Letter to the teachers

Dear Teachers,

You have chosen to teach as a profession because you like teaching and hope that you can make a difference in your students’ future. After several years of training, you know your subject well and want to transfer them and your enthusiast to students. You know that being a teacher today is NOT easy with many challenges but you still make a decision to be the best teachers that you can be.

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Besides the subject that you are trained in, there is another factor that you need to consider. As teaching and learning continue to evolve, you need to develop an effective teaching approach to reach today’s students because they are not the same as students several years ago. Many cannot sit quietly in class and listen to a lecture but are easily get distracted by other things that you have no control. Therefore, lecturing method may not be effective, especially for subjects like Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM.) You may need to learn other methods such as Active learning or Guided Inquiry as well as how to teach effectively with technologies, which may not be taught in your current training program.

In the past, teachers only come to class to teach but times have changed. Today’s classroom is not the same as in the past because you have different types of students with different motivations and maturity. You need to manage your class by letting students know what they need to do BEFORE, DURING and AFTER the class. You may need to post all the information on a class website which includes lecture materials, rules, procedures, and class activities so students can prepare. You need to state materials they need to learn each week, class activities, discussions, teamwork, quizzes, homework, office time for students to come in to ask questions, as well as rules such as daily attendance, disturbances, the use of cell phones in class, etc. and review them with students to make sure they understand and agree to such policies and rules. As teachers, you set the rules and manage them as needed.

Since students are often concerned about their grades and where they stand at any given time in class. You need to explain your grading rules on your website and on the first day of class. It is important for students to know your expectations and how do you grade their works. You may need to remind them that homework and exams are more than just getting a grade. These assessments help them to know their progress and learning achievement as well as helps you, the teachers, to meet their needs.

In the past, lecturing method is the only option. Today’s teachers can use whatever methods that they see fit for their students. It is important for you to be familiar with various methods such as guided inquiry, active learning, lecturing, and discussion etc. As teachers, you should use what works best for you, given your style and your students’ learning needs. You also monitor and keep students actively thinking, writing, comparing, analyzing, and applying their knowledge to develop their skills. Students will learn more when they understand the purpose (WHY) the materials (WHAT) and schedule (WHEN) and the required works (HOW) to develop their knowledge and skills.

In the past, some students go to school to learn how to pass exams and get a degree. Today they need to develop knowledge and skills so they can contribute positively to the society. As teachers, you need to guide them on a career that fit both their interests and the need of your society. As there are more students who go to school today than in the past, there are some “unprepared” students who do not know what they want and why they are there. Many schools do NOT know how to deal with this issue and often ignore them, but as teachers, you must guide them to plan their career accordingly. This is a new responsibility that many teachers may not expect.

To make sure your students will do well, you may have a “pre-classassessment” on the first day of class to measure students’ ability to see what they already know about the content that you will be teaching. If needed, you may recommend them to take supplement training to make sure all students will be at the same level and can complete your class successfully.

In this fast-changing world, knowledge changes quickly and you need to teach students about lifelong learning and develop this skill as early as possible. Of course, as teachers you must be lifelong learners first. As you are learning something new and incorporate them into your teaching, your students will appreciate it.

Nobody says that teaching is easy. It is more challenging than most people even though but somehow you have selected this profession. Of course, you will have to deal with students’ complaints, lack of administrative support, lack of respect from society, less financial reward, and much more. However, let us be honest with others, what is it that attracted you to this difficult profession? For most of us as teachers, it is our passion for the subject, a desire to learn more, and a further desire to share our knowledge. In this profession, we have the opportunities to learn, to teach, and to shape the future generations on what we believe in, and help our students to contribute to our society. Somewhere deep down in our conscious, we all hope that the next generations will be much better than what we are today.

Sources

  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University