Teacher’s Lounge Blog

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

Licensure Tests: Prepare or Procrastinate?

July 3rd, 2018 | Comments Off on Licensure Tests: Prepare or Procrastinate? | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

For the first time in decades, teacher licensure has become easier rather than more difficult in multiple states. Teacher shortages have pushed legislators to re-evaluate the high scores that have been required at various levels of teacher preparation. It’s not too difficult to imagine returning to a time when candidates were deemed qualified for their first year of teaching by completing course work, a single basic test, and student teaching under a master teacher.

Once upon a time, your only ticket into a teaching career was to pass licensure tests. Now, you’re looking at the reality that you may not have to pass as many licensure tests—or at least not with a score that required selling your soul for a year of grueling preparation.

Given the potential for more reasonable requirements, are you wise to prepare or to wait it out? I’m going with the unpopular answer of—you still need to prepare and work for the highest score possible. Let’s consider some reasons.

Economics:

Educators and legislators alike suspect that one factor driving teacher shortages is money. The level of attention being given to teacher salaries, benefits, and retirement plans is unprecedented. Ideally, the attention that teacher compensation has attracted will result in greater revenue. If that happens, more candidates with higher qualifications are likely to be drawn to teaching. At that point, states may be able to revert to or maintain high requirements and still keep their teachers. Securing a high test score makes sure you’re qualified not just during a temporary teacher shortage, but for the long term as well.

Content Mastery:

Teachers have to be good at so many things. You need to be able to communicate, organize, motivate, entertain, and manage resources, just to name a few. Did I mention teach?? With so many demands, you don’t also want to be wrangling with the academics. You can take some stress off the daily demands by becoming a master in your content area. Mastery of the content was one of the intents of licensure testing. Push for that mastery now—don’t put it off until you’re in the classroom.

Career:

It’s hard to predict the next turn that will be made to guarantee high quality teachers who can provide an excellent education to American students. While requirements may shift at least temporarily, the future of teacher certification is unknown. Hitting the high standards of today may turn into one of the best career moves you could make.

 

Do yourself, your students, and your career the courtesy of meeting the high requirements of today. Be wary of an attitude that rejoices at lowering requirements for teachers. Strive to be the one that can earn a top score on the test and then transfer your pursuit of excellence on to your students.

Effective Teachers Deliver

April 19th, 2018 | Comments Off on Effective Teachers Deliver | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Article from the Series: Essentials for Effective New Teachers

Instructional delivery is the method that a teacher uses to transport the students from the known to the unknown. Complex analyses have been conducted to determine the best teacher practices to maximize student learning. Instructional delivery is a point of profound vulnerability for beginning teachers; because, even if you excel in all other areas of the profession, failure to deliver a lesson that educates your students means that you have not done your job.

Let’s consider three potential pitfalls.

Technology: Every 21st Century classroom has been impacted by technology. You are in a position to determine tech’s role for your students. You may go old school—producing your own lessons from scratch and requiring tech-free responses from your students. You may go with a high tech, inquiry-based method where students have freedom to research questions posed by the teacher. More likely, your classroom will be a balance of tech and tech-free learning.

A bit of caution:

  • If you found the worksheet on the internet, your students can find the answer key.
  • If you want your students to generate original projects, the YouTube video you downloaded last night is probably not an appropriate way to model your expectation. You need to display more creativity and originality than you expect from your students.
  • Tech can be a time sucker. Avoid spending three hours looking for the perfect 2-minute hook to capture your students’ attention.

Practice: A rigorous lesson in any field requires practice and reinforcement. Arduous lessons must be supported with arduous practice. Watch out for the review game that eats up half of the class period with activity that is unrelated to your lesson objective. Factor in how long it will take to pass out devices, wait for them to boot up, and get all students on the right page, etc. Some days, a simple tic tac toe game with rapid fire questions will bring you closer to your goal.

Provide scaffolding as needed. If your final objective is for students to write a cause and effect essay on an event in history, consider that students will first need to know the facts of history. Consider using a Venn diagram in which you provide the main points and require the students just to sort the points between causes and effects. In your practice, provide all the information in matching, sorting, or multiple-choice questions. Move to fill-in-the-blank, then ease on over to short answer. After you’ve modeled the task a few times, hand over ownership for the learning to the students. Guide them gently from known to unknown, being careful not to introduce new activities or projects with new content.

Cumulative review plus some opportunities for students to acquire the learning without punishment are known to be components of an effective delivery.

