Teacher’s Lounge Blog

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

MA DESE is Updating MTEL Teacher Certification Exams

January 7th, 2021 | Comments Off on MA DESE is Updating MTEL Teacher Certification Exams | Certification Prep, Literacy Certification, Math Certification, Reading Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses, Writing Certification

No matter what state you hope to teach in, potential educators in their junior year of college should begin planning for taking teacher certification exams. Your college advisor can help you determine what tests you need to take, or you can research the state education website to decide the most suitable time to take them. Early consideration can be quite beneficial, particularly if you lack specific skills and knowledge evaluated on the tests.

For Massachusetts residents who will take MTEL licensing exams in 2021 or 2022, it is essential to note that many of the tests are undergoing redevelopment. Numerous MTEL tests are being updated, and others are being introduced. This can affect your preparation strategy. 

When you learn which exams you must take, explore the MTEL site to know which ones are subject to change and if yours will be affected. The Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure website offers various helpful tips for exam preparation, from videos to practice tests and tutorials. They also provide information about online courses that can assist you in areas where your skills may not be as strong.

PrepForward is the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s only preferred provider for MTEL prep courses.  You may want to take test preparation courses in areas that you may not feel as confident about or for a comprehensive review before sitting for exams. The earlier you learn about your required exams, the better prepared you will be.

While taking these exams is no doubt stressful, early and all-inclusive preparation is vital for not only peace of mind but also receiving a passing score. Learning what you need to do if you do not pass is just as crucial. Knowing what to expect beforehand can help you do well and save you the cost of re-taking your exams.

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.

What You Need to Know about Teacher Certification Exams

August 6th, 2020 | Comments Off on What You Need to Know about Teacher Certification Exams | Certification Prep, Literacy Certification, Math Certification, Reading Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses, Writing Certification

No matter in what state you plan to teach elementary school, you are required to take a teacher licensing exam – and pass it – to obtain certification. Many times, the anxiety for this knowledge-based test surpasses that of most of the college courses you take in your education course of study.

It is, therefore, even more disturbing to realize that over half of prospective teachers fail the teacher certification exam the first time, regardless of which test they take. Whether it is a case of extreme nerves, lack of exam preparation, inadequate knowledge retention or if required teacher-prep courses do not align with the material being tested, the fact remains that if a potential teacher wants to teach, they must pass the exam.

What can examinees do to prevent failure? Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are strategies that can help ensure success.

  1. Start planning for the exam EARLY in your senior year or even late in your junior year of college. Know which test you are taking for your state, when it is offered, the cost, what happens if you do not pass, etc.
  2. Obtain a study guide for the test or tests you will take and read them. Complete as many practice tests as possible to familiarize yourself with the types of questions that are asked, as well as the subject matter that is evaluated.
  3. If you perform poorly on the practice exams, try to determine why. Insufficient knowledge or misunderstanding the subject matter can be remedied by taking additional college courses (since you are preparing ahead, this is doable) or taking an online class in addition to your regular education courses.

There is no shame in failing your teacher licensing exam. However, lack of preparation should never be the reason. In most cases, if you follow these guidelines, you should not only pass your test, but do well. Good luck!

How Can I Keep My Students Engaged in Online Learning?

June 10th, 2020 | Comments Off on How Can I Keep My Students Engaged in Online Learning? | Remote Learning, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

It is still not completely certain what our classrooms will look like for Fall 2020. Students and teachers may be back in the classroom with some modifications due to COVID-19. Distance learning may continue like it did in the spring. There may also be a combination of the two.

Most people agree that it is more challenging to keep students engaged in a lesson when it is conducted online. There is a sense of segregation not only for the instructor but the students. Here are a few ideas to narrow the gap and keep children on task and engaged with the lessons you present.

  1. Try a different teaching approach. Online education does not have to be boring or rely on the same methods you utilize in a traditional classroom.
  2. Take advantage of technology and incorporate it into your lesson plans. Make and share videos, create discussion boards, play virtual games, and more connect your class in ways you may not have considered before. Plan activities everyone can enjoy – the teacher included.
  3. Online lessons often need to be shorter than those you conduct in person. Choose smaller chunks of information presented at a brisk pace. Mix it up a little with activities spread throughout.
  4. Make sure each of your students feels valued. Loneliness and isolation are common in distance learning situations. Provide frequent personal feedback whenever possible.
  5. Much of the curriculum can be adapted to a virtual classroom setting, so it is not necessary to “reinvent the wheel.” Keep students busy during lessons with activities that include talking, clicking, or typing to keep them engaged.
  6. Have clear goals both for you and your students to keep everyone on track. A badge or point system or a fun game could provide some excellent positive reinforcement for completed work.

No matter what our classrooms look like for the 2020-2021 school year, it pays to be prepared. Explore the possibilities now so you can help your students succeed in a traditional or virtual setting this fall.

 

Including Special Needs Students in Your Elementary Classroom

April 15th, 2020 | Comments Off on Including Special Needs Students in Your Elementary Classroom | Certification Prep, Inclusive Teaching, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Hopefully, by Fall 2020, our classrooms will be back to “normal.” We will be in our traditional school environment, standing in front of our students, teaching standard subjects and encountering daily challenges and joys.

While many schools across the country have suspended classes for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year or are finishing up in an online setting, now is the perfect time to brush up on skills that we may have been neglecting due to lack of time or inclination.

One area where many educators struggle is how to handle an all-inclusive classroom. Conventional learning situations often do not apply to individuals with special needs. Take the opportunity now to develop strategies you can implement later for students in your class who are on the autism spectrum, have attention deficit disorders, or other learning disabilities.

Children of all ability levels will thrive when you utilize these simple yet effective tools.

  • Post the list of class rules in a prominent location and review them often. Keep them simple and easy to follow with clear consequences outlined.
  • Utilize visual aids that include images, graphs, charts, computer programs, and videos.
  • Follow a daily schedule and announce changes in advance whenever possible.
  • Peer tutoring has benefits for special needs students and the tutors.
  • Incorporate social skills into daily learning.
  • Focus on everyone’s strengths rather than their weaknesses.
  • Take short breaks between subjects. Sing a song, do some exercises, have a chat session.

For comprehensive preparation for running a strong inclusive classroom with children who have intellectual, behavioral, emotional, or psychological disorders, consider taking Prepforward’s online inclusion course. This state-of-the-art program includes classroom management, teaching strategies, tools for technical support, assessment, and lesson planning. Work at your own pace to determine what you can do to provide additional support to students in your general education classrooms. Use this time to add a continuing education class to your resume.