Category Archives: Education

Warmups – Breaking the Ice

I am attending a drama teachers’ professional development conference – part of the EARCOS Teachers Conference in Manila, Philippines. Incredible way to end the day. Gives a whole new meaning to ‘reach out and touch someone’.

Success with highly distractable students

Teaching is a noble profession, an artform, a talent, a honed talent, a compilation of skills, attitudes and aptitudes that take years to acquire. Masterful teaching is an ongoing learning process. When you’ve had a success, celebrate and keep learning.

Today, I taught a Year 11 class and the co-teacher, their regular teacher, was out for the day. My students sometimes look like this:

A supply teacher came in and quickly I noticed that students had played musical chairs. Of course. It’s a supply teacher day. I herded them back to their regular seats, and they realised I would be teaching the lesson. I was intent to seize the opportunity to fill in the mental gaps from the last lesson: these lads and lasses did not know how to analyse the language of a passage on a Mongolian woman in the rugged wilderness. I loved the literature, but they were disconnected from it.

We had a go at pulling out six quotes: three on the land and three on the woman. Then came the choice between analysing the more obscure reference in one line on her cheekbones, which were thick and spread out, signifying her race but also her strength, her masculinity, her independence (bravo to the student who so capably articulated this)…and the weathered wrinkles on her face, signifying her long life in the outdoors, and what she has ‘weathered’ and survived – the elements, the hardships of a rural, nomadic lifestyle with little but her animals and the land. The debate over which example to choose engaged most students, I’m pleased to say. They actually understood, finally, at that point, what I had harped on about: choose the quote first, after reading the question. Know what you’re being asked to do, find the evidence, then work out your paragraphs and key points. It’s hard to know what to say, if you don’t understand the passage enough. Getting these kids curious about the writing is a bit…tricky. Dive right into the words, I say. The sooner the better.

So, hooked. One part of a seemingly mammoth task for this group…done. Next, PEEL paragraphing. Point. Evidence. Explanation. Link (back to the question). There are enough YouTube tutorials out there to allow me not to say more than this, but with regard to the students I was teaching today, and three or four of the boys like to talk through the entire class, I’ve noticed (but NOT through mine, for I’m not having it, and when one lad could not simmer down he was given the option to leave and speak with me outside – the situation resolved fast). I just don’t waffle with behaviour. Somehow, high expectations work for me. No doubts. Participate. Focus. Engage. We’re talking. We’re doing. We’re thinking. Give back. I’m giving. Take it. Give to each other. Help one another. But get in the ‘game’.

It wasn’t long before I had a class full of unruly-ish (but actually very nice) Year 11 students who are ‘sick’ of revision for their March final GCSE exams fully engaged in the task, writing. The last class, they mucked about, the whole class, some of them when faced with – sadly by my colleague who is surely just delivering what she has been given in terms of instructions and curriculum – death by PowerPoint lessons, copious wordage!!!, notes and notes and notes of LECTURES. Even I was hard pressed to stifle my yawns. Less is more. Teach an example, and work through one with a class. Then they can run with it. And today they did. I’m proud of them. It’s made me realise, it might be time to offer up some workshops on this. I have the perfect name for it, too: Last Chance – Kick in the Pants – GCSE Revision for Dummies (not).  Tongue in cheek, of course.

I always say to my students who, all too often, call themselves ‘stupid’: anybody can get an A. And I still and always will believe it. With enough support, patience, time, practice, guidance and motivation – anyone can.

How the class ended? One of my students packed up and said, “Miss, this is the first lesson I have ever had a supply teacher (ie. substitute teacher) in and learned. Wow. Word.

Free Education

Education is a human right. Let’s get that straight. It is a fundamental human right, and the United Nations says so.

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 19.08.52

Meet a young Cambodian girl who ‘hearted’ us when my Qatar Academy students and I went into the jungle for Week Without Walls (a week of experiential learning outside of the school, something every school should have). We went to paint this little girl’s humble school with a new coat of love. We hear you. We will never forget you. We know that there are people on this planet who have LITTLE to NO access to education, and it is unacceptable. It is a moral imperative that everyone with the means to provide it do what must be done to uplift the situation and provide children AND adults with education and further education. Because education is a fundamental human right. 

