Rafael Bailón, professor of Language and Literature, has been named the best teacher in Spain in the category of Secondary Education and Baccalaureate of the IV edition of the national contest “Educa Abanca”, a national contest in which, at the proposal of the students, they are recognized the good practices of education professionals.
What does it mean for a teacher to receive this recognition, especially in a school stage when the students who have voted for him are in their teens and it is more common for them to have their minds further removed from their studies?
It is true that adolescence represents a difficult stage, being a period of development and of both physical and mental changes. We have to approach them to know their concerns. To do this, you have to ask yourself: Do we really know what worries them? Let us not forget that our role is fundamental for our young people, having to help them to achieve this comprehensive training (the teacher cannot limit himself exclusively to academic matters).
In relation to this award, it is a source of great satisfaction for me, although it invites me to continue working. Being a teacher is a choice, a way of life. In my opinion, I work in the most rewarding profession out there, although teaching is more than just imparting knowledge.
Let’s create a glossary with «keywords» or objectives of the good teacher: to motivate, empathize, promote creativity, innovate, inspire, detect the educational needs of our recipients, transmit positivity in our classes, spread enthusiasm, communicate … All this and much more must be part of our day to day, always loving our work. Finally, I believe that mistakes cannot be punished (making mistakes is something natural and should be part of the teaching-learning process).
In a country like ours in which little is read and in which social networks largely replace a good book, how does a language and literature teacher get his students to read?
Times change and we have to adapt to new tastes, why not take advantage of social networks to encourage reading inside and outside the classroom? We must not see social networks as enemies, but rather as a possible ally for our cause. I try it every day, with various tools such as a blog under the title “It’s a pleasure to read”, Instagram or Twitter accounts, YouTube channel, the Facebook of those who love to read (Goodreads) or recommendation networks.
In the same way, the students make oral presentations on books they have previously worked on (never imposed), also proposing attractive activities such as: book trailers, video poems, reading challenges through the game «Great readers», podcast recordings (I conduct a radio program entitled “The teaching corner”), reviews, incentives for the best readers through an internal contest, literary breakfasts …
On the other hand, it is very positive to introduce gamification; that is, to give our students the opportunity to learn while having fun. I really like to follow the Latin premise «docere, delectare et moveré» (teach, entertain and involve).
What is done well and what mistakes are made in schools in general in this regard?
In my opinion, schools focus too much on content, without stopping on how to do things. The current educational system is eminently theoretical, without facing the challenges of life. Teachers have to become guides in the learning of our students, encourage creativity and listen to them actively.
Why are we only left with the results without making an assessment of the process?
We must encourage teamwork and involve all participants. The distribution of the task emphasizes the student-student interaction, as well as enables a reciprocal relationship in which the student is comfortable (stands as the protagonist).
How do you work in the classroom to motivate learning? What methodologies do you use?
Before class, we write a sentence on the board, what we call “the sentence of the day.” For me, the management of emotions is one more ingredient that helps to add to achieve our goals. Thus, we work on fundamental values in our society: tolerance, love, understanding, help … Some theorists insist on what they have called “vital education” by Miguel Mederos. This teacher advocates a new education, based on adventure, projects or challenges.
For Mederos we have to achieve personal and community enrichment through education. Every day, I try to be something more than a mere transmitter of content, giving meaning to each of the actions carried out (I relate the knowledge to our day to day). Learning that attracts is the commandment that I try to fulfill, awakening curiosity in my receivers. Developing autonomy and improving self-esteem are two other premises that I have imposed on myself in the methodologies used.
How are you able to maintain a closeness with them without them treating you as equals or losing respect for you?
I always think that respect is earned or not, depending on your attitude. We have to achieve it with facts and never from the imposition. In our profession, everything adds up. Thus, it is essential to know how to put yourself in the place of the other, understand what concerns our students and know how to advise them.
A teacher must become a model or mirror, inspire with their behaviors, accept criticism and be willing to improve because some people do not know how to accept criticism.
Are the parents involved enough or at the age of these students do they leave everything to the teacher?
We find everything. In the same class, we see parents who want to be colleagues with their children, although they do not know their reality. In the same way, we also have repressive progenitors, capable of sinking them.
In a third group there are the “passive parents”, those who live in another world and who demand that you not disturb them. Finally, we also find another very different class: trust generators.
Of all of them, obviously I stick with the latter, as long as they are able to convey wise advice, recognize their achievements (no matter how large or small they may be from the outside) and cooperate with their children’s teachers for a common goal.
Many parents focus on the formation of their little ones in Nursery and Primary, but later they think that their children are capable of facing studies alone. What would secondary and high school students gain if their parents supported them in their learning?
Students need their parents to improve their learning. Parental participation is necessary, from listening to and encouraging their children, tutoring with teachers or attending parent meetings, among other aspects.
What should they consider?
Lead by example, as well as show confidence, patience, and consistency to children. If in the classroom a simple phrase helps, we can do the same in each house.
Parents should congratulate their children for the effort, believe in them. As Mathew L. Jakobson said, “Behind every child who believes in himself, there are parents who believed in him first.”
Do you think that this generation of students is clear about what career opportunities they want to pursue, or are they increasingly confused about the path to follow?
We have all needed help at some point in our lives, and the new generations also need guidance. In this sense, it is necessary to strengthen the relationship between the education system and the labor market, as well as to guide our students towards paths that are attractive to them.
In the same way, critical capacity and creativity should be fostered (I firmly believe it, in line with what Sir Ken Robinson thinks), not giving so much importance to exams and yes to LEARNING (with capital letters): that which will allow us to grow like people.
What needs to change in our educational system?
The Spanish educational system needs urgent changes. The average of failure and early school leaving is much higher than that of the EU. If we want to tear down this wall that hurts us enormously, we need a change of mentality in which we all participate. It is not enough to give sole responsibility to teachers. It is necessary to weave a network of support, with families being actively present, but also politicians (without interests or partisan struggles).
We must fight for an inclusive school that does not exclude and advocate for shared projects to nurture each other. We need an experiential and meaningful learning, eliminate useless memorization, as well as have appropriate ratios (no more than 20 students).
I appeal to emotional education, to that continuous and permanent educational process referred to by Rafael Bisquerra, to the need to convert emotional competencies into an essential element of the integral development of the person.
Finally, we need a “pact for education”. A consensus among all political forces, the opinions of the teachers being present. The training of teachers, the election of directors, the organization and autonomy of schools, a new Vocational Training or the reduction of the ratio (no more than 20 students per classroom), are some of the issues that must be solved.
If we want to rebuild reality, a comprehensive quality education for all will be the pillar on which to sustain the changes or modifications that occur. Reducing the curricular differences between the different communities, designing new curricula or proposing a system based on equity and quality are some of the objectives that should be on the table.
Is technology so useful in the classroom? What changes await us in this regard?
I am always of the opinion to use everything in its proper measure. It is true that its use makes content more attractive, powerfully captures the attention of our students, but it is no less true that we cannot and should not discard the traditional methodology.
We must see the use of ICT as a complement to teaching and learning, allowing students to participate in group dynamics, provoking debate or guiding knowledge in a very different way. Of course, distance education, digital, should never replace the proximity of face-to-face teaching.