Education Corner 15

In the last KPress the EC promised to finish up this edition with how we might motivate our Pohnpei teachers and inspire them to improve. We explained that while teachers said they would be motivated if they were paid a higher salary—higher salaries are really not in the future. The readers must forgive EC—there will be no final answer this week as promised. But there are the beginnings. Last issue ended with:
“We can never improve student learning until we improve our teachers and motivate them to be better.
We will continue next EC and remember it’s a simple idea-motivation. It is just is getting someone to do something. People either do things because they want to do something or they have to do something. People are motivated by success and not motivated with failure. People are motivated to fulfill wants and needs. People have difficulty deciding what are wants and what needs are. There are always more wants than needs and usually more needs than resources. Exploring these ideas next issue will help us some (I think) unravel how to inspire and motivated our teachers. At least I hope so.”
Recall all of this began when we looked at the idea of On-going Teacher Training or the constant updating of knowledge and skills by our Pohnpeian Teachers. We mentioned this was what the Pohnpei Department of Education wanted to do-that is put together a program where all the teachers have the opportunity to always be improving. We have noted that this on-going education is a hallmark of every profession from medicine to law and from engineering to education. But how do we inspire or motivate the teachers when we are reminded of the EC reader who said “I have a friend who is a public school teacher and like many of her colleagues is suffering from depression as a result of a lack of inspiration and motivation; low/ poor pay and an insecure tenure with the new short term contracts now in place, being a major factor.”? Whatever we did we knew many teachers did feel this way and inspiring such teachers would not be easy.

To start the PDOE wanted to know in where the teachers would benefit most in the science and social studies they are required to teach yet have not had any coursework their own teacher training. For this task PDOE contracted Womack and Associates (2015) to test all the elementary school teachers and survey all the curriculum materials to see if there were enough for their students. Once again this was done only for the sciences and the social studies. But as we said we already knew the teachers were insecure and many viewed the contract with suspicion. Many saw it as a control device put in place because PDOE did not feel that teachers were doing a good job. With this suspicious attitude how could we get the teachers to embrace On-going Teacher Training---something that would take even more of their time? If we tested the usual way we must test every teacher on what they are supposed to teach. This would mean usual tests on the content of Science as Inquiry; Physical Science and Technology; Earth and Space Science; Life and Environmental Science; Marine Science; Economics; Civics and Government; History; Geography and Culture. But since we already know that teachers will fail subjects they have not had, why try? Why prove something we already know? Why test teachers in a way that is embarrassing when teachers are already fearful. Therefore we devised what was called the Comfortability Test. We simply stated standards they were suppose to teach and asked how comfortable each teacher was teaching in the ten (10) areas/ subjects required. When the tests were scored each teacher signed a letter to their principal asking for training.
“Socrates was wise because he knew he was not wise”
Step One: Make It a Priority
The famous saying “what we pay attention to grows” is very true when it comes to professional development and being a lifelong learner. We have to make it a priority! If we aren’t learning and pushing ourselves to get better, how do we expect others to follow suit? Our Pohnpei Principals should take pride in being an instructional leader. We firmly believe that the only way we can continue to lead is to constantly seek out opportunities to grow and learn. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to those we lead, and, most important, we owe it to our students to be the best possible educators we can be. Personal growth is never ending. Just as we encourage and demand growth from our students, we should encourage and demand growth in ourselves. Life is a continuous improvement process.
We will keep at this topic until we get further answers---but a good start is the teachers asking for training. This is a very powerful way to show we are sincere in improving.
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