In every career that exists there are certain mandates/protocols that an employee must follow if he/she wants to be successful. When those protocols are breached a series of reprimands could follow. In the field of education the same applies. There are so many things that teachers must do to ensure that they are on top of their game and that the probability of them appearing in-front of the Belize Teaching Service Commission is minimized. Now, for our readers who are unaware of this legal and institutionalized body, The Belize Teaching Service Commission came into effect on January 14, 2011 and comprises a twelve-member panel that includes some parents as well as individuals from across the education sector, labour groups, business sector and the teachers union.
According to The Belize Education and Training Act, 2010 Part 5 ACT 17:
(1) The Belize Teaching Service Commission shall enforce.
(a) standards set by the Ministry for entry into teaching to assure the quality and status of
the Belize teaching force and the quality of the delivery of education; and
(b) all regulations governing the conditions of service of teachers with respect to employment, appointment, transfer, discipline and termination of teachers in government and government-aided preprimary, primary, secondary, tertiary and TVET institutions subject to the provisions
of sections 19 and 21 of this Act.
(2) The Commission shall have the power to
(a) verify and ensure compliance with standards, set by the Ministry, and regulations prescribed in this Act and Rules made thereunder for employment of teachers,
(b) maintain a database of teachers,
(c) maintain a Register of Appointed Teachers,
(d) approve the appointment of teachers to the teaching service,
(e) approve transfer of teachers,
(f) approve such leave as long leave, study leave and maternity leave, extended sick
leave and any other leave extending beyond ten days,
(g) approve secondment and posting as itinerant resource officer,
(h) approve disciplinary action, for major offences, against teachers in the teaching service or recommend the imposition of appropriate sanctions against managing authorities, for government and government aided pre-schools, primary and secondary schools, and TVET institutions, in accordance with this Act and Rules made under this Act, and all other applicable laws.
(3) The Commission shall collaborate with the Chief Education Officer to help Managing Authorities achieve quality leadership in the administration of matters related to the employment and conditions of service of teachers through a system of support, guidance, training, and monitoring.
(4) The Commission, in the exercise of its functions under this Act shall recommend the imposition of appropriate sanctions against any Managing Authority or Proprietor which fails to comply with the provisions made under this Act and Rules made thereunder for matters related to the employment and conditions of service of teachers.
Taking into consideration all the above, our Belizean teachers have to be mindful of the following do’s and don’ts of the profession if they want to remain in the system and be successful. The tips are written especially to help novice teachers in the classrooms and those in training. Please note that the tips were solicited with the assistance of a select group of educators across the city. At no point in time is the author of this article targeting any single school or individual but rather is using this medium to highlight what goes on in some schools as it relates to the Do’s and Don’ts of teaching. We all want to be successful at what we do, so when we collaborate, tension decreases and maximum effort is channeled in the proper direction.
DO’S OF TEACHING
• Always maintain a professional demeanor, even when provoked by an administrator, parent or child. To remain in self- control is always difficult, since we all have feelings and an innate urge to react when we are accused. To remain composed depicts maturity and professionalism.
• Be objective; avoid inflammatory comments in your notes sent home or to the principal. Write honest progress reports; don’t bend facts or ignore problems, regardless of pressure from administrators or a wish to sugarcoat the truth. Children detest teachers who distort the truth to protect themselves when they are in error.
• Have backup plans when a given activity is not working. Teachers are expected to be flexible with strategies, so if in the midst of a lesson an approach is not working teachers have the autonomy to simply adapt a better technique.
• Plan for different learning styles (i.e., visual, kinesthetic, audio, verbal). Keep in mind that children learn differently and so every lesson should have a variety of conditions that would help to promote the concept. For example, the use of manipulative, documentary, pictures, realia, postcards, newspapers, books, shapes, etc.
• It is important for teachers to remember each child has individual differences. No two students are alike. Never compare students personally.
• Plan for different learning ability levels. Research implies that children learn best from their peers so cooperative learning should be incorporated in lessons whenever appropriate.
• Allow children to select projects. Give them a selection to choose from. In giving choices more effort will be shown. Focus on the process rather than the product.
• Let children be risk-takers and make mistakes. Encourage them to try and try again! We learn from our mistakes to correct procedures and processes.
• Use teachable moments to reinforce integration of subjects and values.
