough to only do this to avoid plagiarism. However, you can combine synonyms and syntax as shown in the example below

The man loves to play guitar
Playing the guitar is something the man likes

Make Several Sentences

Another approach is to convert a sentence(s) into several more sentences. As shown below

The man loves to play guitar
This man has a hobby. He likes playing guitar.

You can see that there are two sentences now. The first sentence indicates the man has a hobby and the second explains what the hobby is and how much he likes it. In addition, in the second sentence, the verb “to play” was changed to the present participle of “playing.”

Condense/Summarize

Condensing or summarizing is not considered by everyone to be paraphrasing. The separation between paraphrasing and summarizing is fuzzy and it is more of a continuum than black and white. With this technique, you try to reduce the length of the statement you are paraphrasing as shown below.

The man loves to play guitar
He likes guitar

This was a difficult sentence to summarizes because it was already so short. However, we were able to shrink it from six to three words by removing what it was about the guitar he liked.

Academic Examples

We will now look at several academic examples to show the applications of these rules in a real context. The passage below is some academic text

There is also a push within Southeast Asia for college graduates to have
interpersonal skills. For example, Malaysia is calling for graduates to
have soft skills and that these need to be part of the curriculum of tertiary schools.
In addition, a lack of these skills has been found to limit graduates’ employability.

Example 1: Paraphrase with synonyms and syntax changes

There are several skills graduates need for employability in Southeast Asia.  For example, people skills are needed. The ability to relate to others is being pushed for inclusion in higher education from parts of Southeast Asia (Thomas, 2018).

You can see how difficult this can be. We rearranged several concepts and changed several verbs to try and make this our own sentence. Below is an example of condensing.

Example 2: Condensing

There is demand in Southeast Asia for higher education to develop the interpersonal skills of their students as this is limiting the employability of graduates (Thomas, 2018).

With this example, we reduced the paragraph to one sentence.

Culture and Plagiarism

There are majors differences in terms of how plagiarism is viewed based on culture. In the West, plagiarism is universally condemned both in and out of academia as essentially stealing ideas from other people. However, in other places, the idea of plagiarism is much more nuanced or even okay.

In some cultures, one way to honor what someone has said or taught is to literally repeat it verbatim. The thought process goes something like this

  • This person is a great teacher/elder
  • What they said is insightful
  • As a student or lower person, I cannot improve what they said
  • Therefore, I should copy these perfects words into my own paper.

Of course, everyone does not think like this but I have experienced enough to know that it does happen.

Whether the West likes it or not plagiarism is a cultural position rather than an ethical one. To reduce plagiarism requires to show students how it is culturally unacceptable in an academic/professional setting to do this. The tips in this post will at least provide tools for how to support students to overcome this habit

University Students During the Middle Ages

Universities during the Middle Ages could grow quite large. Some estimates put universities with populations of up to 30,000. However, this number includes not only students but also faculty, staff, administration, and even servants of students. Naturally, with such a large population of people and primarily young people, there were going to be challenges with student behavior.

Students

It was common for university students to be boys between the ages of 12-15. In order to enroll, a young person had to bring with them a letter that attests to their character, similar to a letter of recommendation. In addition, they also needed to indicate what the planned to study, which we would call declaring a major today. If students were disruptive enough they would be whipped and sent home.

Many of these young students were sponsored by the church to serve as clergy in the future. However, it was common and even okay for young scholars to beg in order to support their studies. The idea of the starving students is much older then many of us knew.

Even though many students were essentially pre-teens the older students began to organize into groups based on the country or region they were from and make demands of the school and local government. Among the demands were the following.

  • Inner autonomy-Students wanted the right to judge local problems among themselves within their country or region group
  • Determine who can join the group
  • Protection from foreign powers-This makes sense given the propensity for war among countries during the Middle Ages. To be in the wrong place during war could be deadly.
  • Immunity from public service and taxes-Essentially, nobody likes to pay taxes throughout human history.

TO achieve these means, students would shift their loyalty to whoever supported them whether it was Pope, King or Emperor. Generally, everyone wanted the support of the students for political and or economic reasons. The Pope and Emperor want the political backing of students in order to have greater influence. The King wanted the students support because universities boosted the local economy.

