You have to go to School, You’re the Teacher! -Supporting Online Learning with Personality Dimensions Pt. 4

Part 4: The Teacher

“Education is NOT preparation for life; education is LIFE ITSELF.” ~ John Dewey

Photo by Katerina Holmes from Pexels

John Dewey was the most significant educational thinker of his era and, many would argue, of the 20th century. His profound influence extends through to the present day. As a philosopher, social reformer and educator, he changed fundamental approaches to teaching and learning.

As we discovered in the previous three blogs in this series, understanding the personality patterns of the parent and the student and how they interact can help propel a child’s educational journey forward, or conversely, if misunderstood, hold back progress. The final critical component in this triad is the teacher. Over the past pandemic year, the role of the educator has changed dramatically as school boards implement new policies around virtual online learning and teachers (and their unions) attempt to put all of the pieces of this complex puzzle together in a way that will benefit the student. Today we take a brief look at the changing role of the teacher and how personality may impact the instructional process.

As a teacher in the elementary and secondary panels, I found that I had the most instructional impact when I really knew and understood the learning needs of my students, and under what conditions they might thrive. Sure, this might seem obvious, but “knowing” them meant understanding their particular personality profile – their core needs and desires, and how they might achieve their individual goals. If I understood this concept, I could then open the door for their learning to grow exponentially.

As we have seen in my previous blogs, there are four personality dimensions, and we are each a unique blend of these. Teachers are encouraged to understand the learning style of each personality so that they can adjust and target instruction accordingly. And to add value and impact to this process, a thorough understanding of your own personality, so you can adjust your instructional methods as required. It’s all about teaching (styles) and learning (styles).

So, as a teacher, how do I know who’s who in the personality spectrum? And what are they looking for? Can you give me a brief summary to get me started, and then a great resource for follow up? Glad you asked!

The Organized Gold student values belonging, orderliness, responsibility, system productivity, efficiency, fairness, security, stability, duty, tradition and accuracy. You might want to picture them as industrious beavers.

The Authentic Blue student appreciates cooperation, teamwork, creativity, individuality, self-actualization, optimism, generosity, relationships, sensitivity, harmony and personal growth. They might be pictured as playful, friendly dolphins.

The Resourceful Orange student values action, freedom, variety, speed, high impact, agility, precision, excitement, fraternity and spontaneity. You may want to think of them as a fox – ready to turn “on a dime” to seek the next adventure.

The Inquiring Green student appreciates autonomy, privacy, independence, logic, competence, objectivity, ingenuity and future orientation. People often picture them as wise owls.

As a teacher, ask yourself – what personality am I and how does that impact my teaching style? Do my lessons serve the needs of all personalities, especially on line?

A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words, so let’s let the following graphic guide your thinking about implementing these ideas in a virtual environment.

7 Tips for Remote Teaching
(Graphic used with permission of Wendi Pillars and Larry Ferlazzo)

Part 4 ½ :  The Last Word is Yours!

I began this four-episode blog series with ideas put forward by parents, students and teachers. It is only fitting, then, that they have the last word. (Examples used by permission.)