• Plan instruction considering three phases: before, during and after reading.
• Routinely self-reflect and collaborate on instructional practices and student progress within school. Always ask yourself, did I use the best approach in teaching the concept? What could I have done better to reach every child? Did I adequately plan for the students and were the activities meaningful?
• Create and give opportunities for students to use cognitive strategies to synthesize, analyze, evaluate and make applications to authentic situations.
• Create literacy rich environments that depict words and print everywhere; provide opportunities and tools that engage students in reading and writing activities, and celebrate students’ reading and writing efforts.
• Prepare students for success in school and in life using a balanced curriculum.
• Incorporate the PIES model as taught by Kagan structures so that children can take ownership of their learning.
• Create active participants rather than passive observers in every lesson. The days of teacher-centered lessons are over and teachers have to think of creative ways to deliver the lessons via child friendly approaches since some children’s attention span are limited and they are easily distracted.
• Routinely monitor and assess the reading levels and progress of individual students. This ongoing evaluation directs and informs instruction.
• Inspire students with a passion for lifelong learning. This teacher realizes that the expectations established for the students greatly affect their achievement; the teacher knows that students generally give as much or as little as is expected/allowed from them.
• Create a sense of community and belonging in the classroom. The mutual respect in this teacher’s classroom provides a supportive, collaborative environment.
• Be warm, accessible, enthusiastic and caring. This type of teacher is approachable, not only to students, but to everyone on the school site. This is the teacher to whom students know they can go with any problems or concerns or even to share a funny story. Great teachers possess good listening skills and take time out of their way-too-busy schedules for anyone who needs them. If this teacher is having a bad day, no one ever knows—the teacher leaves personal baggage outside the school doors.
• Maintain professionalism in all areas from personal appearance to organizational skills and preparedness for each day. The teacher’s communication skills are exemplary, whether speaking with an administrator, one of her students or a colleague.
• Assess student’s performance periodically and give prompt feedback. Always save samples of students’ corrected work in the event there is a grade audit.
• Set high standards and expectations. Research says teachers get what they invest. It might sound harsh but what we put in is what we get out. If the only thing a teacher does is complain and finds faults then that teacher will have a hard school year.
• Treat every child with human dignity and respect. This might be hard for some of us depending on the behaviour of the child. Remember, however, that children show resentment because needs have not been met. Regardless of the circumstances, children are very receptive and kind to teachers who show that they genuinely care.
• Carry out duties with efficiency, and work without being constantly supervised.
• Practice punctuality; the early bird catches the most worms. The most successful teachers are those who arrive to school on time and make preparations for the day. In so doing activities will be carried out and there will be smooth transition between subjects.
• Consistently meet deadlines. Ensure that you keep a copy of all documents turned into your administrators.
• Dress to impress. Many times in life situations a person is judged upon how well he/she appears. The same holds true for teachers, whether in the classroom setting, during a job interview, parent conference or open house. Teachers should dress for success everyday of the week, unless a stated dress code policy allows you to dress casually on a given day.
Dressing for success has three main effects for teachers: Maintain respect, establish credibility and establish yourself as an authority figure.
• Dressing for success and following the established teacher dress code policy will help you obtain the respect and credibility necessary from students and parents. Students will tend to model the behavior and appearance they see in the classroom. An effective teacher will dress appropriately as a professional educator to model success. Your respect in the classroom begins with your appearance and you should strive to be a positive role model for each student.
Don’ts of teaching
• Don’t plan and teach in isolation. Children learn best when disciplines are integrated and they can make connections with how topics link together.
• Don’t act as though it’s an individual effort. Never think you can accomplish everything on your own. Working as a team will be more rewarding.
• Don’t fail to make corrections/ apply constructive criticisms that would result in the improvement of plans and interventions created on behalf of children.
• Don’t use texting language when writing lesson plans. Text messaging is for sending a brief, electronic message between two or more mobile phones, fixed or portable devices over a phone network.
• Don’t consistently teach children inaccuracies due to a lack of research. A teacher who teaches from the top of her head could find herself in serious trouble when information taught is incorrect and can be proven by children and parents. It’s imperative that teachers do intensive research to cover all bases. Always remember how difficult it is and almost impossible to UNLEARN what has been taught, especially if the fact or concept is wrong.