Town-Gown Riots

Despite the best efforts of universities, students still found ways to get into considerable trouble. An example of this is taken from the 13th century at the University of Paris and is one of many instances of what were called “Town-Gown Riots” with town representing the community and gown representing the students.

In this particular instance, a servant of the archdeacon of the university goes to a tavern to get wine for their master. While the servant is at the tavern, he gets into an argument, is beaten, and the master’s flask (bottle) is broken. The archdeacon was English and this led to English students beating the tavern-keeper in revenge for the injury to their countrymen (remember that students live in communities by country).

To avenge the beating of their Parisian brother, the Parisian citizens attack the English boarding house and kill several students including the archdeacon. The university teachers responded by going to the king and complain about the death of the archdeacon who was their peer. Of course, they were also a little concerned about the dead students.

King was afraid of losing the university so he punished the leader of the city and gave the university more autonomy by giving it all freedom from civic authority. However, a second riot happened a few years later and led to many teachers and students leaving Paris to return to England and this contributed to the founding of both Oxford and Cambridge.

One reason for this chaos was that many universities did not own any buildings. Classes and living arrangements were chaotic and spread all over. This lack of centralization made it easy for such violence to take place.

Conclusion

Student life has always been full of challenges. For ages, students have made demands and caused trouble. Perhaps for the stressed administrator, it is reassuring that these problems are not new.

Memorization and Critical Thinking

This post will look at the symbiotic relationship between memorization and critical thinking. Both forms of thinking need each other as they serve different purposes in learning. Memorization is a passive skill while critical thinking is an active skill

Memorization

Memorizing is the process of retaining information. In other words, a person is not only experiencing something but actively trying to remember it for future recall. This can be something as simple as a phone number or as complicated as the plot to a movie. Our minds do not retain everything that stimulates us but rather what we choose to notice.

To keep things as simple as possible we have working memory and long-term memory. Working memory is where new information comes into the mind. After something has been in the working memory long enough, emphasized, or rehearsed enough, it will become a part of long term memory.

Working memory is also used to complete tasks. For example, you are using working memory to read this post. You know how to read as this is in your long-term memory but working memory is used to do the actual reading. However, because reading is something so familiar for most of us it does not take up as much concentration as it used to. This allows us to focus on other things such as comprehension or reading faster.

Within education, memorizing is a part of the learning process. It is a passive skill in that you do not produce anything new when memorizing but just repeat what was seen, said/written.  Students have to memorize steps, dates, numbers, directions, etc. This memorization is used to complete assignments, pass quizzes, prepare for a test, etc. In other words, memorizing is an important and crucial aspect of the learning process. As such, students go to elaborate lengths to try to retain information such as staying up late rote memorizing, using various memorization techniques, and or working with friends to retain knowledge. There are even times when students resort to cheating to achieve their goals.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the process of judging/manipulating information in various ways. For example, information can be compared and contrasted, synthesize, analyzed, evaluated, etc. All the verbs mentions involve either judging the information or in some way creating new knowledge such as by comparison. Critical thinking is an active skill in that something new is created through this thought process.

One of the primary goals of critical thinking is to be able to develop a position and support that position with evidence. For example, if someone loves to travel, critical thinking would involve providing evidence for why they love to travel. This is harder for students then it seems as they often supply emotional arguments rather than rational ones.

Therefore, it could be said that critical thinking is an extension of memorizing. You cannot think critically unless you have something to think about. Also, you will have nothing in your head unless it has been memorized in one way or another. However, critical thinking is not about the discussion of petty facts like dates. Rather, critical thinking often involves looking at the big picture and trying to explain major events. It’s the forest rather than the trees often.

An example of this would be a discussion on WWII. You can ask students to try to explain what do they think was motivating Hitler to start WWII. A question such as this assumes knowledge of Hitler, Germany, WWII and more. However, such a question as this is not asking you to ponder the day the war started or ended or the hair color of Hitler. In other words, there are things that a student needs to know to think critically about their response but it needs to be substantial information.

