Teacher’s Lounge Blog

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

What Makes a Great Teacher

November 13th, 2019 | Comments Off on What Makes a Great Teacher | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Elementary science teacher

Educators get into the field for many different reasons. Maybe it runs in the family. Maybe it’s been a lifelong dream. Or maybe, it sounds good to have summers “off.” Whatever the reason, there are qualities that make great teachers stand out among their peers.

Excellent teachers:

  • Are organized and prepared. Lessons are planned in advance and presented clearly. Classrooms are neat, appealing, and minimize potential distractions.
  • Have well-defined class objectives outlined in lesson plans. Included are lesson topics, grading policy, assignments, and materials required. Student work is graded in a timely manner.
  • Have high expectations for every student no matter what their ability or background.
  • Know the subject matter well enough to teach it to students. This may require additional reading, study, and professional development. Teacher enthusiasm for a subject is crucial for students to want to learn more.
  • Can engage students and help them see things in different ways. They encourage students to ask questions and invite participation from everyone in the class. Motivation comes from using a variety of teaching techniques rather than sticking to a lecture format all the time.
  • Have healthy relationships with their students and show them that they care about them as people. Great teachers are accessible, sincere, and are involved in the school community.
  • Regularly communicate with parents, not just when something is wrong, but when students are doing well, too. Emails, written notes, parent-teacher conferences, and phone calls are a regular part of communication for each student and their family.

If parents are concerned about the quality of the teaching staff at their children’s schools, there are some things they can do to help. Encourage the school district to raise professional teacher standards, aid in making changes to teacher preparation programs and continuing professional development, raising salaries and improving teacher working conditions, and offering much-needed encouragement and rewards for teachers who meet the qualifications for “great” teachers.

Financial Responsibilities are Sometimes Prohibitive for Prospective Teachers

October 16th, 2019 | Comments Off on Financial Responsibilities are Sometimes Prohibitive for Prospective Teachers | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Not only does it take a lot of time to become a teacher, but it can also be quite expensive. College itself is a costly enterprise for most individuals, but when adding in expenses for student teaching, buying classroom supplies, as well as certification and teacher proficiency tests, many prospective educators must make major sacrifices.

There has been a debate for years, which will likely continue for many more, about teacher compensation, but that usually does not include the costs to start a teaching career. It costs more to go to college today, but according to the NEA, the average salary for teachers has decreased by more than 4% in the last ten years. In 2018, the average national teacher salary was $39,249. During the same period, the College Board stated that in-state students across the country spent almost $21,000 on tuition, room, and board.

A prospective teacher’s second year in college is often when the decision is made to stick with the program or not. When learning about the money they must spend to achieve their reality; sometimes, students opt not to continue with the teaching program. The cost can be prohibitive for many individuals.

Expenses for teacher candidates include background checks before entering the classroom for observations and student teaching, insurance, entrance assessments, and certification, and content mastery exams. Also, because of the demands of the classroom during student teaching, most people are unable to maintain another job to help pay for these fees.

While tuition and related costs to become a teacher are still rising, there are programs available in some locations to assist future educators in meeting financial demands. It may be possible to apply for TEACH or Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants, which have requirements for taking particular classes and jobs to meet grant specifications. In Georgia, some programs have grants and guarantees for jobs within certain districts to ease worries about getting a job after graduation.

These types of programs can not only ease anxiety about meeting financial obligations to become a teacher but also provides welcome support for those who will teach the children who are our future.

The Complexities of Teaching Reading

September 16th, 2019 | Comments Off on The Complexities of Teaching Reading | Literacy Certification, Reading Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

A major component of all teacher early education programs is teaching children to read. It is a crucial skill that is a predictor of later success in life. Many studies have demonstrated that individuals who do not master basic reading skills in elementary school are more likely to live below the poverty level, have criminal records, and don’t continue their education.

Reading teachers often follow one of two primary courses of study – whole language and phonics. The whole language school of thought involves the meaning of words rather than the sounds that make up the words. Children are encouraged to utilize listening, writing, reading, and speaking skills to determine what the words are on a page. Phonics teaches the sounds that each letter and combination of letters make and how to combine them to make words.

Most educators prefer one method over the other, and there has been a debate for decades as to which is the better strategy. A recent review in the Psychological Science in the Public Interest journal found that both methods are integral to a complete understanding of reading.

The study found that new readers must learn that each letter has a sound, which is the essence of phonetic instruction. However, all readers, regardless of age, use decoding processes to decipher new words, which comprises the whole language method of teaching reading. Combining these strategies can be highly effective in helping students become better readers. Initiating phonics first and then gradually progressing to whole language learning can only benefit early readers.

Learning to read is a complex process. Helping students in whatever way teachers can is the goal. There are professional development programs online or at your local university to help educators who may not have the foundation in both methods of teaching reading.

What New (and Not-So-New) Teachers Need to Know Before Entering the Classroom this Year

August 26th, 2019 | Comments Off on What New (and Not-So-New) Teachers Need to Know Before Entering the Classroom this Year | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

It’s not only brand-new educators who have the jitters before the opening of school each year. Veteran teachers often feel the same way. Everyone wants to make sure they have everything they need in the classroom, as well as being as prepared as possible to make the school year start on a positive note.

