JEFF BROOMES: Five pillars to a good educator
THROUGHOUT my professional career as an educator, I have always accepted that my performance and, indeed, my duty were defined by five different pillars – curriculum, instruction, classroom management, technology and assessment.
It was totally important to execute them properly if acceptable success were to be achieved.
Each of these pillars comes squarely under the statutory duties of a teacher or educator at every level. This was true for all 40 years of my career and it remains true today. We have a constituency known as children to address and we cannot pretend that any one of the pillars is removed from that undeniable responsibility.
Taxpayers’ investment in education is quite substantial and justifiably so. As our children are developed, so is our nation’s future shaped. Every curriculum design begins with a core of subjects that must be respected. In support of this core are areas that appeal to individual interest, national needs and health and fitness considerations.
The challenge to all educators is to have a well balanced and relevant curriculum. Whereas enrichments like cosmetology may be appropriate for our country, wool coat-making may not.
As Anne Tomlinson once said, “All children turn up daily like flickering candles; how brightly those candles burn by the end of the day depends on the work of the teachers.”
This sends a clear message about the importance of the teacher to student development.
They must be able to guide, instruct, direct and expose. The mission and duty of the teacher must be to engage children through diverse instructional methods. They should be passionate about it or say goodbye to it. That’s the real definition of impactful instruction.
There is a story of a rather pompous former teacher who once went into the staff room and loudly exclaimed, “I just taught the most beautiful lesson of my life. I researched the topic well and gave those students all the information that they needed to pass any test.” One colleague responded, “Really? I heard lots of commotion coming from that room and saw children running in and out.”
“Does that matter? I taught; it is up to them to learn.”
Every time I hear this story I become more convinced that the most important component of effective teaching is classroom management. No matter how beautiful a lesson you think was taught and no learning actually took place, it was simply an exercise in time-wasting. Classroom management is defined by order, structure and engagement. Do it right and success is guaranteed.
In contemporary society, information relevance is quite short-lived. Many students are also more advanced with the use of the available technologies than some of their teachers. It is the duty of teachers to structure learning opportunities that involve technology, either for research, articulation or creative expression.
We are educators, not narrators, and must engage students at their point of interest.
There was a time when tests were given, papers corrected and marks entered. Assessment done! Those days are long gone. Contemporary education is about operational performance. It is no longer about knowing and telling; it’s more focused on understanding and putting to use. Assessment, although now authentic, continues to be the duty of all teachers.
In the sports and cultural areas some students leave the school compound for viewing, interviewing and performing. In most others, assessments are done at school during school time and have earned the name school-based assessments. These authentic assessments form part of our duties for which we are compensated. How can we see it otherwise?
Oh Shylock, take your pound of flesh but let not a drop of blood escape.
Jeff Broomes is an experienced educator, principal and community organiser who also serves as vice president of the Barbados Cricket Association and director of the West Indies Cricket Board. Email: [email protected]