Now we may be moving in a circle. If critical thinking involves using substantial information that is memorized who determines what is substantial? Unfortunately, critical thinking determines what is important and not important. This means that we need to be critical about what we memorize and critical about how we use what we have memorized. The only way to learn how to do this is with practice. By exposing yourself to the information you learn how to retain what is important and what is not. Sometimes you remember what the book is about while other times you remember the name of the book so you can find it later. It all depends on the context.

Conclusion

Memorizing and critical thinking are a team when it comes to learning. Learning often begins with memorizing something. However, what we memorize can depend on what we think is important and this involves critical thinking at least hopefully. Critical thinking is the process of using what we already know to evaluate it or create a different perspective on something.

Reading Comprehension Strategies for Children

In this post, we will take a look at some strategies to support the development of reading skills in small children. Reading is such a fundamental skill that it is important that students are provided with opportunities to develop this important talent.

Let them See You Reading

In order to establish  a culture of reading in the home/school children need to see people reading. When something is common it naturally becomes an expectation in terms of behavior. Children need to know that reading is a part of being a member of a household/classroom and that everyone is expected to do this.

What is meant by reading is reading from a book. We can do lots of reading online but reading online establishes a culture of being online rather than reading a book. It is common to believe that how one reads makes no difference. However, this may not be true when applied o children.

Read with them

Nothing will inspire perseverance in learning something for a child than having an adult with them when they are struggling. It seems as if anything can be learned with support. Therefore, it is critical that parents/teachers read with children. The feedback and correction that they receive while reading one-on-one builds reading skills. Furthermore, Reading together provides accountability for young readers.

It is tempting to have a child go read only. However, given the naturally social nature of many children, coupled with their desire for attention, sending them off alone will simply make reading boring for many children.

Ask Questions

In order to develop comprehension, it is important to ask children questions about what they are reading. It is common for kids to read a text but not really know what it is about or what is going on. This can be especially true for abstract texts such as textbooks that usually lack a narrative that is found in a story.

Younger students who are learning to read, struggle so much with the mechanics of reading that they will neglect comprehension. These are just a few reasons why it is important to ask children questions when they are reading. Asking questions forces the child to be aware of what they are reading rather just on reading it. This is one example of developing thinking strategies

Answer Questions

As children get older, they often begin to have questions about what they are reading. Therefore, it is important to encourage children to ask questions and to be sure to provide answers to them.

It’s not necessary to answer the questions directly. For example, you can point the child back to the text to look for the answer or ask another question that might help them find the answer to their own question. One goal of teaching is to make students autonomous learners and this means that providing the answer to every question may not be beneficial.

Conclusion

Reading provides foundational skills for learning throughout life. Children need to be provided with opportunities to experience reading and interact with others in this learning experience.

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.

Contract

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

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.

Conclusion

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.

Definitions

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.

Conclusion

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.

Computers and the School

As a teacher or even as an administrator, it will be necessary to consider the role of computers in the school or classroom. Some things to consider are how many computers will be available and how the will be distributed within the school. There can also be concerns with cost and supporting faculty and staff in helping students with technology.

In this post, we will look at different options for distributing computers within a school. There are essentially three choices to consider when distributing computers within a school, and they are computer labs, computer clusters, and a single computer.

Computer Lab

Computer labs are probably the most popular choice for integrating computers into the classroom. With the computer lab, students go to where the computers are. The benefit of this is all the computers are in one place which allows all students to use a computer. It also should make it easier to monitor the students as they all have their own resources so it should, in theory, be easier for them to focus. In addition, it is common for the computer lab to have a computer technician who can provide technical support.

There are also problems with a computer lab. There must be a schedule which means that usually, only one class can use the computer lab at a time. The startup cost of a computer lab can be high has well. Buying 5 computers vs 50 can be a big deal for many institutions. Behavior can still be a problem because even though the student has their own computer it doesn’t mean they are using it to learn. Lastly, with numerous computers comes a need to provide technical support through hiring staff.

