English Teaching Methodologies – Panama Issues

In correlation to the situation that has occurred in Spain with their ESL Programmes, it can be said that a similar failure has been on going in Panamá as a country. Whereas, although Spanish is the main language of the country, in the school curricula, English is taught as an alternative language. In theory, in Panama the School Curricula includes English, but the exposure to the language at an early age is mere repetition and barely an hour a week at most. So even though all governments have made some sort of attempt to improve the acquisition of English as a second language, all have failed, for both a lack of progression and long-term planning.

Panamá is proportionally one of the countries with the highest investment in education in the world. Not only are all formal employees obliged by law to pay a portion of their salary towards education, but also direct government investment from other forms of indirect taxation. Compared to the region, Panama has an opposite effect where teachers in the public education system are on average better wage earners than teachers from the private education system. Yet there seems to be a vast disparity in the level of graduates from the public and private schools. The disparity, is not the fault of the teacher but the stringent and inflexible system they are forced to follow, which does not allow the teacher the freedom to implement different methodologies adapting to a multilevel group, a normal occurrence in a public school classroom.

With the Panamanian state constantly sending and training their second language teachers abroad on government scholarships, though good for cultural exchange that can help provide new methods, tools or adapt existing methods, this same teachers return to a brick wall when planning or attempting to implement proper methodology. Teachers are well trained, but due to lobby groups and ever-changing upper management, there is no progression and whatever method is brought in by new management must be implemented and all work is all but lost. At upper management there has been an ongoing complacency every time they rework the entire curricula rather than improving on the work that has already been done, therefore it has become a vicious circle and the teachers are on the receiving end of critique from both the parents and the same people who manage the school systems.

Creating exchange groups through digital platforms to create a learning environment and cultural exchange amongst teachers and students from different parts of the world, sound great in theory, but this is a far cry from the reality lived in Panama. E-Twinning is mentioned as a platform, but there are so many platforms available, such as Moodle, Google Classrooms, MS Education, to name a few, which require something that most students and some teachers do not have access to, a device with proper internet access. In Panamá even in area with good coverage most students do not have the means to access the world wide web.

Students, who would like to access these digital education platforms are left with a choice, for example, pay for their bus fair to and from school or pay for access to the web. To make matters worse, teachers in areas with little to no coverage, have no means of accessing these platforms and much less demand a student to do so either. So, teachers are left with trying to distribute their “virtual class” through a set of basic instructions via instant messaging or simply having to forgo the virtual classroom and have to visit each student individually at the teacher’s expense.

There are many teaching methodologies that should be implemented on a per classroom per student case, but without proper progression and academic curricula development this would be impossible to achieve for there is lack of cohesion in the Panamanian Education System. If the country would like to improve their English as Second Language Programme and the education system in general, there needs to be long term planning and building upon previous curricula as well as an in depth studies of the pros and cons of all previous programs to then establish standardisation within the education system. Without normalization of the countries Education System and its language programmes, all the resources thrown at education just become vapor ware.

The Modern Teacher

Skills and Methods to Improve the Educational Process

After reading an enriching literature about The Modern teacher, Skills and methods to improve the educational process, the author provides an organized list with a concise and to the point explanation of the most important skills and methods a teacher should attempt to master. There is an important focus on the fact that everything evolves with technology as well as teaching methods that should be learned to improve core skills.

The author summarizes the most important teaching skills into eight parts. Each one building on the previous skills, meaning that teaching skills should be learned and implemented and always reviewed. I agree with the what the author continually mentions about constant training and learning as a teacher, from all sources including the students. Knowledge should come from all sources.

Teacher should be:

Committed to their work. This applies to all professions and careers, a person who is committed to their work will always try their best to provide the best they can. Teachers are committed because they love their job and it takes a special kind of person to dutifully embrace the care of others in order to teach them trades and provide guidance towards an honest and rewarding professional and personal lifestyle.

Have education and training. In the past, only deep knowledge in your field allowed for being an educator, but currently this has changed, not only is the deep knowledge in your field of study required, but also be able to transmit the knowledge. The author mentions knowing methodology and some psychology helps, for a teacher will not be hired if not professionally trained to teach.

