Monday, October 5, 2009

A rare post on the struggles of a teacher trainer

I was recently doing some work with some high level teachers to prepare for a teaching methodology training that I will be facilitating in the coming month. Between the 6 of us we were asked to lead 12 session. We had 11 all picked out and so there was room for one more. On the table was the redundant (but often wanted) remedial reading --we were already doing a session on teaching reading in general-- and my suggestion of a session on reflective practices.

In my humble opinion, the reflective aspect of teaching is one that is crucial to becoming a better teacher. It is through reflection that we see into our successes and failures within the classroom. Often times I hear that an activity test or assignment was failed by the majority of students because "they're the slow section" or "they didn't study enough because they're lazy". Besides being horrible things to say about your students it also takes the blame off of the teacher, who, after all is the one guiding learning. Any number of things leading up to the assessment could have been the reason that students were not able to succeed on it. I view the need for remedial reading programs in this country as a direct stem from poor teaching practices, not student ability.

I was turned down from my idea because the Filipino had no idea what the session would look like. They tried to assure me that its in the teacher's nature to reflect.

I've been here a year. I know that its not. Filipinos want to come back from a training and tell their supervisor they learned how to help those non-readers, not that they learned how to think about how other people think and why you weren't able to meet that need. The teacher at the training may not even have the initiative of want to teach those non-readers, but dammit she's trained to do it now. Reflection is something that everyone can do, its easy, and doesn't require a lot of work.

Teaching these teachers (yet again) about how to do remedial reading in a classroom is like watching a drag show--its flashy and sounds fun, but its really just trannys dancing around and singing the same songs as usual. However without reflecting on their poor practices they can't see that all they're doing is the same Tina Turner routine over and over again.

With a reflective personality and better "regular" reading activities I think the quality of teaching could be improved. But even if you fixed this one thing you'd hit the brick walls of lack of flexibility perceived in lesson planning, poor resources, and a management hierarchy that holds the best teachers down.

I don't really like posting about the nature of the Filipino educational system because it is such a complicated issue with no clear solution, other than a complete overhaul, that at this point I try to avoid even thinking about it on a day to day.

As a reflective person, I've been thinking about my observations from the past year. I've seen that the teachers of the Philippines need something new. The ideas that we're peddling have reached a wall and there needs to be some new pieces added to reach new conclusions. In my future sessions I'm going to try include some new topics that all teachers could use, but I know I'm going to hit more resistance....

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