Computer clusters

Computer clusters are essentially combining the computer lab with the regular classroom. Computer clusters involve having several computers in the regular classroom. How many computers make a cluster depends on the school. If we exclude the teacher’s computer it safe to say at least two computers would be considered the minimum for a cluster.

A variation of computer clusters is computer carts. Computer carts are carts that contain laptops. These carts can be checked out by the teacher for student use. You can think of them as a mobile computer lab. This allows the teacher to infuse their own classroom with technology rather than having to go to the lab. Depending on the school there can be enough laptops for everybody or simply to make clusters. In addition, instead of laptops, the school may have tablets or other technology available.

The benefits of computer clusters are that they are available all the time. Computer labs are book and taken but the cluster should be at the discretion of the teacher. Several students can collaborate on their computers to complete a project or other tasks. The downside is that it is not possible for everyone to be on the computers so there must be some way to manage the students who are not using them. Computers are generally popular with kids, so they will all want to be on the computers when possible.

Single Computer Classrooms

A single computer classroom has one computer. Generally, this is the teacher’s computer and or their laptop. This may seem counterintuitive but having only one computer helps to keep the cost down. However, the use of technology is limited to teach led actions because not all the students can use one computer at the same time. This means using such tools as videos, PowerPoints, demonstrations, etc. Activities that require more passivity from students.

Conclusion

The purpose is not to claim that any of the options discussed are better than the other. The purpose was to explain the options that are available for educators who are training to match their resources with their technology. Any of the choices mentioned here can work with appropriate support and cooperation.

Early Universities

Universities have been around under many names for over a Millennium. What they all have in common is a desire to train primarily young adults for scholar and professional service. In this post, we will look at three early medieval universities along with the influence of the Catholic Church in higher education at that time.

Bologna

The school that became the University of Bologna was initially a law school.  There was a need for experts in Roman Law, particularly the Justinian code, due to the influence of the Catholic Church. The school was officially recognized in 1158 by Frederick I.

By the 13th century, there were over 10,000 students. This led to a need for better organization among the students. This was done through the development of organizations that represented students by country of origin. The country representation then joined one of two campus-wide groups. The two main organizations in Bologna were the universitas citranontanorum and universitas ultramontanorum.

With organization began a push for social justice. There was often tension between students and teachers as well as students and the local community. As college kids of today, sometimes the university kids could cause the local community behavioral problems. There were scuffles between students and the local community that were called town and gown riots. “Town” refers to the non-academic and “gown” to students. In other parts of Europe, the fighting could be deadly.

At Bologna, the students pushed for and won the right to be judged by the university for their misdeeds. At this time, there were no official university buildings. This led to classes being held all over the city in random places. If there were any disagreements with the locals the students and or even the teachers would threaten to leave.

Salernum

Salernum was another early university. Some have suggested that it was started in the 9th century. Salernum focused on medicine and was supported by Constantine of Carthage. Constantine was a scholar who studied music,  math, medicine, and even necromancy.

Salernum was also associated with the crusades. The famous Robert de Guiscard, the father of the crusader Bohemond,  supported this institution. Wounded crusaders would visit the school as they returned from battle in the Middle East. As the school grew, eventually students who wanted to practice medicine had to pass a government exam and serve under an experienced doctor for at least one year.

Naples

The school that became the University of Naples was organized in the 13th century as a law school. Naples was originally just several independent schools and teachers who were group together to make one academic community. The word “university” means one community.

By creating a single corporate body it was possible for the government to give privileges to the university such as conferring degrees. This prevented just anyone from starting a university and conferring degrees. Even the title of professor was controlled. A professor was a magister or doctor/teacher while a medicus was a practitioner

Role of the Church

The church was always looking for ways to extend its influence. When teachers, students, and the local community were fighting, the Pope was often serving as an intermediary. This naturally increased the influence and prestige of the papacy.

The church was also eager to recognize universities officially. This was similar to accreditation today and allowed students and teachers to work or study all over Europe at other schools. As such, both sides benefited from this transaction. However, the goal was not so much to asses the quality of the school as it was to gain influence over universities. As such, papal approval did not necessarily mean an excellent school but a school that the church had influence over.