Cambodian heart
Click the photo to see more.

Daphne Koller of Stanford University tells us this, articulately and intelligently, from experience.

We’ve got children in the world who cannot get an education. And we also have the problem of adults on this planet who cannot get a decent means to work. The issue for adults is an economic one. The costs associated with post-secondary education have risen exponentially in recent years to the point where education has become as hefty an investment as a house. It frightens people. And some like Dr. Joel McDurmon refuse to pay. He penned ‘B.A. to Ph.D. for under $15,000: How I did it‘ and it’s an eye-opener. Straight talk about how to get an alternative education, and it can only have gotten easier in the 21st Century. Right? Not quite. 

The question is: why should we force people into economic hardship to gain an education? If you look deeper into this issue, you’ll find that others have asked this question and provide solutions for not only those living in developing nations but also those everywhere who are willing but entrapped in the confines of their lives, working to eke out a living, unable to afford to take the time off to study to change their circumstances.

Nothing comes for free, of course. Education is a human resource heavy industry. Without teachers and instructors, there can be no education. They create the curriculum and, as such, there are costs to an education. But governments and industry partner up to subsidise these costs. And that’s another debate. The assumption in this article is that willing parties will find ways to pay for and provide affordable educational solutions to all. For if we don’t educate the masses, the price we pay at the societal level is ignorance, and ignorance costs a lot.

52040021

US-based Campaign for Educational Equity shows us: Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 09.24.46Read the full report here.

The UK media has been yowling for some time about the mismatch between graduates and employers. The costs of the lack of adequate educational provision are real. Look at these headlines:

Employers want education system to better prepare young people for life outside school gates – CBI/Pearson Study

Schools should do more to prepare students for work

The Canadian government recognises the problem, too, in this article:

At its most basic, he said, Canada’s rapidly changing economy needs workers with trades certificates, community college diplomas and university degrees. Workers with less than that already cost the country $24.3 billion in lost productivity.

Several numbers back up Munro’s argument:

• 81 per cent of jobs lost during the recent recession were suffered by workers without any post secondary education.

• Between 1990 and 2012, the employment rate for people whose education ended at high school fell to 48 per cent from 58 per cent.

•In Hamilton, the number of people working in jobs that require higher education has grown to 59 per cent from 55 per cent in 2006 and between Jan. 1 last year and this year the economy created 167,500 jobs for college and university graduates while losing 85,400 positions for those without post secondary education.

•Workers with less than high school have an average unemployment rate of 11 per cent and earn an average of $32,029 a year compared to 4.5 per cent and $56,048 for those with an undergraduate degree.

Even if an under-educated worker can find a job, Munro warned there’s a real financial penalty — over a 40-year career having high school or less means earning $745,800 less than someone with a degree.

“It’s clear that to be employable in this economy a person needs some level of post secondary education,” he said. “Without that you’ll have real trouble in this economy.”

20121201_USP001

But, Houston, we have a problem. Putting costs aside, universities and colleges are in trouble. They’re not able to keep up with the real demands of the world. The Economist says so: higher education is ‘not what it used to be‘. Why? Because information is a river. It’s free-flowing. It’s an ocean. It’s vast, deep, much deeper than a few navigators can manage. It’s bigger than us all, and we must filter this information more effectively to allow people to develop themselves in accordance with the needs of the world we live in.

What our students should know in the 21st Century can be epitomised in a few words:

21c-skills-crit-lit

But what does it mean? It means that the world has gone mobile. We have access to learning everywhere because of technology. Thus learning can and must be more individually tailor-made. nutshell_21c_learning-001In adult terms, this is what our world looks like and society needs to get to grips with it. Governments, higher institutions and employers, too, all bear the responsibility of educating adults.

shifts-21learning-revised

The world is changing. Information is like air. Data is everywhere, free-flowing, and accessible to virtually everyone for very little money, really, if you juggle the economics. The responsibility to ensure that education is provided to all affordably is a must. It is a moral and practical imperative. It would be innovative to think then that education should be provided to us all – for free.

Khan Academy and Coursera are leaders in this regard. Go get what you can.

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 08.21.22

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 08.21.38

And if you’re looking for other alternatives to reducing the costs of university or college, look here: