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Scouting for a School Series (SSS): Who is the Teacher?

One of the most vivid parent inquiry I handled was when the parent asked to meet the teacher who will be handling her son’s class in the coming school year. It was a rare but important request. The staff in our school find my interview process in hiring teachers so unorthodox. More than looking at their True Copy of Grades (TCG), I ask more personal questions to discover their passion for teaching. I always say, even if a teacher got high grades in education courses, it doesn’t mean he or she will be a good teacher. Teaching is a passion. Sadly, school teachers are not paid well in almost all countries. So for them to decide to teach, is a heroic effort in itself.

The first and foremost requirement of a good teacher is loving his or her students. In a progressive school, a teacher is usually a Family Life and Child Development specialist. This means he or she understands the children in the context of their families. And like family members, progressive school teachers have an innate feeling of love for their students. They will highlight their strengths and help them with their weaknesses.

Following is an excerpt from my thesis regarding the role and qualifications of a teacher..

The most important variable that the success of a preschool program depends on is the role of the teacher (Weikart, 1969; Bennett, 1977). No rules, no laws, no courses of study, can be successful except as the teacher makes them so (Washburne, 1952).

The DECS Order 107 defines a preschool teacher as “a person who is directly involved in handling preschool children.” He or she should also have a Bachelor of Science degree specializing in Family Life and Child Development or Early Childhood education or Kindergarten; or a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education with 18 units in Preschool education and 54 hours of practicum in preschool classes; or a Bachelor of Art/Science degree kin discipline allied to education, arts, nursing, and anthropology with 18 units of preschool education. The teacher can finish the 18 units of preschool education in four years as long as he or she has already taken 6 units upon appointment. Exemplary teaching experience will suffice for the required 18 units.

The teacher’s qualifications also affect parental satisfaction. Ruiz (2000) studied parental preference in the selection of a preschool for their children. The respondents were 63 parents with children aged four to five years and who are currently enrolled in two preschools. The findings indicate that the most influential factor in preschool selection is staff competence.

And this is an excerpt regarding teachers in progressive schools..

Progressive schools need teachers that are well trained, dedicated and absorbed in their work (Washburne, 1952; Gardner, 1991). Considering the uniqueness of each child means creating individual behavioral goals, specific teacher-made materials and individualized assessment tools. Teachers utilize their knowledge of child development and learning to identify the learning experiences that are appropriate for a class or an individual child (Bredekamp, 1997). But above all, the progressive teacher must have a warm, sympathetic interest in children and youth, and respect for their different, individual personalities (Washburne, 1952).

Dewey (1897) states that, traditionally, too much stimulus comes from the teacher. In progressive schools, the teacher does not impose but rather stimulates and assists the child in properly responding to the environment.  Teacher qualification, therefore, is crucial to the success of the preschool program. However, the success is congruent to the compatibility of the beliefs of the preschool and its teachers. Teachers should apply to preschools whose philosophy is attuned with their own personal beliefs otherwise it will result to friction and dissatisfaction for both parties (Taylor, 1989).

What are the things you need to ask about the teaching staff of a school you are visiting?

  1. What course did the teachers graduate from? Progressive preschool teachers usually come from the Family Life and Child Development department of the UP College of Home Economics — the pioneer institution for progressive education. Teacher who graduate from UP-FLCD are trained in the UP Child Development Center and taught by the great professors of the department (..a shout out to my former professors, the heroes of their generation and mine..). The good news is that FLCD graduates are already teaching college students in DLSU, Ateneo and Miriam College to spread the progressive advocacy.

  2. Can I meet the teacher of my child’s class? This is a rare request but is one of my favorites 🙂 If the school is open to it, add ten points for transparency. Progressive preschools value good parent-teacher communication. Spend a few minutes with the teacher and just have a casual chat.

  3. Most schools hire during the summer season, so you may not be able to ask question no. 2. In this case, ask to meet the director or the directress. Introduce yourself and ask your pertinent questions.

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