Conclusion

These three universities played a critical role in the development of higher education in Europe, in particular, the continental side. Each school was reacting to the needs of the local community whether that was teaching law medicine or some other subject. The church was aware of the growth of this model of education and was sure to have influence in its development.

Attitudes of Teachers

Some would say that success in the classroom begins in the mind. What and how a teacher thinks about the world around him can play a role in their success as a teacher. It’s within our minds that our attitudes are formed. By attitudes, we are talking about how one thinks or feels about something. What we think about something could have a serious influence on how we do oi ourselves. In this post, we look at several forms of relationships that teachers often develop attitudes about and these are attitudes towards self,  students, peers, and the subject

Towards Self

Teaching is a profession that requires a lot of people skills and extroversion. However, to reach out to others a teacher needs to understand who they are as a person as well. If a teacher does not keep track of their own mental and emotional health it can quickly lead to burnout. This means that a teacher needs to be aware of their own emotions and stress in addition to the needs of the students.

A teacher needs to also reflect on how they are doing in terms of their teaching. There should be an internal desire to improve to help students to be successful. Many teachers neglect this as they focus on the social side of teaching.

Towards Students

What a teacher thinks about other students matters as well. If a teacher believes a student is dumb that students will often find ways to confirm this as stated by the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy. However, sometimes a negative view of a student will motivate the student to excel in a desire to prove a teacher wrong. This is generally rare as students tend to succumb to the expectations of those around them.

Similarly, it is important for a teacher to consider their attitude towards parents. Demanding parents can have a negative effect on a teacher that can shape attitudes. The same can also be said of parents who are indifferent to their children’s studies. In both situations, a teacher wants to avoid a negative comment because the attitude you have towards a parent can spill over into the relationship/interaction with the student.

Towards Peers

As with any other institution, schools have people who see things differently. Teachers will sometimes get along and will some times try to undermine each other. There will be disagreements and even fights over the use/allocation of resources, responsibilities, teaching styles, etc. Gossiping and forms of passive backstabbing do occur as well.

It is not all negative. There is laughing and camaraderie, sharing of ideas, and support when there are problems. Through the ups and downs of dealing with other teachers, it is important to try to maintain a positive attitude towards the people around and the institution we are working at.

Towards Subject

It is also important that a teacher show interest and enthusiasm for their subject. This is normally not a problem as a teacher goes to school to learn this subject that they like. However, there are times when a teacher’s attitude towards a subject can become negative. If the teacher is asked to teach something they are not interested in or weak as it could cause a loss of enthusiasm. For example, a music teacher who is asked to cover PE. The music teacher might love music but would lack enthusiasm for PE.

Moving a teacher to a different grade or a subject within their expertise could also lead to this. For example, moving a 2nd-grade teacher to 4th grade my influence enthusiasm or moving a geometry teacher to teaching trigonometry. In both these situations, the teacher is competent for the assignment but not interested.

Lastly, any of the ideas present in the previous sections can influence enthusiasm for the subject. Lack of reflection, bad kids, bad parents, bad peers, can all drain the life of a teacher. This can carry over into the classroom and affect the enthusiasm of a subject that a teacher loves.

Conclusion

Success begins in the mind. For a teacher to be successful they must begin with monitoring their attitudes about themselves and the surrounding people.

Last Minute Online Teaching

There has been a surge in demand for online teaching resources due to school closures for health concerns. Many teachers are being thrust into online teaching with almost no notice or preparation. This post will provide educators with an awareness of some of the tools that are available.

To make things as simple as possible, you will need essentially some sort of online presence that allows for the following two things

  • Submission of assignments/completion  of activities
  • Communication

True online teaching can be much richer than this. However, for someone who is struggling with short notice to make this happen this is the bare minimum. We will first look at available platforms before looking at communication methods. As an aside many of the platforms have integrated communications tools, however, sometimes they do not meet the needs for various situations.