Be organized. Modern academic institutions require a detailed teaching plan of what subject matter is to be dealt. Moreover, this plan will allow for proper time management and to impose the pace at which a class is delivered. Offering an efficient classroom with a well-organized lesson delivered in the classroom.

Be tolerant. This is what makes or breaks a teacher from being considered an amateur or a professional. It takes experience and patience to achieve tolerance to treat all students in an equally dignified manner without prejudice. This also involves allowing students to make choices and learn by trial and error.

Be open to questions. All learners are inquisitive specially the younger ones. At times, a teacher will be bombarded with questions, tis the teacher who should be ready to not only listen to all questions, but to find time to answer them. This is a good time to elicit students to attempt to answer their classmate’s questions and provide an enriching participative environment.

Be innovative. With every generation comes innovation and change, a teacher should not only follow trends but also attempt to personally implement them. A student will be more receptive to a teacher who uses modern technologies that are popular amongst the youth rather than just recycling the same old lesson plans of the past.

Be social and sociable. I can personally relate to this as a father, that face to face communications seem to have become a thing of the past or secondary, as well as being taught. It seems that social networks and instant messaging groups tend to allow for better comprehension of subject matter. Of course face to face lessons are important, but children are growing in the digital age where access to raw knowledge is literally in the palm of their hands, and with this tool teachers can guide students to understand knowledge, from diamonds in the rough to polish diamonds.

Be curious and develop. You cannot be a teacher if you are stuck using the same methodology for the rest of your teaching career. This will just mean a slump in the teacher’s development and detrimental to the student, as the teaching plan and methodology is never updated. I have found personally rewarding interacting with several age groups, learning about what new fad is out there, even type of music. All to understand new ways of getting the knowledge across.

The author later discusses new teaching methods, recalling that pedagogy has existed as a science since the time of ancient Greece. As society has evolved and to a certain extent globalized, teaching methods have also been changing and evolving. Modern teaching methods have an approach based on understanding children psychology as well as embracing technological leaps.

Modern teachers prefer:

Contextual Learning. Not so long ago, everything was based on factual learning and relying heavily on memorization. Currently the style is based on context to allow the students to analyze facts in context, the pros and cons of a fact and what lead to that fact. This has increased student led classrooms with teachers encouraging the direction the class should take to cover the subject matter.

Various approaches. In the past the teaching style was monolithic mainly teacher led, which may have been rather cumbersome specially for the younger mind. Nowadays the approach is from several angles, from teacher giving a set of instructions and storytelling to student led classrooms with teachers providing guidance.

New technological devices. With the birth of the word wide web and the information superhighway, there has been an ever-growing way to notify students of new assignments and parents to review their child’s progress. Information can be delivered in a digital format in a way that can be easily accessed through several devices. Currently, I’m experiencing the birth of the complete virtual method, which can only be achieved thanks to advances in telecom technology.

Active learning. This can be a two-sided sword, for it can give way to an uncontrolled classroom of what once were calm children into a group of howling monkey like kids. Though, active allows the student, to think, discuss and share information. Proper classroom management allows for peer instructions, group work and collaborative solutions to problems in the task at hand.

A desire method. The author here expresses that the teacher should not directly tell the student what the lesson is going to be about. From observing my own professors and while in teacher training, I came to the conclusion that a lesson plan must be followed but allow the student to do give their input on the class, usually makes the student more interested in the class.

VAK teaching. This is following the principle that no human is alike, therefore not all students learn the same way. Learnings generally fall under three main categories, visual, audio and kinesthetic learners. Therefore, lesson planning should include activities that allows for all three learners to be inspired. Although this is generally applied to the area of humanities, it can be used in exact sciences like physics and math. I have a personal rewarding experience when taking Physics in high school, where the professor appealed to all senses, by making us the students use all three forms in order to learn physics and solve problems.

I agree with the author, regarding the need to learn the teaching skills and the more experience a teacher has, the better adept using their skill to allow for an enriching and rewarding experience for the learners. I also agree with the fact that everything will evolve and change, society as a whole is constantly changing, and to cope with those changes teaching methods should follow to allow for students growing up in that changing society to relate to the lesson being taught.