From a Teacher Candidate:  Teaching Online

  • Virtual teaching is most definitely a challenge, but it’s something I have personally enjoyed so much! I found it to be more time-consuming in terms of preparation, especially if I wanted activities to be fun, interactive, and visually creative. However, it was very worth it when I saw students were engaged and enjoying the lesson.
  • Routines:
    • When teaching virtually, I found that one of the most important things was establishing a consistent routine. We had a schedule in place with time blocks set up for each subject and break.
  • I made sure to split up direct instruction with lots of interactive activities to get students to actively engage with the material (instead of passively listening).
    • I also made sure to include a brain break every 35-40 minutes, such as a brain teaser or short DPA. For DPA, we did Zumba, stretching, and kickboxing.
    • There was also a consolidation block in the middle of the day, where students had a work period while I met with individual students or small groups to check in and provide additional support.
    • Thanks to this routine, students knew exactly what to expect and were provided with lots of opportunities to work both independently and cooperatively. This routine also allowed us to start and end each day on a positive note.
  • Camera/Microphone:
    • Another important aspect was establishing clear expectations in terms of participation. In our class, students were required to keep their cameras on throughout the whole day. If a camera was off and the student was not responding via microphone, parents were called. Unless a student had communicated with us that they were experiencing technical difficulties (and found other ways to participate – such as via microphone or chat), the whole class knew that the expectation was to be present and participating with cameras on.
  • Student roles and responsibilities:
    • Students were given rotating classroom roles (i.e., updating the virtual agenda, checking to see if everyone is in attendance, preparing the opening exercises, etc.). These roles helped create a better sense of community and allowed students to feel like they were contributing to the classroom, even though it was online.
  • If technical difficulties occurred (i.e., a video wouldn’t play, Google Slides wasn’t opening, etc.), we always had a few back-up plans in place so that we could quickly provide a different option for students to work on while we tried to sort out the issue.
  • For students on IEPs requiring modifications, Google Classroom was great because it allowed us to create a separate folder for each of these students. We could then post modified work and activities to a specific student’s folder, without it being visible to the rest of the class.
  • Google Forms was a great tool that allowed us to receive some feedback from students regarding what they were enjoying, what they didn’t like, or what they would like to see/do in class.
  • We provided detailed feedback in the comment section of every submitted assignment or project. Individual reminders and meetings were set up for students who weren’t submitting work or not meeting expectations.
  • Personally, I feel as if I was able to get to know the students much better through virtual teaching than when I was in a classroom face-to-face. It’s probably because there were fewer distractions; there was much more direct dialogue between me and individual students. While I can’t wait for things to return to normal, it was an interesting experience to see how much I was able to learn about the students’ interests, personalities, and preferences through a virtual setting. Surprisingly, students got to know each other pretty well too, as a lot of them connected outside of school hours (we even had a few students who became best friends, even though they never met each other in person). Despite the challenges of the virtual learning world, I really do think we were able to create a positive and supportive community, for which I feel so grateful!

From a Grandparent:  Virtual Kindergarten

“I was impressed with the program the Kindergarten teachers put together. It was very detailed and had timelines attached to it. There were synchronous periods of learning which had movement breaks in them. The asynchronous learning times were adjacent to nutrition breaks, so the children usually had an hour to an hour and a half away from the organized classroom, three times a day. The teachers were very patient. The children were not always good with using the computer mouse. They had to be reminded each time to unmute and then mute their microphones. Often, they were off topic, which was listened to, and then they were gently brought back to the topic at hand. I found I had to be with Jill (name changed) continually as she needed help with the mouse at first. Then when doing asynchronous activities on the computer, I had to read the label of the activity and show her how it worked. One problem I found with the asynchronous learning centres, was that we could not hear the instructions, or the stories being read as the other children had their microphones on, so that there was absolute chaos. During the teacher-led time, some of the children were doing other things, such as jumping on the bed, playing with the dog etc. The teachers would try to draw the child back but did not force the point. We tended to drift to other activities off the computer during these asynchronous times.

I found two days in a row particularly exhausting. Jill, however loved it. It was me, who found it exhausting. I did hear a couple of parents at different times, expressing frustration with the online learning. They were obviously trying to work from home and finding they had to help their children more than expected. One was quite vocal about the skills the children needed – mouse skills, including drag and drop, plus being able to read to complete the activities. Another vented that the children were not learning anything, and it was useless. I did not agree with that, but I did agree that an adult was needed to help navigate the sites and activities.

I also noticed that on the computer, the children did not talk to each other but only to the teachers. They would talk to the group about activities or objects they were showing the class, but no back-and-forth conversation. This is what Jill was so pleased to have, when she returned to school. It has been quite an experience.”

Wayne Jones, M.Ed. is an experienced educator, having taught students from Kindergarten through secondary school as well as adult education. Wayne has been a principal in the Peel District School Board and is currently a faculty advisor for Nipissing University. Wayne draws on over 30 years educational practice and numerous life experiences to enrich his writing and workshop presentations. A proud parent of two, with four grandchildren, he enjoys spending quality time with family; biking, hiking, running, and attending live arts productions. His passion for music and athletics fuels an active, healthy lifestyle.

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