Grit: As a new teacher, capitalize on your idealism. You may be surrounded by teachers who have become jaded. The battles that wage war in the lives of your students may leave them with no energy to focus on a lesson on misplaced modifiers or conditional probability. For you, however, disillusionment and fatigue are not an option. Your personal life is a non-factor during the school day. Every day, you must be the hardest working person in the classroom; and as a new teacher, you may be the hardest working person on the property. It’s your story to tell.

Structuring the pace, content, activities, and methods of your delivery day after day will be a colossal task, but it will be rewarded. Your student will benefit, and you will grow as a professional who can do one of the most important tasks on earth.

Delivery will be the core of your visible success as a teacher. Your knowledge, planning, organizational strategies, and overall professional behavior will feed into your successful delivery; but they cannot compensate for failed delivery in the classroom. If delivery is an area where you struggle, don’t despair. Research, scrutinize your lessons, find a mentor. You can become a teacher with an unforgettable delivery.

Effective Teachers Plan

April 9th, 2018 | Comments Off on Effective Teachers Plan | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Article from the Series: Essentials for Effective New Teachers

When we say “plan,” our mind naturally turns to lesson “plans” in which we state our objective, outline the content, and plan an activity or assessment. Certainly, planning lessons is vital to effective teaching. However, if all we have done is plan the lesson, we’ve failed to plan. Consider some other aspects of planning.

Plan for your physical needs: You need food, water, rest, and a clear mind. You may have days in which you teach back-to-back classes for 4-5 hours. After that, you may go straight to coaching, tutoring, or professional development. You’ll need to healthy, sustaining nutrition. While seasoned teachers may be able to munch on a candy bar and drink a soda during class, don’t try it your first year. Students tend to resent watching their teachers do what is forbidden to them.

Plan your classroom environment: Oh, the power of an effective seating chart! Strategically grouping students with consideration of their behavior and learning can make the difference between a room where the students can actively learn and a room where the teacher throws up helpless hands in surrender.

Plan for the trouble spots: By the second week of school, you’ll be keenly aware of the place where learning breaks down. Is it in transitions? Is it when you lose your at-risk student in the content? Do you run out of stuff to do at the end of class? Plan specifically for a way to conquer the trouble spot.

Plan with colleagues: Value the insight of other teachers. You may be privileged to collaborate vertically across grade levels in a content area such as science. You may be able to collaborate within your grade level and find out how other teachers have organized their time and space and how students are performing for other teachers. Listen, learn, and don’t be afraid to contribute to the conversation,

Plan your communication: The very essence of teaching is that you to convey students from the known to the unknown. This conveyance happens much more smoothly when the teacher is personally equipped with accurate knowledge and skills. Study ahead so that when you stand before the class, you won’t make mistakes on the facts or practice problems. Plan the specific questions you will ask students in discussion which can guide further instruction rather distract. Don’t be satisfied just to know the text or task, go on to plan the most effective means to communicate so that the students can master the lesson.

If you’re thinking, “All this planning sounds like it will take hours,” you’re right; but, you’re not just teaching these students for this moment. You’re immortalizing the lesson. You’re establishing your reputation. You’re creating life long learners. It’s worth it!

Essentials for Effective New Teachers

April 9th, 2018 | Comments Off on Essentials for Effective New Teachers | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Are you new to teaching? New to the grade level? New to the school system? New to the curriculum? New can mean a lot of things in the world of education. Just ask teachers with twenty years of experience how their first year with Common Core State Standards went, and you’re likely to hear the word new. When new is the word you use to describe your teaching situation, work on some essentials for success.

Articles in this series:

How to Prepare for MTEL Exams

February 10th, 2018 | Comments Off on How to Prepare for MTEL Exams | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

teachers taking examThe MTEL exam was designed to ensure that educators have the academic preparedness to succeed in a school community. You’ll need both academic proficiency and professional communication skills. Qualifying scores on the required tests indicate that you are knowledgeable in your respective areas of expertise and able to communicate clearly with students and their parents or guardians. Understandably, passing such all-encompassing tests is a challenge that requires teacher candidates to prepare thoroughly. Here is some advice on how best to prepare.

Understand the Process

Familiarize yourself with the state requirements and gather relevant material in your subject area. Look at the MTEL Test Information Guide and Test Objectives for information on each kind test. You’ll find samples of “weak” and “strong” essay answers, multiple choice practice tests, and thorough question analyses. With these resources, you should have a better understanding of the expectations for passing each test.

Establish a Timeline

Think ahead before you register for your test. You don’t want to make the mistake of registering for the Communication and Literacy Skills exam and the content test on the same day. You’ll need time to study for each one separately. Also, plan to take the MTEL CLST well in advance of your application for admission to a program. You’ll be notified of your score six weeks after taking your test, and you’ll want to allow time to retake the test if necessary.