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COVID19 – Siete meses después

Siete meses de cuarentena y movilidad restringida en la República de Panamá, donde el pecunio familiar se ha visto devastado, el sector privado se ha visto desmantelado y el sector público con creciente presión debido a una caída grabe en la recaudación fiscal que permite que opere el estado. En varias conversaciones con diferentes personas, asalariados, independientes, dueños de empresa siempre está una esperanza hacia el futuro que intenta esconder un temor profundo sobre un futuro incierto. Nadie sabe que industrias repuntarán y cuales fracasarán y peor aún, no se sabe cuánto demorará la recuperación.

Los asalariados en industrias suspendidas o peor aún, despedidos porque la empresa ya no podrá operar, están en un frenesí desesperados, buscando cualquier medio para poder traer comida a la mesa, y aunque gocen del subsidio del estado, un hogar no se puede mantener con B/. 100 mensuales. Todos han buscado alternativas, venta de comida, reventa de artículos como cosméticos, verduras, etc. Rogando que no les venga el corte de servicios, los cuales si tienen hijos son esenciales para que puedan asistir a clases virtuales, y tener algo de normalidad en su hogar en un mundo volteado de cabeza.

Los independientes, no gozan del subsidio de B/. 100 mensual y tiene la adicional traba de poder demostrar que sus ingresos se han visto gravemente afectados o están completamente cesantes. Adicional a que para poder recibir algún tipo de alivio en sus servicios públicos tienen que demostrar su caída en ingresos, algo que, para los independientes en su mayoría en el sector informal, se traduce a una hazaña imposible. También han revertido a los mismos mecanismos de alternativas para buscar ingresos y se puede decir que los independientes son los mayor afectados en esta pandemia.

Los empresarios, aunque mejor posicionados para no verse afectados en su diario vivir, algunos o dejarán de ser empresarios o verán sus operaciones muy reducidas. En ellos recae no solo la afectación psicológica de perder el fruto de su labor, su legado, también en decidir en cuanto afectará a sus empleados al tener que inicialmente reducir operaciones, suspender y finalmente despedir empleados. El sector empresario también se ve muy presionado por falta de liquidez para poder iniciar operaciones, cuando comiencen las reaperturas, los mayor afectados son las pymes, que en Panamá como rubro son los mayores empleadores.

Luego están los funcionarios públicos que siguen asalariados, aunque también el gobierno ha ido reduciendo su personal, y se ha visto obligado a iniciar licencias sin sueldos y hasta separación de cargo de estos. Son vistos con envidia por algunos y pueden hasta sufrir de acoso, aunque ellos en sí están presionados por aportar y ayudar a sus familiares. Por lo cual veo los funcionarios, los que son honestos y en trabajos esenciales para el funcionamiento del estado, como los mayor afectados, dado a que sus ingresos se ven diluidos por tener que inevitablemente asistir a amistades y familiares que están en situaciones precarias debido a la pandemia.

Y luego está la juventud, la cual no se les permite divertirse, esparcirse, explorar y simplemente hacer las cosas que todos hicimos de jóvenes. Algunos tendrán más lujos que otros, y equipos tecnológicos que los permite mantenerse comunicados entre sí. Pero no se niega que la parte social, de reunirse con el grupo de amistades, en el parque, cancha, piscina, hace falta. Compartir con los compañeros de escuela, equipos, su “gallada”, hace falta. Y la movilidad limitada y restringida va a causar un impacto sobre esta generación de la misma manera que se afecto la generación que vivió la “Invasión” y sus primeras secuelas.

Y se podrá decir que por culpa de la mentalidad panameña del juega vivo, quedamos peor y por eso tuvieron que tomar medidas más graves. Y quien puede juzgar, cuando los brotes y rebrotes se han visto por todo el mundo, desde las sociedades más disciplinadas hasta las que suelen vivir en una constante anarquía. Uno de los derechos fundamentales de la constitución panameña es el libre paso a lo largo del territorio (salvo en situaciones de emergencia nacional y de salud pública), y tener que digerir de un momento al otro, que se ha suspendido ese derecho adicional al golpe económico sufrido.

Solo queda esperar y ver que repara el futuro, nada está escrito en piedra. Pero si habrá que prepararse para ver muchas secuelas en especial en el área de salud mental para preparar al país y ver como se adapta el mundo buscando evitar no tener que recaer en una situación como la que se está viviendo en estos momentos.