The talk of Ms Pamela Wright of Wade Deacon High School on the 9th of November 2011 on the theme of Discipline in schools had one impact. It brought to light the absence in our secondary education sector of a rigorous structure whereby teachers and learners’ needs are met and schools’ mission is concretized.
Ms Wright gives evidences of effective discipline as inextricably linked to quality teaching and learning. This means getting teachers to transform classrooms into really exciting places where learners know they will come out enriched and will have come one step nearer to the high expectations inculcated in them by their teachers. It is when this quality teaching has been consolidated with teachers’ commitment and learners’ engagement that we can expect discipline to follow.
So the question is how do we develop this ‘professionalism’ in teachers? We have of course a number of PGCE or MA holders among our educators. But does this one off course suffice? One of the hallmarks of being identified as a professional is to continue to learn throughout a career and in UK, the General Teaching Councils (GTC) ensures that all teachers are entitled to professional development throughout their career. Novice teachers are entitled to induction – a programme of professional development – where they have to demonstrate a number of skills like capacity to reflect and improve practice, to identify and address their needs, to act upon feedback, to be open to coaching and mentoring- in order to get qualified teacher status. Fully fledged teachers are required to participate in worksite training sessions at least 5 days per year where they address needs particular to their institution. Experienced teachers have to contribute to the professional development of their colleagues through mentoring or coaching.
The above observation suggests that one of the main weaknesses of our education system is the inexistence of mandatory professional development for our educators. Continuing professional development is essential to construct excellence in practice.
Though teacher-training is of utmost importance, it does not guarantee effective teaching-learning process. A key component for assessing teaching practice is observation. This is a regular feature in the life of teachers in UK who are observed by university supervisors, in-house mentors, Heads of Departments, Head teachers, Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) inspectors. In Mauritius class observations are rare and very much dreaded. Observation and giving feedback are very complex skills which require training and practice and once again we need to have competent instructional leaders to actively support classroom improvement.
Schools are communities of practice where teachers share best practices, discuss and implement strategies to improve grades, support each other. It is undoubtedly the responsibility of school leaders to create this learning community but it is to our educational policy makers to ensure that the necessary structure is laid down for teacher professionalization. Only then can we hope for competent teachers, responsible learners and successful schools.