Platforms

An Elearning platform serves as a base of operation on the internet. Not all learning has to take place within the online platform. However,  the students’ learning experience often begins here before branching of based on the activities that are involved. Generally, the platform provides a place for submission of assignments and asynchronous communication ie forum posts and announcements. Of course, you can extend the functionality based on expertise and or support. There are several free online platforms that require no support from your IT department. The first we will discuss is Google classroom

Google Classrooms

Google classrooms provides a basic interface for teaching online. You can post announcements assignments and there is a basic gradebook as well. You can post links as much as you want to other places on the web as well. You can also arrange a google hangout with your students through the posting of a link.  This is a great resource for short notice. The functionality is limited for more advance actions but this works in a pinch.

Schoology

The layout for Schoology is similar to Google Classrooms but with more features such as attendance and a great way to organize content using folders. There is a free package and there is also a subscription option. Although Schoology wasn’t specifically designed for higher education it is a superior choice to what Google Classroom is offered right now. One downside is there is no integrated system for face-to-face communication with Schoology, which means you would have to employ some sort of third party communication.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams will not be an option for you unless you or your organization are subscribed to Office 365. Teams is a great resource that combines all the features of Schoology with embedded communication features and the integration of Microsoft products. There is a section for assignments, files, grades, and even a notebook. Students can also be placed into groups for online discussions. In addition, Teams is not limited to the classroom and can be used by the larger organization as well. Since Teams has more features, it can be a little harder to learn initial so it might not be the best choice in a last-minute situation.

Moodle

Moodle my be the mother of online platforms. The question is not so much what Moodle can do but rather what it cannot do. There are so many features and choices that it would be impossible to explain them all. Moodle requires extensive It support as it must be downloaded on the local server with all the other hassles of mandating a website. A such, unless you are already familiar with how it works Moodle would not be choice on short notice.

Communication

Communication in this post is defined as some sort of sc=ycrhonous interaction with at least the teacher providing audio and video. Below are some choices for doing this.

Youtube

Youtube provides the ability to upload videos and to stream. Uploading videos is not that complicated and essentially you make the video and upload it to Youtube. You can share content or communicate about assignment expectations or other announcements. You can also take the link and insert it into whatever online platform you are using

For streaming, it is a little bit more complicated. You will some encoder software such as OBS Studio. The details of how to stream on Youtube are beyond this post’s purpose but your IT or AV support should be able to help you make this happen. There is also a live chat feature now which can allow you to discuss things with students in real-time. The benefit of Youtube is there is a small delay and only the teacher is producing audio and video which helps with slow internet connections.

Another problem with Youtube is that the content is available to everyone. Whoever has the link can see. This can be a problem of there is a desire to keep some information confidential.

Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is another choice. It does not take a great deal of knowledge to maneuver using this software. The main problem is that only 25 people can participate in one hangout. This means that Google Hangouts is best for smaller classes. Other features allow you to share your desktop while communicating. There is not a large dealy but my own experience shows that student frequently loses their connection and have to keep rejoining the hangout.

Skype

Skype is similar to Google Hangouts except for up to 50 people who can participate. This will work for large classes.

Discord

If you are a gamer you might be familiar with Discord. Discord was designed to allow gamers to communicate online. However, it now has a second life as a communication tool for online learning. The setup is a little weird if you are not in technology and there is also a 50 person limit on this communication tool as well.

Microsoft stream

Stream looks exactly like Youtube but it is software with the Microsoft ecosystem. You can upload videos or stream live if you have the right subscription with Microsoft. The benefit of Stream is that it can be used in collaboration with Microsoft Teams which makes it an absolute plus. In addition, because it is being used within a company the video is not available for all eyes to see which can be a problem with  Youtube videos.

Zoom

Perhaps one of the kings of Voice over Internet platform is Zoom. Zoom allows real-time interaction among up to 100 participants or more depending on the package you signup for. It also allows you to separate students in discussion groups like in a real class. You can share your screen or have the students share theirs. Also, the communication is secured and only available to participants. However, if you want decent service you have to pay as the free package comes with a lot of restrictions. For the Moodle users, there is an extension so that you can integrate it into Moodle.

Conclusion

Hopefully, the information provided here will allow you to explore whatever combination of features work best for you. This is not in anyways an exhaustive list of what is possible. The point to remember is that whatever you do you need a way to communicate and receive assignments from the students.