One special teacher can make a student feel inspired, as though he can do anything in the world if he sets his mind to it. Unfortunately, this student may enter another teacher’s class with a sense of overarching dread. One teacher can make a spirit soar while the other seems destined to destroy. The difference between the two teachers is soft skills.
Depending on whom you ask, soft skills are loosely defined as people skills. Kate Lorenz, an editor for CareerBuilder.com says that soft skills “refer to a cluster of personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social graces that make someone a good employee and compatible to work with.” The most important of these skills are Professionalism/Work Ethic, Oral and Written Communications, Teamwork/Collaboration and Critical Thinking/Problem Solving. These are the very skills educators seek to impart to their students.
On any average day, teachers work with a variety of people. Soft skills translate into the ability to successfully navigate the needs of those individuals. A teacher must use her oral and written communication skills every day to effectively pass on information to her students. A teacher uses teamwork and collaboration at any school-wide function, including faculty meetings. Without critical thinking and problem solving skills, the teacher cannot effectively manage classroom behavior or student progress.
A successful teacher will find that his voice and vocabulary do the marvels which no other device can do. Another important thing to mull over is his attitude which comprises proper planning and zeal to stir sensations in the classroom. A teacher has to adapt according to the situations; he has to bring in himself a proper blend of rigidity and flexibility allowing him to create humor at times to drive away the monologue. One should be wary enough not to hurt anyone’s cultural and religious beliefs. Challenging though such things are, they are not devoid of satisfaction if practiced earnestly. If teachers remain aware of the importance of such soft skills in teaching, it not only will establish proper rapport between the teacher and the taught but also ensure our competence and bring admiration.
Teachers have various roles. The main role is the content expert. However, this role alone is not sufficient to describe the work of teachers. Teachers are also consultants, managers, motivators, and counselors. Teachers are also decision makers. Each teacher has to engage in an ongoing series of decision-making. The areas are planning decisions, teaching and managing decisions, and assessment decisions.
Educational institutions are looking for various soft skills in teachers, besides technical competence and work experience. The twenty-first century workplace does not require teachers who are “walking encyclopedias” but rather self-reliant and resilient individuals who are achievement-oriented with high self-esteem; persuasive and effective communicators; emotionally intelligent; good problem solvers and decision makers with analytical and creative minds; fast and lifelong learners; good team players; and ethical with a high standard of integrity (morally intelligent).
For teachers, the ability to use effective soft skills can make or break a career. While it may seem obvious that such skills would factor importantly in a classroom, soft skills are also paramount when working with parents, administration and other teachers.
Author: Ajit K Singh has a Masters in Economics from Delhi University. Among his varied interests he has a passion for Philosophy, Psychology, Soft Skills and related subjects. Following the family tradition, he got commissioned in the Indian Air Force as an Administrative Officer. He specialized in selection of Officers for commissioning, having done a course in the Defence Institute of Psychological Research, Delhi. Post retirement he researched and became a trainer in Soft Skills and Emotional Intelligence, including Life Skills. He is an avid writer and occasional poet.
The Pygmalion Effect
In a famous study by psychologist Robert Rosenthall, primary school teachers were told that certain students in their class had been identified as intellectually gifted, however they were classed as ‘late bloomers’ who were not yet actively demonstrating the full effects of the giftedness they had been assessed as having.
The researchers found that as a result of this thought being planted in their mind, the teachers began showing slight positive differences in the way they treated those children. Interestingly, this lead to the students perception of themselves becoming more positive as well. As a result, those specific students started behaving in accordance with those beliefs, and began performing above the level of the other children in the class.
The catch was of course, that those children had not been identified as gifted at all. Their teacher was simply told that they were.
This study was famous for showing how the expectations of a student’s teachers affect the students’ performance, and is known as the Pygmalion effect. The opposite of the Pygmalion effect is known as the Golem effect, where student’s performance is impaired when their teachers hold negative expectations about them.
The bottom line is that for a young learner to become good at something, part of them has to believe that they are good at that thing, and that part will be heavily influenced by the way their role models perceive them. This is why it is so important for us as agents of change to not just plant positive seeds in the mind of our students, but to plant positive seeds in the minds of their parents and even their teachers to make the Pygmalion effect work to our advantage.
Positive Expectations vs High Expectations
Whilst the term positive expectations and high expectations can be used interchangeably, it is important to differentiate them.
