Educational Questions and Answers

Personal Philosophical Sharing on Educational Strategies

What is an outstanding teacher?

An outstanding teacher should present a positive, friendly attitude and be able to create a safe environment in which students can share and learn. S/he should be an expert in his/her subject and able to communicate foundational concepts in that subject in multiple ways. An outstanding teacher is aware of various learning styles and the developmental stages of growth, incorporating that awareness into his/her teaching strategies, adjusting them as needed depending upon the dynamics of each group. Outstanding teachers remember that "it's all about the student," not the teacher. S/he is prepared for lessons, having used many available resources to ensure lessons are engaging and substantial. An outstanding teacher is an excellent communicator, able to integrate the feedback s/he is constantly receiving through students' body language and silent clues as well as direct feedback from students, other teachers, and observers. S/he always has an objective eye open, observing his/her own teaching and improving it based on feedback. An outstanding teacher is always aware of metacognition, collaborates easily with others, and can integrate constructive criticism without taking it personally.

How do you handle various skill levels in the classroom?

Frankly, having a wide range of skills on one’s classroom is the norm these days. In order to discover the skill sets of students, it is important to give a test or a survey to the group initially. This does not have to be long or elaborate or painful. Sometimes a quick jotting down of experience, with a particular technological tool, for example, is all that is needed. A good instructor is always cognizant of the fact that students’ skill-sets vary and students learn in different ways, at their own pace. They are only able to build upon foundational knowledge that they already possess. Inspiring them to recall foundational knowledge is critical at the beginning of any lesson. Taking a few minutes to review is helpful. For those who already have the knowledge in long-term memory, it helps them to recall it. For those who have not yet remembered it long-term, it will give them another opportunity to do so. Should an instructor find there is a large gap between skill-sets, it might behoove him/her to break the large group up into sub-groups and address each group according to their skill-sets. If there are a handful of students who possess lower skill-sets than the large group, she can provide individual help to those students during workshop time or outside of class. Another technique that works is to pair up a student who is bright and bursting with energy to share with a student who needs additional help. This is best discerned on a case-by-case basis. As always, teaching the subject in ways the meet the needs of various learning modes is a good idea, using methods that cater to kinesthetic, auditory, and visual learners.

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How does a district that values diversity achieve educational equity for all of its students?

Diversity is important and should be embraced and valued. In order to for that happen, the discomfort that typically happens when you have diverse human beings in a small space together must be addressed on an ongoing basis. That means edification of other cultures and discussion of those differences must take place so that the participants feel respect for cultures other than their own. The library plays a key role in this process as it is a hub of information accessible to everyone, and the collection supports the curriculum, which covers diversity in many subjects. Databases such as CultureGrams can be used by English, History, and Social Studies classes to research other cultures. Through that research, students develop a better understanding of diverse cultures. The collection should also reflect the cultural diversity of its population with materials available in languages commonly spoken among its population, not just English. Materials at various reading levels in English should be available for ELL students. Fictional materials that deal with diaspora are a must in the library's collection and should be book-talked as well, perhaps even used as subjects for book discussion groups among faculty and students. Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is one good example of this type of fiction. The alienation that can take place when one is culturally displaced is something we can all understand as human beings. Sometimes, we just need an avenue for discussion to recognize our common humanity. Literature is an excellent avenue for this purpose.

How would you use technology to enhance your instructional practices?

Technological tools are extremely important in today's day and age. They can be stepping stones towards greater engagement of the digital native students we are teaching. It is important that technological tools are used with a critical eye to ensure that they are appropriate tools to achieve the lesson's objectives and/or complement the subject being taught. Generally speaking, technological tools can be a great way to add both visual and hands-on elements to teaching a subject. As librarian, I would collaborate with teachers on selecting tools that would complement their lessons and teach the usage of such tools to assist in easing the burden of using those tools. Students can come into the library to work on their project and know they can receive help on their projects, without the subject-matter teacher having to carry the load to technical training and support. Certain technological tools must be taught, such as how to use the libraries online resources. Providing a foundational basis first, such as how to use keywords, as well as author, title, and subject is important. Even if students remember this information from previous years, it is wise to cover it and ask them to recall it. Demonstrating searching the online database for an impending class project, as well as using the district's website to create a pathfinder page for critical databases for that project eases the navigation learning curve for students. Teaching citations tools such as NoodleBib or RefWorks might be another technological tool to use if the subject-matter teacher sanctions it. Having easily accessible links to these tools and online instructional pages on navigating these tools is part of the support the librarian can provide teachers and students.


Contact: Created April 12, 2010 Updated April 25, 2010 © 2010 Shoshana Gray
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