Education Corner 23 - Case Study: Navarro Navarro

03 OCT 2016

Last EC we said we were changing our format to the Case Study approach. We will not abandon our message however. All teachers can improve student learning if they diligently pursue On-going Teacher Training.
Case Study: Navarro Navarro
A long, long time ago EBC (even before computers), Navarro Navarro sat in his small room in a small village a few miles from the capital of his island-state. As he sat quietly, he thought of his predicament. He was 22 years old and that very Sunday morning he had accepted a job teaching the 5th grade at a local Catholic elementary school-Mt. St. Mary’s. Navarro had not trained to be a teacher at the University of California, Berkeley but rather as a resource geographer. Four years before, Navarro had gone to the States after two years at the local college. At Berkeley, his focus was conservation, human and physical geography but never once had he thought about teaching. He asked himself that morning in church in prayer form, “God, why did I even come back to this island?” But here he was on a Sunday evening with a major predicament. Navarro was to begin teaching the 5th grade at eight o’clock the very next morning—Monday morning.

For sure young Navarro was a bit frightened. He had taken the job in part because he had no job and he thought to himself, “The pay is peanuts but enough to put gas in the old car and food on the old table. Besides, it will just be a temporary thing until some good paying government job opens up.” He knew that teachers were supposed to have some kind of training but exactly what kind of training he did not know. In the contract, he agreed to coach the boys’ sports after school for an extra $40 a month. That would be easy. He could show the boys how to play football, basketball, and baseball. He could teach the idea of teamwork. But could he teach 5th graders about English? In his school years, Navarro recalled hearing teachers talk about night school and summer school. Navarro reckoned that training was on-going and that made sense to him. After all, teaching was a profession and Navarro knew that professional people must always be going to school. He guessed therefore that if he ever continued with this teaching job, he would always be going to school. The thought of always going to school was not a pleasant thought nor was it unpleasant. Navarro liked going to school especially if the instructor was a good one. But these thoughts quickly vanished. “Future training will be of no use to me tomorrow morning at eight.” He had accepted the job with no instruction or teacher training at all. None. Navarro realized that Mt. St. Mary’s must have been desperate, very desperate indeed, to have hired him. Principal Mary Francetta had explained that at the last moment the teacher scheduled for the 5th grade had become seriously ill. So a signature on a contract that morning young Navarro was a teacher. The contract had the title of teacher so legally he guessed he was a teacher but inside he knew he was a long way from being a real teacher.
As he drove around that Sunday afternoon he thought to himself, “It can’t be that hard-- can it? It’s the 5th grade—a little history, geography, science, maybe some health, and of course math and English.” Navarro tried to recall what he had learned in the 5th grade. “Was it fractions or percent’s?” He recalled learning his multiplication tables at the end of the 3rd grade. So a 5th grader should know the times tables ... at least Navarro hoped so. For English he wondered “Was it parts of speech and sentence writing or was it paragraphs and more complicated stuff?” The young man panicked when he thought of diagramming sentences. “Oh, dear God, not diagramming sentences,” thought Navarro. That was parts of speech and lines all over the page and the sort of things that always stood in his path of the almighty A. English had been Navarro’s most dreaded subject in school. Although he loved reading, he remembered that many of the books assigned by the English teachers were not all that interesting. Navarro liked reading without thinking about plots, characters, symbols or similes and metaphors. His panic increased when he thought his duties might include teaching reading. He had forgotten the diagramming but at least he remembered there were parts of speech involved. But teaching reading? He could not even remember how he had learned to read English. “One day, I was not reading and the next day I was reading.” That was the best Navarro could do. He was good at English and he knew that while he could read, write and speak English, there would be something more to teaching English and God forbid, reading. “Certainly they can read,” or so he hoped. Lastly he realized that his own good English was the key to his own academic success. His Pohnpeian was pretty good b7ut he had succeeded academically because of his English skills.
Readers: Navarro Navarro is quite unusual for a beginning teacher today. For many years PDOE hired teachers with the associate degrees (minimum requirements) in Liberal Arts or even Business. These individuals were fortunate to have a job but unfortunate in that they had no idea of How to Teach. Today PDOE seeks local teachers with an Associate of Arts in Pre-teacher education, a Third Year Certificate and the Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education. All of this education and passing the National Teachers Test will give a local teacher full certification. Full certification, however, should never mean that On-going Teacher Training is not necessary. There are no teachers who cannot benefit from the latest content or the most recent methods
You will continue to find that Navarro is quite confident about the subjects he will teach except English. We will soon find out that he is very good in all subjects—except English and reading teaching methods. Also Navarro has thought of something very important for an ESL country teacher-knowing English is much different than teaching English. We hope you will follow Navarro Navarro as he struggles to become a good teacher—a little hint—he falls in love with his class by Friday—and never again thinks about that “good government job.”