Think of positive expectations as the ability to see the ‘glass is half full’ in every situation. That is, any negative effects are allowed to blur into the background, whilst positive outcomes are pulled strongly into the foreground and focused on most sharply.
High expectations on the other hand will only be effective if they are high enough to push the student beyond their comfort zone, but low enough to be realistically reachable. If the high expectations become unrealistic, then they essentially set the student up to fail, resulting in various negative consequences.
The Link Between Performance and Self Esteem.
If your student’s parents want a tutor, it is safe to assume that they want their child to do better at school. If the parent feels dissatisfied with their child’s performance (or their own ability to improve their child’s performance as is often the case) then there is a good chance that their dissatisfaction will be affecting the child’s self esteem, and their self-esteem will be affecting their performance.
Whilst it may sound strange, if all you did was walk into the home, click your fingers, put the parent into a trance and hypnotised them into believing that their child was doing fantastically, then that alone would have a drastic impact. When the parents starts to believe in the students strengths, those beliefs will overflow unconsciously onto the student, which will raise their self esteem, therefore cutting the demotivating chain holding them back.
Whilst we don’t expect you to learn hypnotic induction techniques, hopefully by now you can see how important it is to positively impact the parent’s perception of their child’s scholastic strengths, to indirectly impact the child’s perception of their own strengths.
How Can Your Impact A Parents Perception?
You might now start to see why it is so important to spend at least a couple of minutes giving verbal feedback about the students progress to the parents at the end of each lesson, especially if it involves praising their progress to the parents in front of the child.
In order for your words of praise to have the right impact however it is crucial that you have established yourself as a expert authority figure by showing certainty as well as establishing a strong, trusting rapport. Showing certainty without rapport may make you come across as arrogant whilst having rapport without authority might mean that the parents, whilst liking you, may not ‘look up to you’ or follow your lead.
Once you have both an authoritative presence as well as rapport, you gain the power to alter someone’s perception. If you establish both these psychological factors whilst directing the parents focus heavily towards the students strengths, progress and autonomy, you will quickly see remarkable changes occur faster than you had every imagined possible.
Writing To The Teacher
If you are working as a home tutor, a powerful strategy is to keen in touch with your students teachers at school. Whilst writing to the teacher both helps to keep you up to date with what the student is doing in class (assuming they right back) and helps promote your image to the parents as their own personal advocate, it also serves another purpose. It allows you the opportunity to plant positive seeds of thought into the teachers mind as well about the student’s progress, thus allowing the Pygmalion effect to work on both parents and teachers.
If the teacher starts to notice the student being more active in class, showing signs of initiative or even just a generally brighter attitude, then this is likely to favourably affect the way the teacher treats the student, even if unconsciously. If the teacher does notice this more (which they are more likely to do if you plant positive seeds of thought into their minds) and they mention these observations to the parents, it will only further give more momentum to the entire positive process. Thus the pygmalion effect works best if it affects parents and teachers at the same time.
For more information about how to use the most powerful psychological effects when acting as an agent of change for your students, see the Top of the Class Tutoring website.
Despite all teachers considering themselves objective, the reality is that the way a teacher perceives their student will affect the way the student perceives themselves. To avoid students falling into the Golem effect trap, it is therefore important that teachers view their students in the most positive light in order to make the Pygmalion effect work to their advantage.
By Stuart J Adams
As he did so adroitly in his previous memoirs, Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis, McCourt manages to uncover humor in nearly everything. He writes about hilarious misfires, as when he suggested (during his teacher’s exam) that the students write a suicide note, as well as unorthodox assignments that turned into epiphanies for both teacher and students. A dazzling writer with a unique and compelling voice, McCourt describes the dignity and difficulties of a largely thankless profession with incisive, self-deprecating wit and uncommon perception. It may have taken him three decades to figure out how to be an effective teacher, but he ultimately saved his most valuable lesson for himself: how to be his own man.
Standing at the intersection of a career in education and a second, “encore act” in business consulting, I see branding, or as I describe it for educators, “Brand-ed”, as an integral part of developing professionalism for teachers at any stage of career.
Brand was once a staple of the Madison Avenue community. With the rise of social media, brand development in education makes perfect sense. Communicating who we are in a schoolhouse without walls becomes part of every daily lesson plan.
