Trajectory Transforming Jamaican Teachers – Motivating All Students

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David was a late bloomer. At seven years old he could not spell his name, count to ten, or identify and name the 12 basic colours.

His other nine siblings had all successfully mastered those challenges before being six years old.  Individualised, targeted, and dedicated input by his third and fourth grade teachers was transformative. Patiently, deliberately, consistently, and repeatedly they commended David for even the most minute positive accomplishment.  As his confidence grew, so did his interest, determination to succeed, and unrestrained, burgeoning curiosity to learn.

Parents as teachers- difference makers

Many parents are oblivious that they can subliminally and consciously shape their child’s perspective of their teacher and the teacher’s world. 

  

By showing up for staff meetings, engaging in other school activities, and verbally commending the teacher of their child a parent is sending multiple positive messages to a student. Ensuring a child appreciates the importance of following instructions the first time is important for class discipline and fosters effective learning. Helping a child to understand the value of being respectful to those around is critical to success.

Getting feedback from their child regarding events of the school day shows interest and provides opportunities for discussion when parent teachers meetings are scheduled. The child interprets this parental engagement as a mandate to do well. Cutting edge parents using a letter introduce their child to each teacher on the first day of school at the start of each new year.  The contents of such letters frequently include the unique interests of the child, expectations around accepted conduct and participation from their child in class and school activities, behaviour when not supervised, and the child’s anticipated performance ranking at the end of the school year.

Some parents also copy the principal as well.  This level of parental involvement engages the teachers. The student is then fully aware of the open lines of communication between an engaged parent and an invested teacher. With this level of parental interest, teacher-parent-child conferences then become much more engaging, less formal, and a seamless part of the education process thus maximising the opportunity for overall success.  A student should be more likely to display a positive attitude, hunger for knowledge, cooperative spirit, and full engagement in learning. Parents, engaged, or cavalier, indeed do make a difference.

Do the expectations of teachers for their students matter?

Studies show that a teacher’s expectation for a student can influence success or failure. Paul Ekperi, et al in their 2019 study reporting on “teacher’s attitude as a correlate of student’s academic performance” concluded “the findings show that attitude of teachers correlated positively and significantly with students’ academic performance”. 

In another landmark prospective study teachers were misinformed regarding who were under-performing students and those students who were most likely to do well.  By the end of the study the previously genuinely under-performing students were transformed into stellar students. The students who were previously genuinely over-performing became under-performers.  Multiple explanations account for this phenomenon. 

The teachers were more invested in the students they thought would naturally over-perform, encouraged and challenged them more, and were more inclined to give them opportunities to correct subpar grades.  This constructive approach changed the attitude, mindset, and confidence of the encouraged students so under-performers became unbeatable. Their desire to overachieve matched the expectations of the teachers and they became indomitable.  Meanwhile the genuinely outstanding students who had the natural ability to do well but were now treated as dumb and relegated to the under-performers category became discouraged and disillusioned based on the teachers’ negative attitudes towards them. The business concept of return on investment (RIO) is applicable in the classroom.

  

 

Role model teachers

 It is crucial that each teacher be fully cognisant of the importance of fairness, equitable investment in, and encouragement of each student and the enormous impact of patience, displaying of positive reinforcement and a never say die attitude as they interact with each child.

A teacher’s decorum likely will have far more impact than words as teacher student, and student-student exchanges unfold in the classroom. Fostering curiosity, the ability to maintain an open mind and encouraging vigorous but respectful debate is essential. 

Teachers who are deliberate about being organised and meticulously and steadfastly strategise to accomplish this goal will be rewarded with excellent student compliance.  Endeavouring to always challenge a student beyond their comfort zone and ability will encourage a student and provoke research and expansion of problem-solving abilities. Instilling an attitude of success is vital. Most model teachers are effective at compartmentalising which enables better classroom management.

Reward for invested teachers

As a physician later in his life David was able to provide medical care to some of the teachers who had nurtured him, and to their families. He also offered free mathematics, physics, biology, and chemistry lessons, three nights per week, in his office for members of his community who were determined to improve their educational situation. 

He verbally and in other ways thanked his dedicated teachers for the transformative role they played in his early upbringing. The gleam in his teachers’ eyes betrayed their satisfaction and pride for a job well done.  Other teachers gain satisfaction and fulfilment by living vicariously through the accomplishments of their former students. Watching those students shape world views as political leaders, diplomats, leading scientists and researchers, athletes and entertainers provides a sense of overwhelming accomplishment and fidelity.

Other teachers are recognised by school, community, and national organisations. Still others receive recognition by governments when national awards are promulgated. Yet most teachers find the greatest pride emanates from being able to say they left it all in the classroom-every last drop! And they absolutely have no regrets. Teachers are indeed a national asset. Exceptional teachers are a rare, national treasure.

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