• Don’t resort to excuses on a weekly basis when plans are not submitted on time. Plans are the blueprint of a class and so when teachers fail to submit their plans they encounter behavioural problems, chaos and a waste of instructional and academic time.
• Don’t consistently inform parents via text or letter of the negative behaviors of children.
• Don’t label a child because of his socioeconomic status.
• Don’t deny inclusion of a child because he or she is unkempt.
• Don’t use sarcasm and ridicule as a quick fix to discipline children.
• Don’t victimize students by lowering their grades or issuing demerits due to previous negative encounters with parents.
• Don’t falsify students’ grades without checking papers.
• Don’t show a lack of empathy and concern for students’ wellbeing, especially when they are faced with sadness, grief or a difficult situation.
• Don’t insult children and refer to parents’ failures.
• Don’t throw duster and chalk at students.
• Don’t accept bribery and gifts from parents to give extra attention to their children.
• Don’t use children as pawns to carry to and fro messages, monies, gifts, food, etc. from female or male counterparts.
• Don’t be too friendly and send mixed signals that could be interpreted as flirting and flaunting sexual appeal.
• Don’t use physical force and aggression to reprimand children.
• Don’t cheat children of contact time due to repeated medical issues and in some cases unexplained absences.
• Don’t underestimate children’s learning ability and so inadequately plan.
• Don’t send children out of class because of disruptive behaviours.
• Don’t walk out of a class when students’ behavior becomes too challenging.
• Don’t make fraudulent allegations against a teacher and a student.
• Don’t reach school every day and leave as the bell rings in the evenings without bringing proper closure to your work.
• Don’t wear provocative clothing fit for night life.
• Don’t create division amongst children because of abilities, residence in catchment areas and economic status.
• Don’t send all behavioral problems to the principals. Teachers who refuse to use their initiative and come up with alternative forms of discipline tend to lose total respect from their students and parents. As a matter of fact behavioral problems usually escalate.
• Don’t make tests too hard so that almost every child fails. Tests are basically administered to analyze what children have learnt, what they did not grasp or what they need reinforcement in. If every child fails then it means the teacher fails as well and that the teacher simply has to re-teach the concepts using another approach.
• Don’t babble. Try your best to be assertive and even when nervous remain composed. Show confidence and familiarity with the topic being taught.
• Don’t dismiss reports of bullying. Take every report seriously and document. Handle the situation quickly before it gets out of hand.
• Don’t attempt to handle all behavioral problems by yourself. Sometimes you will need advice from colleagues and administrators that could offer better insight into the situation.
• Don’t exclude children from class parties, exam, trips etc. when they cannot contribute payments.
• Don’t send messages or insulting notes to parents.
• Don’t display dishonesty when it comes to the collection of monies for water, clubs, class projects and fundraisers.
• Don’t create a coup and encourage children to become anti-administration.
• Don’t fail to maintain teaching license. This means that even though you are in possession of a license whether provisional or full you are expected to attend professional development workshops to attain credit hours to sustain the license.
• Don’t take children on a school trip without getting the proper authorization and in addition, don’t modify the itinerary of trip after approval has been granted.
• Don’t participate in criminal misconduct outside of the school setting.
• Don’t engage in the use and possession of illegal drugs.
• Don’t intentionally destroy school property when accused of wrongdoings.
• Don’t attend school in a drunken and disorderly state. Don’t display lawlessness in public places due to intoxication.
• Don’t carry on your person or at school firearms and ammunition that pose a threat to human life.
• Don’t circulate indecent pictures of children such as pornographic images.
Every so often teachers have been summoned to appear in front of the Belize Teaching Service Commission for committing a repeated and major offense. Honestly, absolutely no teacher wants to experience this, but it’s inevitable. Even though rules exist they are still broken at times and hence some teachers are penalized when found guilty with varying degrees of reprimand. For example, a teacher could have his/her license revoked depending on the crime/infraction or a teacher can lose a portion of his salary. He/she can even be placed on suspension.
Since we are only in the second month of the academic school year and the onus is placed on school leaders to document infractions I urge all teachers to read the Statutory Instrument No. 87 of 2012 Education Amendment Rules, 2012 particularly the part that has to do with minor and major offences and develop familiarity with them. Developing familiarity with the infractions will help a teacher to avoid being guilty or found in default. In the end, teachers teach more by what they are than by what they say.