In a Daniel Pink’s new book, To Sell is Human”, he catches up with something I instinctively used as I crossed from the “island of education” to the “land of business” eight years ago. It was a great divide, and the business community greeted me– a lifelong educator on their shore–with doubt. I wasn’t part of their “tribe”. But I made a lasting impression, and built my work on the idea that I had been in the business of education-Sales! I sold education to kids, parents, my superiors, to grant-making entities, even to the real estate brokers in the neighborhood of my school-they were in sales, too. I became part of the business community, and a thought leader. Yes, I’ve attained “chiefdom”! And that came from thinking about brand.
Now, I’m journeying back to education, with the experience of years of business consulting, and it’s perfect timing. My “chief” status in business is about branding. I can offer you three reasons why being “Brand-ed” is important to support your unique, personal education brand.
Reason 1: Teachers Benefit from the Reflective Process of living Brand-ed
In our busy lies as educators, breathe. Give yourself time to reflect on where you are in the story of your career. STORYTELLING is at the root of developing a personal brand, Think or write the story of how you became the teacher you are today and where you may be headed. You’ve got the beginning of creating your Brand-ed stance. This isn’t about touting yourself. It’s not an ego-centric or selfish process. Start with the words, “Once upon a time”. See where that takes you. My own story begins, “Once upon a time a 23 year old, first year teacher was crying in her first classroom on the day before school. In walked the principal… ” That was me, and my journey in education as a “different” educator started with tears. Write your story. Tell it to a few people. Including your students.
Reason 2: Teachers Benefit from Gaining Perspective by Living Brand-ed
Developing a personal brand may seem like it’s “all about you”, but it’s not. Think about conveying who you are as an educator, what you believe in, value, and live. Do it from the perspective of what Madison Ave marketers call POSITIONING. Think of others. Who will you share your brand with, and how do you want them to see you? Are you sharing that brand in real time and online? You have to be consistent in both delivery channels. Remember my story about the tribe of business? As I built my brand through many interactions with the biz tribe, it became easier. I learned who they were, how they thought, how they regarded me, and I refined my positioning with my audience in mind. Live in another’s shoes as you develop behaviors that show your Brand-ed commitment. Monitoring how you come across is essential for your development. Living a Brand-ed career means you are genuine. You can’t fake it. The kids can smell a phony a mile away. You are building your brand to build authenticity that positively impacts relationships with your students –and their learning.
Reason 3: Teachers Benefit from the Clarity of Claiming a Brand-Ed Professional Life
Teachers are communicators. Messaging is right out of Madison Avenue. Research and design teams work tirelessly on finding just the right path to a consumer’s heart. We need to do the same with our own Brand-ed “campaign”. Clarity of brand message is important in telling your story. You must be the creator of that brand. Be the CBO, Chief Brand Officer. If you don’t do this, people do it for you in real time and online. You want your personal brand to be crystal clear. Challenge yourself to get your personal brand for professional life into ONE word. That will create clarity.
You can claim that one word and use it from the first day of school to position yourself as an educator. My one word is SPARK. I see myself as a catalyst. I live that and enjoy the benefit of people who see that in me and want to work with me.
Most of all, understand that a combination of passion and talent makes for a lasting brand. Your passion to educate and the skill set you bring to the classroom will guide your efforts to live a Brand-ed life.
By Trish Rubin
Trish Rubin, MA/MGA stands at the intersection of business and education, consulting cross industry clients in developing their unique “Brand Visibility” in a noisy 3.0 world.
Trish’s expertise lies in the “mash up” of PR, Marketing and Branding. She employs traditional, web and social media on projects and campaigns . Her sweet spot is successful influencer networking and relationship development that advance business goals.
The author of the unique face-to face, event networking book,”Trish Rubin’s New York Minute for Networking”, she is a respected thought leader and a recognized expert in building business relationships for organizational advancement and entrepreneurial success.
Skype is a free downloadable software that lets you do voice and video calls combined with instant messaging for free. The possibilities of Skype to flatten your classroom are endless.
Interview authors, astronauts and other amazing individuals from around the world.
Collaborate with classrooms, businesses and more in multi-disciplinary projects.
Explore a volcano, rainforest, or history museum in virtual fieldtrips with experts in the field or even share your field trip experiences with others.
Practice conversational foreign languages with native speakers.
Provide additional support for students needing extra attention or unable to come to class.
Invite a guest lecturer from leading educators and experts from anywhere in the world.
