4 Remarkable Teachers That Deserve Appreciation

4 Remarkable Teachers That Deserve Appreciation

In communities worldwide teachers are dedicating their lives to improving the futures of their students with incredible energy and often too little recognition. In honour of World Teachers’ Day, we would like to spotlight a few of these remarkable teachers.

Practicing Compassion

When we think of learning in school, we think of large core subjects – math, reading, science, art, history, etc. Yet some remarkable teachers, like Toronto-based Stepan Pruchnicky, also integrate habits and strategies in the classroom that foster something just as important; compassion. In a recent post, Stephan explains why helping your students find a partner for classroom activities is important: “There’s nothing worse that not being chosen. There’s nothing better than being invited to join a group just as that feeling is setting in.” When students are tasked with finding their own partners, he reminds them to always be conscientious and invite partnerless students to join group. Pruchnicky regularly writes and tweets about how we can listen better to one another and have conscientious conversations.

Thank you Mr. Stepan!

Touching and Changing Lives

On top of volunteering as a teacher in two schools, serving as a member of the Kilifi County Education Board and running her non-profit Lifting the Barriers which supports students outside the classroom, Jacqueline Kahura coaches and motivates fellow teachers to take on the role of caregivers for students who face issues outside of school that affect their learning. Kenya faces the problem of low regard for teachers and unrealistic testing requirements that plagues many other countries, as well as a lack of infrastructure and furniture for schools in rural communities. Mrs. Kahura speaks about her work in a BBC interview: “It has had its own challenges frankly; however, at the end of the day when I look back and say, I have touched and changed this number of lives, that I find very fulfilling.” She was a Top Ten Finalist for the 2015 Global Teacher Prize. Take a look at the fascinating video about her work. Could she be more inspiring?

Thank you Mrs. Kahura!

Connecting with Students

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Rita Pierson taught for 40 plus years and is a brilliant example of one of many remarkable educators who truly changed the trajectory of many young lives. She is well remembered for her TED Talk, Every Kid Needs a Champion (watch it, it’s worth the time!), in which she explains the importance of connecting with students on a personal level and of acting the part of success despite the challenges of the classroom and institution. “We come to work when we don’t feel like it and we listen to policy that doesn’t make sense and we teach anyway.” She tells her audience, “Is this job tough? You betcha. But it is not impossible. We can do this. We are educators. We are born to make a difference.” Mrs. Pierson passed away in 2013 having touched the lives of many students and continuing to inspire many educators with her message.

Thank you Mrs. Pierson.

Innovation for the Community

Guy Etienne is a man with a passion for science and pragmatic education. His work extends from his school College Catts Pressior in Port-au-Prince, Haïti where he pushes his students to aim high and stay curious, to his teacher training programs, broadcast throughout his country. “I tried to work as an engineer, to build a building but, I don’t know. I am very happy when I share my expertise, when I share my knowledge and when I share my competence.” According to The Global Prize, for which Mr. Etienne was a 2015 Top Ten Finalist, he left behind his PhD studies in engineering in 1982 to become an educator and has been so influential in the education system in Haiti that the government has asked him to Minister of Education five times. He has other preoccupations and projects though, so he continues teach and use his knowledge to develop his community and country.

Thank you Mr. Etienne!

 

Now it’s Your Turn, Thank a Teacher

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This is just a snapshot of the variety of challenges and victories teachers face, but you can do your part to recognize that work and raise the status of teachers by taking a moment and commenting below, to say thank you to a teacher who has changed your life and spread the word, loud and proud!

 

How to Overcome the Organizational Burdens of Teaching

How to Overcome the Organizational Burdens of Teaching

 

ORGANIZATIONAL HURDLES OF TEACHING

For the great majority of teachers, a 40-hour work week is a laughable concept. Between classroom time, lesson planning, formal assessments and testing, handling behavioural problems, keeping regular contact with parents, and a slew of administrative responsibilities, the average Canadian teacher works 50 to 55 hours per week according to a Canadian Teachers Federation report.

Teachers recognize that their ability to support students directly and to maintain a work-life balance suffers under their need for multitasking. Despite this, educators are a resourceful and idealistic bunch. Some practical organizing and forethought can help ease planning and administrative duties and bring the focus back on kids.

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WHAT’S A TEACHER TO DO? 

Make back-ups and templates

In lessons and communications with parents, teachers are skillful improvisers. A big part of handling urgent and unexpected situations well comes from having good back-up plans. That includes backed-up files and templates for your handouts and assignments, as well as prepared letters to parents so you can get messages out quickly when needed. Whether you use sites like ClassTrakLiveBinder  or Wufoo, having access to online tools for learning and communication that create a direct link between you, parents, and students can help streamline the process and make creating and sharing learning resources easier.

 

Create a system to avoid digital chaos

Classrooms and curriculum planning is increasingly a digitized affair which, while nice for trees, can be a source of chaos and stress for some teachers. A digitized classroom makes being organized much simpler, if planned out properly. Make sure your folders and subfolders on your computer are organized in a way that makes sense and allows you to sort and access documents quickly. If you need to be able to access those documents from several devices or places, set up a storage system online in a place like Dropbox or Google Drive. Do not to let yourself fall into the habit of leaving unsorted files to accumulate in your downloads folder or on your desktop. Remember, this applies to the bookmarks on your internet browser, too. That amazing rubric making website won’t save you time if it is buried under an endless collection of articles you hastily bookmarked to read at a less busy time.

 

Organize your physical environment

You probably don’t have time for the intensive decluttering and purging regimens popular in some life magazines, but organizing the space you work in, much like avoiding digital clutter, will enable you to put away and find what you need quickly at home, on your desk, and in your classroom, and keep your mind clear. You can find some great tips to get started in a post by Whitson Gordon, former editor of Lifehacker, one of the most popular blogs in the world.

The most impactful changes to your classroom will require a challenging and collaborative approach. Designing your classroom around helping your kids engage, communicate, and learn will make your teaching time all the more valuable. Try teaching your students to share the responsibility of keeping the classroom inviting, keeping in mind that unconventional spaces and messiness, within reason, can foster creativity. Creative Calgary teacher, Tracy Evans, uses design thinking and a collaborative approach to create a deskless classroom to help increase student engagement. In her fabulous post about it, she explains: “more than an interior design project, rethinking a learning space is about remaking not only the space, but also the learning that happens there.”

Ask the veterans and technology enthusiasts

Do you have a mentor or colleague who you are comfortable going to for advice? Particularly for new teachers, talking to someone who has made it through the same challenges you are facing can make your multitude of tasks less overwhelming. “Build relationships with reflective, life-long learners to become one” suggests Instructional Coach, Andrew Miller. If you feel out-of-your depths in the face of the technological tools for teachers and students and find them taking more time than they save, get the lowdown from a colleague who loves technology and knows how to leverage it.

Give yourself some mental space

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Part of your job is to keep communication pathways open between yourself, your students and their parents. That said, if that line of communication means you are connected and reachable non-stop, it can become an energy and attention drain. Make sure you give yourself time to disconnect at some point in the day. Make a ritual of it even if just for a half-hour in the morning, at lunch, or in the evening with a cup of tea and something relaxing that does not involve a screen or an internet connection.

 

Whether you are a veteran or a fresh face teaching this fall, feel free to share your strategies for staying organized and staying focused on your students’ needs.