Teacher’s Lounge Blog

Learn more about teacher preparation, test tips, online learning, professional development, and a variety of other valuable teacher topics.

Professional Development for Teachers – COVID Edition

March 29th, 2021 | Comments Off on Professional Development for Teachers – COVID Edition | Certification Prep, Inclusive Teaching, Remote Learning, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Not only has the pandemic affected instructors, students, and families around the world profoundly and unexpectedly over these last 12 months, it has created a multitude of other educational concerns. From computer access and proficiency to lack of socialization to innovations in teaching safely in-person, online, and in a hybrid setting, many issues must necessarily be addressed sooner rather than later.

One problem directly involving teachers is continuing education or professional development credits. Opportunities for district and state workshops, conferences, seminars, and retreats have been limited or altogether canceled over the last year, which may cause challenges for many teachers who do not have enough credits for their upcoming recertification.

The specific number of professional development hours required by state varies but may range from 50 to 120 credit hours over a five-year period. If you are one of the teachers who tends to wait until the last minute, you may be worried about how you will get in the hours you need before your time is up.

Fortunately, there are continuing education options online. Subjects are diverse and include core subjects like reading, writing, and mathematics, and working with students with disabilities in an inclusive classroom, as well as a myriad of other topics. You will find these options through many universities or companies such as PrepForward (www.prepforward.com).

With uncertainty still looming for the rest of this school year and, indeed, for 2021-2022, now is the perfect time to explore professional development options. Take a few minutes to browse online to find subjects that interest you and that will help you be a better educator.

Sign up for a course or two now or plan for the summer to ensure you have the time you need to register and complete a class and gain the hours necessary to maintain your certification status.

Praxis Test I and II Today

February 4th, 2021 | Comments Off on Praxis Test I and II Today | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Becoming an educator is not for the faint-hearted. Not only must you complete your college courses with acceptable scores, but you are also subjected to one or more licensing exams that you must score well on before you receive your teaching certificate. 

If your state requires Praxis exams for teacher licensure, it can help to understand what type of tests are needed and what you will be evaluated on. Initially, the Praxis consisted of the Praxis I and Praxis II exams.

The Praxis I or PPST (Pre-Professional Skills Test) consisted of three different tests covering mathematics, writing, and reading. A passing score for each exam was required. The Praxis I was offered through the fall of 2014.

The Praxis II also had three separate components that included Teaching Foundation, PLT or Principles of Learning and Teaching, and Subject Assessments in various subject areas.

Today, the Core or Core Academic Skills for Educators is administered in place of the Praxis I but still covers math, writing, and reading basics. This exam is only offered via computer and incorporates multiple-choice questions as well as two essays.

Testing for Subject Assessments remains the same. The Educational Testing Service offers practice tests in each subject area for a fee.

Testing fees vary for each exam and are not cheap. If you must re-take an exam, you must pay the testing fee again, so it is best to be well-prepared the first time. Take an online refresher course if needed. PrepForward has several options that include all major subject areas.

While most states in the U.S. require the Praxis, some have other requirements. For example, Massachusetts requires the MTEL, and Florida utilizes the FTCE.

No matter what exams you must take to finalize the licensing mandates in your state, it pays to be prepared. Learn which tests are required for the state(s) in which you will be teaching and when they are offered and start studying well in advance. You will be in your own classroom before you know it!

Yes, there are Advantages to Online Classrooms

November 12th, 2020 | Comments Off on Yes, there are Advantages to Online Classrooms | Remote Learning, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

After about six months’ worth of online, in-person, or hybrid classes, what do you think about virtual learning? Has teaching gone the way you had hoped and planned? Your answer is probably no. However, there are advantages to the online learning platform, whether you are teaching in that format or are taking professional development or advanced degree classes yourself. 

Since the spring of 2020, millions of students and teachers worldwide have experienced at least one course by computer, whether it was by choice or not. Many classrooms were forced into a virtual platform because of COVID-19. Neither students nor instructors were prepared for the adjustments required, from lesson preparation to assessments to technical difficulties. 

It is time for a little evaluation of teaching and learning virtually. There are quite a few benefits inherent in online education. 

  • The classroom setting can be anywhere. Choose to teach (or learn) at the kitchen table, your bedroom, on the front porch, a home office, or any other place. There is no commuting time or worries about traffic, high heels are optional, and (usually) only your head and shoulders are seen in class. It is smart, though, to utilize a relatively undisturbed area for class time.
  • Virtual learning has few limits. Classes are available on any subject from anywhere in the world. If you teach second grade but are interested in art found at the Louvre, you can do it or sign up for an online class in math or reading to brush up on those skills for your own virtual classroom. 
  • Online education does not cost as much as in-person classes. Expenses rise each year to attend school, from private preschools to public middle and high schools to prominent universities. While some classes may be better in traditional classroom settings, like a biology lab or a communication class, most programs work quite well online. Instead of paying sometimes exorbitant fees to sit in a classroom, many courses online are free or as low as $50, in some cases, depending on the institution and program. Financial aid is available, too.
  • Classes may be self-paced instead of requiring due dates. Complete assignments when you are ready. If you have a full-time day job, study at night. This type of schedule can be more challenging with a traditional school setting.
  • Add to your resume. Whether you take online classes yourself or are now teaching them, there are related skills that you can add to your portfolio. 

Obtaining an online degree or teaching courses virtually can be a convenient and less expensive means of imparting or receiving knowledge. Educators are always learning new things. Embrace the changes and add a few more skills to your already extensive educational repertoire.

