Blog entry by Bonza Majozi
Teaching has evolved alongside the increasing research in teaching and learning also parallel to the rapid changes due to technology advancements. There are two noticeable practises in education in the research years namely; the growing number of teachers that embark in research to improve as practitioners and, that technology is largely embedded if not more tolerated in the classrooms than before. It is within these two parameters that I believe the defining traits of successful educators lie.
For many years, the success of educators has been marked by the success of their students. That has not changed that much. It is believed that best educators produce the best graduates. We will not go into the measurement instruments and metrics for success, but this is still a general practise. Much of today's learning though is leaning towards measuring students’ success broadly than just the numbers on a report card.
Educators have several responsibilities, but three are the overarching ones. These includes being a:
- Researcher - for improved practise
- Sensitivity - being aware of the changes in the industry and in the students’ lives
- Good manager
When I did my training in 2012 to begin teaching in 2013, my mentor said to me; "You know there are two types of teachers, the ones that teach for 25 years and other others that teach the same thing for 25 years". I guess that set my trajectory on what kind of a teacher I was going to be.
Over the past 8 years in education, teaching and working with teachers, I have realised that the best in the field are those that are on a business of self-development and have an authentic interest in seeing the students success. These have been the two main traits that have been exhibited time and time again.
Being intentional about developing yourself as an educator far exceeds any other trait in terms of importance. You continuously need to know how to best position the curriculum to today’s students using today’s tools and resources within the current challenges. Passion, need in the community, authentic care for learners, and perhaps all of these could drive you to continuously provide your students with the best education that you can support them to attain. This is how one becomes the best educator a student could wish for, somebody who is adaptable and agile to seize every learning opportunity for ones-self and for the students.
Teacher development programmes cannot be a snare. In fact, educators are the ones who need to send motivations about the gaps that they want to address in their own practise. Would that make sense as we also expect the same from our students? The key skills today include adaptability that is only possible when one has the necessary skills; the ability to teach through and with technology to support authentic learning and minimize barriers to learning; and to be good at managing the success of your learners.
I'll conclude by briefly talking about the management of student success. This is largely my current work and very much excited and terrified by it due to what’s at stake. But for me, assisting educators to be able to identify areas in students’ progression that may cause students to underperform, is an exciting thing, in particular, when we nudge a student into success. Here are some tips of where to start.
- Find evidence of how the students are progressing. If there's isn't much, as a researcher, think about what data you could use throughout the year(s) do you need to better manage student progression
- Some of this evidence could include, attendance, performance on assessments, financials (who pay the fees), involvement on school activities like clubs etc.
- Identify what type of evidence is most likely to give you an indication of whether the student will do well or not. These could take several months or years
Such information may be very valuable for you, but as a researcher, you may need to acquire good research grounding methodologies to assist you in using this information to improve your practise and the success of the students. Some research approaches that you might need to consider as a start may include:
I've discussed what I believe will sustain you as an impactful educator. Keep upskilling yourself, be sensitive to the changes in your profession and your students and be a good manager of student success. Authenticity in these three has a positive change to the atmosphere of your classroom and the learning culture that you're developing.