Let’s get straight to it: our teachers are struggling. But are we doing what we can to support our teachers?
According to the South African Bill of Rights (2000), it is required of an educator to acknowledge the individuality, uniqueness and needs specific to each learner. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the educator to encourage their leaners, guiding them to reach their greater potentials while behaving in an appropriate manner. One can assume that most legislations will afford its children these rights.
These are fantastic sentiments, but sometimes it would be well received for the law to tell us exactly how it proposes we fulfill these obligations.
While this may seem like a cynical response, the question “how?” already gives us an indication as to where one might begin to find a solution: we need to think creatively. Classrooms in South Africa, and in most countries really, are largely over-packed, and teachers in these circumstances may find themselves without the proper resources, both emotionally and financially, to deal with the demands of their work.
But before we go thinking that the teachers owe our children a better service, implying that they should “just try harder,” let us consider another question: what are the rights of the teachers?
And more so: could we be neglecting the professionals in this line of work?
“Step Into Their Shoes and Walk a Mile”
The challenges faced by teachers on a daily basis are generally resource-based. Firstly, they require adequate financial support, which helps them acquire things such as teaching aids. Secondly, the coping resources afforded them through their own higher education and gained emotional intelligence are invaluable assets from day to day. Both of these, however, were likely not enough to equip them with the demands of a struggling education system.
Therefore, the challenge is to find ways to give teachers the support they require and deserve. The world of teaching is one where the employee (the teacher) of an organization (the school) is seldom given the protection they are promised by the law, as the Employment of Educators Act 76 of 1998 demands they should. According to this statute, teachers are supposed to be given safety and security in their work environment, which includes both psychological and physical components.
This is unfortunately not happening. The answer then is to give them a tool that supersedes the physical environment. What mental tools can we give the people who play a part in raising our children?
They need to be given every scrap of help they can receive in order to become effective creative problem-solvers.
The solution to Support Our Teachers
For the past 20 years, the Neethling Brain Instruments (NBI®) have been put into use to give teachers every reason to succeed in fulfilling the mandate of the South African Bill of Rights, as well as accomplishing the demands of the Employment of Educators Act.
The purpose of the NBI® are to profile the individual’s thinking preferences. When a teacher is unaware of their own thinking preferences and the thinking preferences of the student, they may say things like:
“I just cannot understand why this child is so misbehaved!”, or; “It puzzles me why most of the kids are getting this concept, but this one just doesn’t get it! I mean, I teach them all exactly the same way!”
These statements reflect an ignorance of the brain’s inner workings and a denial of individual learning and teaching styles.
The NBI® delves into the individual thinking patterns of each teacher. When the teacher becomes aware of their own thinking preferences, they are able to gain insight into their own “unconscious” manner of doing things. Bringing these mental processes into light makes them changeable, if necessary, and the teacher can start to pinpoint aspects of their own behavior which may be frustrating their attempts to adequately guide their learners.
So how does this work? The results of the NBI® separates the thinking preferences of the teacher into 8-dimensions.
The results of the profiling will give a final graph depicting a preference divided amongst the 8-dimensions. Each person’s score totals 300, so there is no right, wrong or “best” outcome. The final preference of the teacher is decided based on which of the dimensions have more weight. The circle below may help you to understand the 8-dimensions and their associated thinking patterns.
Working Towards Using the Whole Brain
Once the teachers have been profiled and debriefed about their profiles, the goal of the training is to take them beyond their own thinking preferences. While it is a wonderful thing to embrace and appreciate one’s own thinking preferences, it is our endeavor to help each trainee develop an appreciation for all the preferences across the 8-Dimensions. This is done for two specific reasons:
- If we can appreciate the strengths of all the preferences, we can see the benefit of being able to apply them in situations where they are helpful;
- An appreciation of the 8-dimensions leads to an appreciation of the thinking preferences of the people around us.
