A good 21st century teacher will focus on ongoing professional development and keep himself or herself up to date with the latest research about teaching strategies. This is the value of an effective teacher. It is important because every student deserves the best teachers, said Chew Teck Ann, principal of Sri Kuala Lumpur International School in Subang Jaya, Selangor.
“Good teachers put in extra effort to prepare for lessons and cultivate an academic environment in class by setting high, but not impossible, expectations of students. New ideas and good teaching methods can make a huge difference in class,” added Chew, who has been a teacher for 46 years and a principal for 27.
With 22 students scoring all A* out of 109 students who had straight As, 13 Cambridge world's top scholars and three Malaysian top scholars last year, Sri KL qualifies as one of the best international schools in the country.
Chew will be retiring at the end of the year. However, he will remain in the school board. To raise teaching standards, Chew reckoned, teachers should also adopt a lifelong learning mindset and equip themselves with the skills needed.
“We try to recruit highly qualified and effective teachers because good teachers are important to student learning,” he said.
At Sri KL, the focus is on holistic teaching and learning.
It’s possible for students to juggle sports and academics, and excel in both. Chew said some of their students have done extremely well in the SEA Games, district-level sports and inter-school competitions.
The school also has strong gymnastic and swimming teams which have clinched several gold medals.
Also, some students have received scholarships from both local and top foreign universities.
Said Chew: “Our cheerleading team Cyrens won the CHEER competition for the eighth consecutive time. Also, the students have done quite well in the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) exam for the past few years.”
Chew is grateful for staff and students who bring glory to the school. Asked how teachers deal with parents’ expectations of their children’s performance in school, Chew advised:
“Keep them in the loop about their children’s activities in school. Teachers need to communicate their expectations to parents and students. One thing that will never change is a parent’s expectation for their children to do well at school.
Although some teachers may feel the pressure to perform and produce results, Chew said they must always remember that the children are the reason for their work.
When teachers care
On discipline problems, teachers are urged not to take a student’s negative actions personally. The key to changing problematic behaviour is by having effective communication and a meaningful connection with the students.
Based on his experience, he said, truth and honesty have the power to change behaviour, but this takes time; it cannot be rushed or forced.
Another strategy to turn their negative self-concept into a positive one is by giving challenging students responsibilities and leadership roles. For example, give those students the opportunity to become librarians or prefects.
Sri KL upholds the values of discipline, hard work, speaking calmly and politely, and being responsible. Chew said their students are constantly reminded to behave appropriately and that “politeness can and will help them build respect and establish rapport with others”.
Caring teachers, Chew said, can influence students’ educational experience and lives because caring is one way of showing love.
When a teacher cares, the student’s attitude, motivation and behaviour will change for the better. As an example, he said that a teacher who listens to what a student is saying should try “to listen for the meaning behind their words”. This helps develop a relationship of trust between the teacher and student.
When teachers form positive bonds with their students and are aware of their needs and interests, the students become more receptive and learn better as a result. He emphasised: “When teachers care, students change.”
The school has a trained counsellor for students to confide in for their problems. Chew believes it is pertinent to detect problems and solve them at an early stage.
Understanding the reasons for difficult behaviour and supporting desirable behaviour can help students in distress feel more worthwhile. Rude, disruptive, or irritating behaviour will not be tolerated and will be subjected to disciplinary action.
Nevertheless, Chew said every reasonable effort must be made to correct the student’s behaviour. They must know that, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Being fair and consistent is one of the most important strategies a teacher can display in the classroom.
In some situations, suspension or expulsion will be considered to help maintain order in the school. Teachers and parents must work together to achieve common goals and ensure students' success.
Power of communication
Good communication is related to effective teaching. It can make a difference in students’ learning and attitudes, and lead to positive outcomes.
“We cannot engage students in learning or handle a classroom conflict without using words. Words can be comforting. They give meaning to our existence and can lift our spirits. Positive words help to develop good relationships with students. Rules without a caring attitude leads to rebellion,” he said.
Good teachers care about their students’ progress and let their students know it at all times. Careful, thoughtful and responsible communication can make a world of difference.