Begin Smart, Purposeful Preparation

The right MTEL prep courses can help you establish your plan of action. Consider taking a practice test which offers a realistic picture of where you stand and where you need improvement. The best trial tests are timed, adhere closely to the test objectives stated on the MTEL website, and follow the correct format. Taking a rigorous trial test in an environment you simulate to duplicate the actual testing site can make you more prepared on test day. Part of the challenge of the MTEL is dealing with the anxiety. A couple timed tests, and you’ll be much more relaxed with required test pace. Then, don’t ignore your test results. Tackle your weak spots. Refer back to specific college courses, follow a prep course, or conduct your own research to learn more about the objectives you need to master.

If you follow these rules, you’ll be in a good position to pass the MTEL and get started with your career. Good luck!

 

 

Preparing for Content Licensure Tests

July 11th, 2017 | Comments Off on Preparing for Content Licensure Tests | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Years after Nelson Mandela made his now famous statement, we find that responsibility for instilling this education now rests largely on the public-school system, and more specifically on the classroom teacher. With such responsibility, it is reasonable to expect that an educator’s knowledge of his subject area would be tested and evaluated.

Content certification exams are mandated in every state. Your bachelor’s or master’s degree is a commendable accomplishment, but it won’t get you a stable teaching job in America’s public-school system. You must pass the required certification exams that are designed to guarantee that teachers have a broad and deep mastery of their subject area.

While most educators are willing to accept that some form of assessment of a teacher’s knowledge of the content area is a rational requirement, preparing for and taking a high-stakes test is a stress-inducing, time-consuming undertaking. After all, a teacher may have completed a thesis last month, but not diagrammed a sentence in ten years. She may be an expert in Asian negotiations but have forgotten the nuances of the Northwest Ordinance. How do you get control of all the knowledge and skills you need to pass?

If a content area certification exam is in your future, you can follow targeted strategies that will have you prepared on test day.

Four Ways to Prepare

  1. Research the requirements. About six months before you expect to take a certification exam, schedule a two-hour block of uninterrupted time to visit your state’s education department website and read up on the specifics of certification tests. If you studied in one state and plan to teach in another, check requirements of both states as well as the possibility of reciprocal certification. Make sure you know which tests are required. Read and process all the test objectives.
  2. Review your course work. Much of a teacher candidate’s course work is focused on instructional methods, educational theories, and practice teaching. However, you should have had some courses on the content knowledge in key subjects. Search out the syllabus, notes, and projects for your content courses. Review vocabulary and skills.
  3. Take a practice test. Set aside another block of time to take a full-length practice test. Your state’s testing provider, education department, or university may have one available. If a practice test is not readily available, check a neighboring state for a practice test in a similar area. Take the test. Score it. (Yes. Score your test. Assign a real number to what you know and don’t know.) Align the questions you missed with the test objectives and determine where you stand.
  4. Use resources to prepare. If your practice test revealed a weakness or gap, you could be at risk for not passing your exam. Be proactive in finding a prep program that will work for you. Here are some options:
    • Self study Prep books and materials are cost effective and self-paced. Look for material designed for a teacher candidate instead of material designed for a student. Resources may be available in your university library or public library, or from one of the big online booksellers.
    • On-site course work You know your learning style and your weaknesses. If you’re at your best in the classroom, look for a prep course designed to create a deep understanding of the material, not one just focused on passing the exam. In a prep class, you get the benefit of expert knowledge, plus the company of other prospective teachers who share your status. Expect that you will need to sit through some instruction on content you have mastered in order to get to the content you need to review.
    • Online review class Similar to a live workshop or prep course, you can also look for an online course to help overcome the intimidation of reviewing volumes of content that you haven’t thought about in years. An online curriculum acknowledges that every teacher candidate is unique. Strengths and weaknesses vary from person to person, and no one wants to waste time focusing on topics that are already familiar. Once an assessment has shown you where you need to focus your efforts, you can select the objectives that apply to your needs. If your online class includes diagnostics, you can track your progress and build confidence.A self-paced, online review class is an attractive option because you can target your areas of weakness and scan over the content you’ve mastered. You can take as long as you need and access the course and problems at your convenience. You maximize your time because every minute of study is devoted to prep, not to driving to class or walking across campus.

Strong content knowledge is a teacher’s friend. While acquiring and demonstrating your knowledge is indeed a stringent and rigorous process, your state education department knows that the pain of testing is far less than the pain of stepping into the classroom unprepared. Teaching methods and philosophy are important, of course; but don’t neglect content mastery. Follow proven steps to prepare for certification exams and reap the benefit of simultaneously mastering the content you need to teach with confidence.