Growing Professionally as a Teacher: Coping Strategies and Future Development

Patrick Goh, who possesses an M.Sc. in chemical engineering and a B.Sc. in applied chemistry, chemistry, and economics, worked for over 17 years in the chemical industry before joining the teaching profession 6 years ago. Here, he shares with readers his experience, philosophy, and professional coping strategies for a most demanding job.

Over the years that I have been teaching, I have learnt many of the values that underpin being a teacher besides just teaching. I have learnt the basic philosophy that ?a teacher has not taught until the student has learnt?. I have learnt that to be a good and responsible teacher, I need to understand how the students learn best and to recognize that individual students have their own learning needs.

Thus as a teacher, I need to guide the majority of the students as well as the minority into a learning environment in which they are comfortable. And I must vary my teaching style to facilitate the learning of different students. My approach should be toward active learning in order to help my students develop independently and take responsibility for their professional and personal development.

All jobs have their pressures and deadlines to meet. Our personality dictates how we cope with such pressures. However, there are methods we can each employ to cope with the pressures in whatever environment we are working. Some examples of the methods that I used to cope are:

  • Time management and goal setting to ensure that I can finish my work within the time given. Such goals and time schedule must be realistic.

  • Prioritize workload to concentrate on important tasks rather than thinking that everything is urgent and must be done immediately.

  • Ensure sufficient rest to maintain alertness.

  • Improve or maintain communication among colleagues, as they can be a great release valve when the pressure becomes too great. It is good to have someone with whom you can laugh away the stress.

  • Be more assertive and say no when the workload gets to be too much. Sometimes this is not possible, but we can always ask for help from our colleagues.

  • Going for short weekend trips with my family to relax and just spend time with each other.

  • Spending time with God in quiet time that transcends peace and calm and sets my priorities for the day ahead.

  • To be a competent teacher, I need to keep abreast of the current technology and the changing social and economical trends in the country and the region. I do this by keeping in contact with people, friends in the industries, reading journals, attending seminars and training programmes, surfing the Internet, and attending conferences and exhibitions.

    Dealing With Stress

    We must be able to cope with the stresses in our lives if we want to be able to look toward the future.

    When we are stressed, we tend to become inward looking and focus our concerns only on immediate problems and ourselves. There is limited outlook in terms of goal setting and future development.

    Only when we are able to deal with our stresses and work pressures are we then able to look to the future for development.

    Teamwork is very important in the teaching institution, as it allows us to learn from one another as well as provide ideas for areas in which we are weak. With teamwork, there will be equal opportunities for all teachers to work and develop in both the academic and administrative fields.

    Reflection is an integral part of a professional lifestyle. It helps me to focus on the why?s and how?s of what I have to do. Without reflection, I would be working as a machine with no meaning in the work I do. Only when I reflect on what I?m doing will I be able to realize my objectives and understand what I can do to improve as an educator.

    Overall, to further develop as an educator, I must keep in mind all the above values and continue to realize their importance in education.

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