Explore foreign cultures first hand with classroom to classroom video conferencing.
Broadcast a performance or project to parents and families unable to make it to school.
Access and share professional development opportunities with educators on the go.
Collaborate with innovative educators to plan units, lessons, and more.
5 Skype Companion Tools
To get the most out of Skype, you should consider utilizing other web 3.0 and social networking sites such as
Web 2.0 Tools for Class Projects – such as Twiddla in order to brainstorm, collaborate, and share ideas in real time.
Google Docs – allows participants to share and edit documents.
Flickr – to share photos and enhance the feeling of learning together across a distance.
3 Ways to Connect with Others Using Skype
Online Skype Communities
ePals Global Community offers a free 30 day trial. Sign up to connect with other classrooms using Skype.
Skype in the Classroom Ning is for teaches interested in using Skype to connect with other teachers for idea sharing and classroom video conferencing.
The Mixxer is a free educational community for language exchanges via Skype.
Meet the Author Network connects you with numerous authors willing to enter your library or classroom for 10 – 15 minute skyp sessions for free. You can also set up longer interviews for a fee.
Global Skype Projects
Global School Network engages classrooms worldwide in meaningful project-based learning exchanges to develop science, math, and literacy skills and foster collaboration, global citizenship, and multicultural understandings.
Taking it Global is an online community of global educators with the goal of making a difference in the world.
Around the World with 80 Schools introduced on the Langwitches blog challenges teachers to connect with 80 different schools via skype in order to circle the globe once.
Skype in Education Directories
Connect with other educator’s looking for video conferencing classroom partnerships at these directories.
Did I miss one? Please add it in comments. Thanks!
Ready to install and get started with Skype for free? View this Skype techtorial for teachers.
This article on goal setting for the first year teacher explains why you, as a first year teacher, should have a set of goals designed to make sure you get the most out of your first year and make significant progress towards becoming a competent classroom practitioner. It also lists what the author believes are the goals that a first year teacher should aim towards.
The first six to ten weeks of your full time career will be such a concentrated learning experience that the time flies. Suddenly, you find yourself beginning to get some rhythm in your teaching. It is important that you get the most out of this time and the rest of your first year. You must not become complacent or you will fall into bad habits. It is therefore important to go into your first year with a set of goals to help start your career off in the best possible way. A teacher, at any stage of their career, must always be a learner to enhance their skills. They should have a development plan for themselves.
If you have a set of goals, then you will find that the experienced teachers will want to help you along the way even after your first year. Find a mentor who you admire among the staff and use them as a sounding board. I was lucky in my first school to have a principal who was happy to spend time with me on any issues I had.
Therefore, in your first year, develop a simple set of goals. These goals should be flexible and their success should be reviewed as the year goes by. Your mentor could help you evaluate your progress. Your goal setting and planning is not a first year only task. Even in the last year before I retired from full time teaching, I had a set of goals. Remember, you will not achieve all your goals during the year. You may even discard some and add or amend others over the course of the year. This is standard procedure.
To help young teachers to have somewhere to begin, I have put together a list of what I consider the types of goals that should be part of what a young teacher should aim to achieve. The goals do not appear in any order of priority. This is because each new teacher has different skills at varying levels of proficiency. So, bearing in mind their own experience and needs, the new teacher would need to prioritise their goals.
Here are the fifteen goals I suggest the first year teacher aims to achieve.
1. Learn the students’ names quickly.
2. Know the content of your teaching material perfectly.
3. Develop your voice to allow you to use it effectively in different contexts.
4. Plan often and develop an organisational structure for all you do.
5. Be flexible.
6. Perfect the use of your board.
7. Create simple class rules and enforce them firmly but fairly.
8. Create an efficient record keeping scheme and record all data ASAP.
9. Use a variety of teaching strategies.
10. Be a great role model to your class in all you do.
11. Become a powerful listener.
12. Be aware of what progress your students are making.
13. Evaluate all you do so that you might improve what you do the next time.
14. Learn to use the school’s Behaviour Management Plan.
By Richard D Boyce
Over his long career, our author worked with many young teachers and supervised many trainee teachers. During the last sixteen years, as Head of Mathematics in a large school, he was often responsible for inducting first year teachers into his school. He has used that experience to write this article and his eBook, “The First Year Teacher’s Book”. It can be found on the website http://www.realteachingsolutions.com