Many studies have asked returning teachers what their recommendations are for the newest educators entering their classes for the first time. Here are just a few of the responses:

  • While academics are certainly important, it is also essential to build a sense of community within the classroom. Get to know each of your students on a personal basis.
  • Classroom management is critical. Outlining your expectations and that of the school right at the beginning allows for a more conducive environment for learning.
  • If you are not already, learn to be flexible. There is always something to interrupt lessons, whether it is a fire drill, administrative paperwork, or an assembly. Plan for the unexpected and life will flow more smoothly for you and the students.
  • Just like there is no manual when you become a parent, there is not one for when you start teaching either. You will be educated every day on the most surprising subjects, from a student’s home life to the best way to teach a complex math concept.
  • Find a mentor at your school if one is not assigned to you. This person will be your best source of information about teaching and school policies.
  • Connecting with your students is more important than standards and objectives.
  • There is probably a good reason (most of the time) why some of your students come unprepared to class, why they fall asleep in the middle of a lesson, or never seem to have money for lunch. Realizing the difficulties some children face before ever entering the classroom can change how you treat them and your own attitude toward them.
  • While you may have planned and hoped to teach middle school science, you might end up teaching middle school English. Being prepared to teach any subject can relieve a lot of stress.
  • Teaching your first year (and sometimes others) can be a real challenge. Look at it as a learning experience and move on.

Keeping these ideas in mind will help you have a better year. Buckle up – and enjoy!

Evaluate, Emphasize, & Establish Better Behavior Management This Year

August 1st, 2019 | Comments Off on Evaluate, Emphasize, & Establish Better Behavior Management This Year | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

It’s at that point in the summer when teachers are checking out sales on school and classroom supplies and finishing professional development sessions in preparation for the new year. Whether you’ve taught for decades in the same grade or classroom or you have moved to a different school or subject area, it can be overwhelming to think about 2019-2020.

Here are three simple ways to make a substantial difference in your classroom climate, maintain your sanity, and ensure student success. Focusing on behavior at the outset of the school year leads to a more productive year for everyone – you, the administration, the students, and their parents.

  1. Evaluate your expectations for behavior management and adjust, as necessary, for the grade level. Let your students (and parents) know exactly what behaviors are appropriate and which ones are not with a clear set of guidelines that you can discuss with them. This allows each family to be invested in the process, and explicitly defines right and wrong and what happens when rules are broken.
  2. Emphasize relationships with your students. This is one of the best behavior management tools you can utilize. When students realize that you really care about them, they are more eager to learn and cooperate. Get to know your students on a personal level, what interests them, and their past school experiences. On the flip side, let students and parents know more about you, too. In addition, start building a favorable relationship with parents from the first day of school so that you have a connection before problems have a chance to develop.
  3. Establish classroom procedures that support your efforts for behavior management and prevent off-task behavior before it begins. Determine exact routines for everything from entering the room to homework to end-of-day actions. Teach the routines to students and emphasize them heavily during the first few weeks of school.

While it does take extra time and effort to launch a composed, positive classroom, you will have a more successful, enjoyable, and productive year.

What is Contributing to Our Nation’s Teacher Shortage, Particularly in High-Poverty Schools?

July 11th, 2019 | Comments Off on What is Contributing to Our Nation’s Teacher Shortage, Particularly in High-Poverty Schools? | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Teacher shortages are felt in both urban and rural districts across the U.S., but according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the impact is unevenly distributed along socioeconomic lines. Schools that are in high-poverty areas have a bigger problem with attracting certified teachers with experience in the subject(s) they teach. This problem undermines teacher effectiveness, threatens the students’ ability to learn, and leads to greater teacher turnover.

The study is the first in a series that examines the causes, consequences, and possible solutions in the volatile teacher labor market. Not only is the deficit real, it is worse than originally thought.

When the economy recovered after the recession and school budgets increased, districts started looking for teachers again. However, they found that it was more challenging to fill those positions than they had expected. The effects have been long-reaching and continue today. Of particular concern is finding qualified teachers in special education, science, and mathematics.

Many reports from the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) indicate that the teacher shortage is not only alarming but that there are just not enough educators in specialty fields with the current wages offered. While there are many highly qualified teachers scattered throughout the country, not all educators have the certification, experience, and education requirements to meet those guidelines.

The EPI report indicates that there is an unequal distribution of highly qualified educators in schools for low-income students, and the problem is more severe than previously believed. California is especially hard-hit, according to a 2017 report from LPI where 2/3 of principals in poverty-stricken schools hired less than qualified teachers or simply left positions unfilled because they were unable to hire teachers with the required skills.

Of the open teacher positions in Illinois in 2017, 90% were in school districts with less than adequate funding. Low-income districts had 81% of the vacancies, and 74% were in majority-minority school districts.

Schools with high-poverty levels are more likely than schools in traditional districts to have educators with fewer credentials and less experience, as well as lacking significant knowledge in the subject matter they teach. These teachers are more apt to leave the education field, as well.

The relationship between having strong credentials and remaining in a school or district weakens in high poverty schools (EPI study). Richard Ingersoll reports that half of teacher attrition occurs in 25% of public schools in mostly high-poverty rural and urban locations.

There are no indications that the teacher shortage issue is lessening, particularly in impoverished schools and districts. The problem will only get better when leaders understand that this lack of credentialed teachers is due to increased job stress, the teacher pay gap, and demoralization, as well as a lack of training, mentoring, and suitable professional development programs. EPI plans to investigate these challenges and possible solutions in future studies.

To find an equitable resolution to the teacher shortage crisis, it is necessary to recognize why it is occurring and the unique nature of the teacher labor market. Only then will there be a solution that benefits the districts, schools, teachers, and students.