Give teachers all the time they need to do good teaching

In his column in Ming Pao yesterday, renowned teacher educator Chiu Chi Shing (趙志成) talked about a former student who shared with him, on Whatsapp, a recent lesson that she designed, with inspiration from the recent drama series 張保仔. The teacher recalled how everyone, including herself and the students, enjoyed the lesson: “Everyone was learning, and smiling throughout the lesson’. Chiu’s other former students in the Whatsapp group joined the conversation, merrily added other ideas that could further spice up the lesson. Chiu deeply enjoyed that kind of professional dialogue on teaching and learning.
Recently, a primary schoolteacher related to me how she had developed an approach to teaching writing. This was a rather elaborate pedagogical design based on a process approach to writing. The process of designing the various steps involved a lot of pedagogical reasoning, as well as creativity. This would take plenty of time, but obviously this teacher enjoyed the process and she had the students’ learning effectiveness at the forefront of her mind. She then asked me for my thoughts on her pedagogical design.
Instead of commenting on her methodology, I congratulated her on her effort to try something different. To me, every class is different, and every teacher has their own teaching philosophy and teaching style. Certainly, there is an entire methodology literature on the teaching of writing, and one can always draw on this vast literature and make this comment or that suggestion. But the single most crucial factor, to my mind, is the teacher’s initiative in pedagogical exploration and experimentation, because as long as a teacher has thought about a teaching activity conscientiously, the effect will always be better than if he/she had followed the textbook mechanically. Minor adjustments can come later in light of experience gained from actual classroom implementation.
I’ve been calling for this for ages: Good teaching will lead to effective learning, (and subsequently higher assessment scores even if that is our ultimate goal).But to do good teaching, teachers need plenty of time for lesson planning. This is time worth spending, not only because students will learn better, but also because teachers will feel more professional and derive more satisfaction from their work. This sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and meaning, will keep up their drive for what could be a lifelong career!
Let’s get our priorities right, and give teachers all the time they need to do good teaching.

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