Recently, KIS International School (KIS) hosted the 5th BTN (Bangkok Teachers Network) Conference under the theme of "Sharing Best Practices". Over 600 teachers from more than 40 schools were present.
Gerry Campbell, right, shares KIS’ team-teaching methods with participants at the Bangkok Teachers Network Conference. PURICH TRIVITAYAKHUN
In addition to the keynote speech by Art-ong Jumsai Na Ayudhya, PhD, the conference included nearly 60 workshops on teaching and learning methods and resources. It also incorporated 20 "job-alike" sessions, at which teachers in specific areas, such as teacher-assistants, teacher-librarians, early-years teachers and gifted and talented coordinators, gathered to share their experiences and best practices.
The workshops and job-alike sessions were voluntarily led by educators from BTN committee schools, including KIS, the New International School of Thailand (Nist), Shrewsbury International School and The Regent's School (from both the Bangkok and Pattaya campuses).
Michael Hirsch, KIS' secondary school principal, explained that the fundamental objective of the conference was to enable teachers, both from BTN committee schools and schools outside the network, to have access to more professional development opportunities as well as to share their knowledge with one another.
"This conference creates networking opportunities for our teachers. It is good for science teachers to get to know each other. In particular, in a small school where there is only one science teacher, it is definitely beneficial to be able to have access to a network of colleagues who can help with the dilemma of 'I want to do frog dissection but I don't know where to buy frogs that have been prepared for dissection'.
"So, as a result of having attended a conference like this one, everyone can contact maybe 10 or 15 science teachers who can help out with the question of 'does anyone know where or how to get a cow's heart for dissection?"'.
June van den Bos, primary school principal, together with Gerry Campbell, vice-principal primary and Primary Years Programme coordinator, from KIS who has been actively involved in the team-teaching model for 12 years, introduced a team-teaching model that the school employs in its primary school.
"A great team to us is when I ask a child 'who is your teacher?' and the child says both our names or says he or she actually has two teachers," said Ms van den Bos.
At KIS, team-teaching is not just two teachers teaching the same subject to the same class at the same time. The process includes collaborative planning, implementation of the plan, and evaluation of the results. Teams can be made up of homeroom teachers, specialist teachers, EAL (English as an Additional Language) teachers and teaching assistants.
"Team members should be professionals rather than friends," said Mr Campbell. According to the school's team-teaching philosophy, teachers should view team-teaching as an opportunity to work together with professionals.
At the beginning of the semester, team members collaboratively plan and discuss their roles and responsibilities, the mutual goals, and the teaching method that is to be used. The important point is that all team members feel valued as they can express their feelings freely within their respective teams.
Students benefit from the strengths of both teachers during team-teaching. The scheme also assists EAL students as they can hear authentic adult conversation between the two teachers. For teachers, this method also provides them with ongoing professional development as the team members can discuss with each other why specific strategies are ineffective and what the best practices are. This is not possible in a single-teacher classroom.
"When there are two teachers in the room, one teacher can see something about the students that the other can't," said Mr Campbell.
Dealing with students
Melanie Shafaat, PhD, a teacher for special-needs students from Ruamrudee International School, delivered a job-alike session to teachers who deal with special-needs students.
Dr Shafaat urges parents, teachers and other stakeholders to build relationships and to understand that students learn in different ways. Sometimes, she commented, parents misunderstand that if they take away the computer games or compel their children to spend more time on their books, their children will get better results.
Teachers need to customise their approaches for the sake of their students. "You don't all come to this school taking the same roads; there are a lot of roads that lead to this place. By the same token, people's brains can reach the same learning destination by a variety of ways," she said.
Dr Shafaat believes that school administrators need to play a major role in supporting and training their teachers. She also suggests that teachers use the "I" to anchor themselves as problem solvers and avoid blaming the origins of problems on others. "A teacher should never say something like 'you are the cause of the problem'," Dr Shafaat emphasized.
"You shouldn't go to the parents and say 'your child '. Instead, it should be framed as 'I know that Kong can learn and this is the way to do it'," she suggested, adding that in this way the teacher takes the blame away from the parents and the child.
At the end of the day, it was obvious to all the participants that the 5th BTN Conference was a rich pool of resources at which educators could pick up one or more methodologies that will improve our children.