The ability to incorporate these two points into one’s daily business is what we refer to as Whole-Brain Thinking. With Whole-Brain teachers guiding each classroom of learners you can expect massive positive changes in the classroom and greater school environment. You can expect a Whole-Brain staff to have the following benefits:
- Higher student pass rates;
- Better Discipline (which happens when the teacher can better understand the thinking patterns of their students);
- Healthier and happier teachers;
- Creative solutions to problems that need to be addressed in the school;
- Stronger cohesion and communication between teachers;
- A better understanding of teacher engagement and needs (with an accumulation of thinking preferences a team profile of all the teachers can be drawn-up showing an overall thinking preference of the entire staff. This will indicate to leaders in the management of the school as to why certain policies are easily upheld why others are not being implemented), and
- A teaching staff highly equipped to fulfill the previously stated Bill of Rights mandates, likewise safeguarded by the bolstered emotional and mental faculties now available to them.
While these are not all the benefits to be gleaned, a school operated under Whole-Brain Thinking Precepts is bound to be a beacon of success to all surrounding institutions.
Can you imagine what it would be like if every educator was so adequately equipped in knowing themselves, let alone if each student was versed in their own thinking preferences and approached learning in a whole-brain manner too?
The implications are incredibly exciting and hopeful!
Ok, so now that we have established that people think differently… What does that look like?
Here are the four quadrants and a summary of behaviors that a teacher operating in that quadrant might exhibit.
The L1 trainer/teacher usually prefers a formal lesson and the use of a textbook or other teaching material. Summaries will be used and encouraged. Logical arguments and the opportunity to analyze content are usually elements of the lesson. Instructions are given in a precise manner, often straight to the point. This trainer tends to do research regarding the content and will encourage this in students. The content will be factually, technically and mathematically correct. This can be an authoritative trainer who likes to be in control of the situation at all times. He/she can tend to be too critical and would not allow emotions to cloud the issue. This trainer will use gestures and facial expressions sparingly.
The L2 trainer/teacher usually prefers a formal lesson and the use of a textbook or other teaching material. The lesson content is usually well-planned and presented in sequential order. Putting content into practice is very important to this teacher and therefore repetition and reinforcement are strong elements of their teaching style. Lesson objectives are normally explained clearly. This is a trainer who would ensure that the syllabus is completed and done so within the time allocated. Thoroughness is very important and untidy and incomplete work is not tolerated. This teacher could resist new teaching methods and could tend to be inflexible regarding change within the system.
The R2 trainer/teacher is usually sensitive to the needs of the learners and will treat them as individuals rather than a group. Group work is encouraged and movement and play normally form part of the lesson. This trainer/teacher uses body language, gestures, and facial expression readily to enhance the lesson. He/she tends to move amongst the learners and encouragement, touch and non-verbal communication are quite natural. Showing emotion as part of the teaching comes naturally and is accepted in the learners. Music often plays a part in the learning process, as well as role-play and storytelling.
The R1 trainer/teacher usually gives a holistic view of the lesson and prefers to make the link with other subjects and how it slots into ‘the real world’. This teacher will encourage spontaneous participation and create opportunities to experiment. Visual aids will form an important part of the lesson. Lessons could be unstructured, involving different content, etc. on the spur of the moment. Opportunities to speculate, to strategize and discover are often created. A fun element is often part of the lesson. Administrative duties, deadlines, and thoroughness can sometimes be lacking.
A Few Parting Thoughts
When one thinks back on school, at any stage, the memory of the success of a year or subject is so often linked to who was teaching at that time. Which invariably means how they taught!
We can all agree that the future of any country largely depends on how well it educates its people. Perhaps the time has come for us to start prioritizing where changes need to be made. While the system itself is often to blame, the billions spent on shifting between education systems can be very well spent on equipping the teachers within it with soft-skills that will benefit the students regardless of the curriculum.
What a great day it will be when a population and government come alive to this knowledge and does something about it. Imagine a school governing body that does fund-raisers to equip their teachers as whole-brain educators? Or a government that specifically budgets tax money for it…
As the Chinese Proverb puts it:
If you plan for 1 year, plant rice.
If you plan for 10 years, plant trees.
If you plan for 100 years, educate the people.
Speak to us! We are eager to hear your thoughts and see our teachers succeed.