Teachers have a remarkable impact on the lives of their students. They provide them with the guidance they need to move their lives in a positive direction.
Education policymakers often treat classrooms as black boxes, with certain inputs (pupils, management rules and requirements, standards, high stakes tests) yielding desirable outputs. But what is actually happening inside these boxes?
The qualifications for teaching high school vary from state to state, but most states require a bachelor's degree in the subject area you wish to teach and teacher training. In some cases, prospective teachers complete a graduate program to obtain a teacher's certificate.
Teachers also often need to pass state examinations to gain certification. These examinations typically include both a basic skills exam and one or more subjects-matter competency tests. Some colleges of education offer combined teacher training and bachelor's programs, while others offer master's degrees to teachers who want to move up the pay scale or become coordinators, administrators or department chairs.
Teachers' informal interactions with colleagues can influence multiple areas of their practice. Many teachers recount how probing questions from colleagues prompted them to change their thinking or steer their curriculum in a new direction. For example, a colleague's acknowledgment of the teacher's emotional difficulty with her students allowed the teacher to align her morals with her pupils.
Teachers can have a major influence on their students’ learning, discipline and skills. Their classrooms are a first-hand place where students can gain knowledge and experience that will set them up for their futures.
Using qualitative and quantitative data, this study explored the diverse impacts of teacher-led professional development on teaching practices in two case schools implementing the student-centered PERC program. Thirteen teachers from the two sites participated in this study and were interviewed individually and in small groups. They were also observed in their PERC classes and their regular classrooms.
Results from a multivariate SEM revealed that both principal support and teacher affiliation were positively associated with teachers' reported openness to new program adoption. However, burnout was not significantly associated with openness to new practices despite its established interrelatedness with efficacy. Post hoc analyses indicated that for teachers who reported low levels of burnout, both principal support and teacher affiliation remained directly related to openness to new programs.
Parent-teacher meetings update parents on their child's academic progress. They also provide a forum to discuss social development, classroom behavior and motivation. Many teachers are now incorporating these meetings into their teaching.
Teachers who regularly meet with parents help them to understand how their students learn best and are able to share resources like games, websites or readings that support learning at home. The meetings can also help to resolve problems, such as poor classroom behavior or mental health issues that impact student performance.
While some parents are anxious about these meetings, most teachers feel they have a positive impact on students. It is important for parents to attend these meetings on time — a teacher will need the full hour to speak with each parent. One way to improve these events is by offering slightly longer interview durations, which help to keep the event on-time if it starts to run over. Alternatively, schools may allow parents to request meetings at other times.
As a profession, teachers spend their whole careers developing and expanding their skills to better teach students. Providing them with accessible and engaging professional development opportunities gives teachers the tools they need to become great at their jobs.
For example, a science teacher used an art and science workshop that paired museum practices with hands-on activities to show her students the difference between moths and butterflies. The children examined drawings and photographs, squished live caterpillars, touched insects in a sensory box and painted insect sculptures.
Some of the best professional development occurs in informal ways, such as when a teacher is influenced by a colleague. Several educators described interactions with colleagues who asked probing questions that helped them examine their own beliefs or approach, or inspire them to try new strategies in the classroom. These influences, often from a 'just the teacher next door', are proximal and can quickly change teachers' approaches to teaching and learning.