1.Competency 011: The teacher understands the importance of family involvement in children’s education and knows how to interact and communicate effectively with families
Communication. What an interesting concept. Not only must the teacher be highly qualified in the content area they have chosen to teach but they must also be masters of the art of communication. Not just the communication of information and knowledge to the students in every class, but the teacher must be able to “communicate effectively with families.” When I was in school that was an easy task for a teacher, pick up the phone, call the student’s home and the student’s mother would answer the phone on the wall in the kitchen. “Hello, …oh,…Hi Mr. Galvan…….I’ll be right there.” Off comes the apron, a quick fix of the hair and lipstick and Mom would be drinking coffee with Mr. Galvan in ten minutes!
Today’s teacher must be a private investigator, negotiator, linguist, diplomat and lawyer. First order of business is to identify the responsible party, mother, father, stepfather, stepmother, aunt, uncle, cousin, older brother, grandparent or foster parent. Who does the student live with? Who in in charge of school contact? Does any of the above actually speak English? How well? What it the best method of communication, phone, text, email, snail-mail, or a conference call with all parties involved? I have only been in the classroom for eight months as a full time teacher and I have spoken to all of the above and even dropped in to meet some folks in person when I couldn’t make contact any other way. I was really thankful that the folks that answered the door could speak English! I have even had bilingual counselors and administrators make contact for me when I hit a language barrier.
Teachers are required to make contact with guardians of students that are having issues with grades and behavior, but my most rewarding conversation was when I called to tell a parent that their son was the only one in my class to get a perfect 100 on an exam. I could feel the smile bursting on her face over the phone. Communication means that both parties are of one understanding. Teachers and parents must establish the fact that they are both on the same side. The side that is doing everything possible for student success, parents and teachers are allies not adversaries. If parents only hear for teachers when there is a problem, they begin to feel like adversaries.
- Competency 012: The teacher enhances professional knowledge and skills by effectively interacting with other members of the educational community and participating in various types of professional activities.
Does a teacher ever stop being a student? Never! Every day we work diligently to become better students of our students, every week we participate with other teachers to learn more and better ways to make sure someone else’s kid can become an educated part of the fabric of our country. Teachers are the most curious and inspired people to ever walk the face of the earth. Teachers live to see the spark in a student’s eye become a flame of understanding and curiosity.
Every school and district has more opportunities for professional development than any one teacher could ever take advantage of and that’s not even including the region or Texas Education Agency options as well. Throw in university, private and online options for professional development and you can forget about ever getting any sleep! One of the really great benefits of all these professional development courses are all of the new and experienced educators and administrators you get to meet, learn with and become friends. Friends you can call or email and ask questions, friends that are teachers at heart and want nothing more than to see that spark in your eye…
- Competency 013: The teacher understands and adheres to legal and ethical requirements for educators and is knowledgeable of the structure of education in Texas.
The legal aspect of teaching has become one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle and one that will make or break the newbie or the seasoned veteran. The old saying, “The devil is in the details,” was actually first spoken by a special education, ESL, math/science middle school teacher at the end of his first year in education. (Just kidding, but it could have been!) The concept of a free, fair public education and the mountain of regulations that began with President Johnson as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has morphed into the monster No Child Left Behind (NCLB) by President Bush and the Race to the Top plan of President Obama have all added layers and layers of rules and regulations to every teacher’s daily experience.
The federal rulebook is tied to federal tax dollars for local education and every school district in the country strives to align both local and state education goals to meet federally mandated targets. A teacher in the state of Texas must pay very close attention to the mountains of documentation and accommodations that each student and special needs student is entitled to receive, and don’t forget to document your strict compliance to every accommodation! Core teacher’s lesson plans and testing must align to very specific learning targets (TEKS) that allow standardized testing to validate learning. Lord knows we need to prove that learning has actually occurred. (ChaChing)
The world as we know it has become a minefield of legal, ethical and moral dilemmas. Teachers and administrators are loaded up with legally required paperwork to document official compliance with all rules and regulations, state, local and federal. My very first week as a teacher I was asked to attend an ARD meeting, (I didn’t even know how to spell ARD yet.) I would soon find out that ARD, 504, and BIP would all become part of my frame of reference. OMG. Teaching has so many acronyms! Remember, dot every “i” cross every “t” and don’t forget to ask your mentor teacher and administrator before you admit to anything.