I will be running three workshops at two different schools in the next couple of weeks. I don’t know the teachers at the three schools, and I have no idea how motivated they are about the workshops.
I am certainly not querying teachers’ interest in professional development. It is just that when teachers are so overstretched already, when there are dozens of highly urgent matters that they have to grapple with on a daily basis, they can seldom come to a workshop fully mentally prepared. My experience in running on-site workshops is that teachers often turn up at the last minute; they have not done any thinking on the workshop topic, and in the first ten minutes or so their minds are still occupied by the scores of urgent things that need their attention after the workshop.
Hence, my plan for the three upcoming workshops (in fact, all the upcoming workshops in due course) is to start by letting them know that I am fully cognizant of their situation. I am now even envisaging a PPT slide that contains a dozen big circles. Each circle would state a major everyday duty of teachers, such as teaching classes, marking assignments, and producing teaching resources. These big circles represent the pressing daily concerns of teachers. Among these big circles we find a tiny circle containing a tiny phrase that says ‘professional development’. I hope that this somewhat tongue-in-cheek representation of teachers’ everyday work situation will help me gather their attention and motivation more quickly.
So I started brainstorming phrases for the big circles, and it was not that difficult. In two minutes, I came up with the following list:
– teaching classes
– marking homework
– setting test and exam papers
– marking test and exam papers
– markng dictations
– attending meetings
– training SS for competitions
– talking with problem SS after class
– organising extra-curricular activities
– creating teaching resources
– attending part-time studies
To make sure I hadn’t left out any major daily responsiblity that a teacher had to shoulder, I invited a teacher, Miss Jade Song, to look through my list to see if she had anything to add. I was expecting that Jade might have two to three items to add to the list, but within minutes, Jade sent me two new lists both of which were far longer than mine:
A: In school
-How to integrate fun and games into learning
-how to keep students engaged to their max potential in class
-how to assign meaningful but not a huge quantity of homework
-what work to mark first, what could afford to be marked later
-how to motivate my students to learn
-how to encourage the weaker learners and also not let the excelling students drift away
-lesson planning down to the smallest detail
-how to manage different classrooms according to the class culture
-establishing a relationship between students and myself, also maintaining a healthy relationship between students
-the tone and register when talking to individuals as each have their own personality
-interpersonal relationship with colleagues
-collaboration with peers
-out of school self-enrichment
B: Out of school
-my students (x1000 times a day)
-a to do list to be done in the following week
-how to make my own friends (including bf/gf) so as not to feel left out because being a teacher eats up all your weekend time
-how to let my parents feel like i have a simple and easy life (which of course i haven’t)
-anger management (only at times when the workload is way too much to handle)
– keep work and life separate
– enjoy every moment of the weekend
-how to relax and release pressure (this is difficult because you always need to find new ways)
-physical exercise (to keep your energy on the same level with your young and charged students)
Now, you can see that there is no way I can find enough remaining space in my slide to accomodate all these extra circles!
Of course, not all of Jade’s items are major and urgent duties on a typical teacher’s day. But they are not less important, such as careful lesson planning. And the fact that they are not urgent can result in their being continuosly backburnered.
Jade’s ‘out of school’ list contains some items which are important to teachers’ wellbeing. Jade has done right in putting them on the to-do list. The challenge for most teachers, though, is again to find the time to do them.