 

The #1 Way to Thrive – Not Just Survive – This School Year

October 29th, 2020 | Comments Off on The #1 Way to Thrive – Not Just Survive – This School Year | Certification Prep, Remote Learning, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Whether you are a brand-new teacher or a veteran who has had some challenging school experiences over the years, there is one thing you can count on. This year will be different. Whatever you anticipate – it will likely exceed all your expectations – good and bad.

Covid-19 has changed the “face” of education, quite literally. You may be required to teach in-person classes, a combination of in-person and virtual (hybrid), or completely online. You may start the year one way and it may change after a week or a month.

Teachers need not only survive the 2020-2021 school year, but they also need to learn how to thrive despite demanding and ever-changing circumstances. How can you do that? BE FLEXIBLE.

Flexibility is one of the hallmarks of a good teacher. Situations arise all the time that necessitate rearranging your schedule, lesson plans, route to the cafeteria, teaching style, and so much more. This year, being flexible can save your sanity.

What can you do?

  • Do not create lesson plans too far in advance. Ultra-organized teachers often develop lesson plans over the summer, at least for the first several weeks of school – not the best idea for this fall. Try not to make plans for more than a week at a time, as they will probably change. It is much easier to rearrange a week’s worth of lessons than an entire month.
  • Prepare lessons that are easily adaptable for face-to-face teaching as well as online.
  • Stock up (if you can) on cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer. If you do not use them in the classroom you can always keep them at home or donate them.
  • Practice talking all day from behind your mask. It can get stuffy. One way around this in the classroom is to teach for 15 minutes or so and then let the students complete an activity on their own for about 15 minutes.
  • Be open with communication with your principal, school board, parents, and students. Acknowledge that no one has all the answers. Everyone is doing the best they can right now.

Flexibility is key for teachers this year. Implement some of these ideas and add your own. You will not be able to eliminate all the stress, but you can certainly lessen it by preparing now.

Yays and Nays for Elementary Virtual Learning

September 14th, 2020 | Comments Off on Yays and Nays for Elementary Virtual Learning | Remote Learning, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Student Online Learning

For some young students, it does not matter what the educational platform is, they will succeed. Others will struggle, whether they are taught in a traditional classroom, in a virtual synchronous situation, where class meets “together” and works at the same time or asynchronously, where self-directed independent work is required.

Many elementary classrooms across the country are using a combination of these types of learning scenarios as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. More is coming to light as we evaluate how things worked in the immediacy of online learning last spring and how things are progressing this fall, where a few more options have developed.

What are the advantages of a virtual classroom setting?

  • There are fewer opportunities for social distractions from peers. The “drama” often evident in in-person classrooms does not exist online, or at least is drastically reduced.
  • Students who are self-motivated can excel.
  • In most cases, there are more chances for individualized teacher attention outside “class” to help students who need further instruction.
  • There is less pressure on students to speak up in class, which is perfect for quieter children.

How is virtual learning hurting some elementary students?

  • This type of classroom can bring challenges for the family. At least one adult or older teenager must be available to offer continual support and ensure a distraction-free environment. This can cause a significant burden for working parents.
  • There is a “technology gap” for some families. Not everyone has access to the latest computers or software or reliable internet access, according to Mary Stephens, longtime educator, and founder of PrepForward.
  • Socializing is difficult, if not almost impossible, in an online setting. Students must seek peer relationships outside school via extracurricular activities.
  • Students must learn in an unfamiliar classroom setting. Whether it is at home or a parent’s office, the traditional and often comforting classroom environment is nonexistent.

No matter which side of the debate you are on, the fact remains that virtual learning is not going away soon. We continue to discover more every day about the best ways to reach elementary students and guarantee their academic success.

 

7 Tips to Increase Success When Taking Online Classes

August 31st, 2020 | Comments Off on 7 Tips to Increase Success When Taking Online Classes | Certification Prep, Remote Learning, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Whether you are taking online classes this semester as part of continuing professional development or are teaching online and virtual classes because of the pandemic, there are some strategies to help you and your students be successful.

It may take some extra effort, self-discipline, and motivation. No one disputes the fact that learning and teaching this way is an adjustment for everyone. Follow these guidelines to make the process proceed more smoothly.

  1. Create a dedicated workspace to complete online work. This could be at home at the kitchen table, at a library computer station, or in a corner seat at your local favorite fast-food restaurant. Ideally, the area should be as quiet as you can get it or at least have a minimum of distractions so you can concentrate. Plan study times around family and work responsibilities.
  2. If you have the option, start slow. Taking one online class rather than several, until you get used to the format, is the best scenario. If you do not have any choice, break studying into small, manageable chunks rather than sitting for hours in front of the computer to (hopefully) prevent burnout.
  3. Manage your time wisely. Use an online or physical planner to denote study times, assignment due dates, and other commitments.
  4. Take advantage of student resources. Consult an advisor or counselor, visit chat rooms, or contact your instructor, if necessary. The resources are there to help you.
  5. Organize your work, both in a planner and by creating folders on your computer. Keeping everything in a specific place keeps you from losing it or forgetting about it.
  6. Become familiar with your computer and the learning platform your school uses. Have a reliable resource for computer-related issues – they always occur at the most inconvenient times!
  7. If you do not understand an assignment, ASK your instructor about it. Most professors are happy to help you and would rather you ask than have you do poorly on the work.

The first time you teach online or take an online class can be a challenge, but it is not an insurmountable one. Follow our recommendations to make it easier.