What makes a good mathematics teacher? This question is old-aged but today it sounds differently in the context of keen interest in STEM education.
Parents have always been anxious about where to send their children to give them the best educational opportunities, however the question of “where” is not nearly as important as the question of “who”: who will be teaching their children mathematics and computer science? Who will be explaining chemistry and geometry formulas to them? Who will be the one to inspire and encourage them in this?
A talented teacher can turn tiresome and repetitious classwork into a challenging and exciting process. A passionate teacher can generate ideas to keep his class intellectually awake. The high-school curriculum should focus on something that is bigger than fact memorizing and test preparation to make students really involved. The priority should be given to developing deep understanding of concepts and improving creative-thinking and problem-solving skills. It is a great challenge for schools and communities to keep children at school, make them engaged and motivated. This is the job of today’s highly-qualified STEM teachers.
Interestingly though, that neither schools nor has the Government itself been able to provide consistent criteria for defining a highly-skilled teacher.
All schools both private and public ones are trying to improve the quality of mathematics and science teaching, however since there is no way to objectively measure a teacher’s competence, they have to decide that for themselves.
When math and science teachers are requested to define the qualities which can be found in a good math teacher they refer to basic professional preparation requirements and personal features such as ability to find a way with a student, social skills and creativity. These measurements however vary greatly depending on what grade they teach.
The majority of primary school teachers say they feel academically prepared to teach their standard program while having to explain more sophisticated material makes them nervous. The rest say they do not feel prepared enough.
Naturally it is impossible for a STEM teacher to stick only to those topics he feels at ease with while partially neglecting or totally ignoring more advanced topics since they often lay down the foundation for future understanding of more difficult concepts.
Being a good STEM teacher means more than just knowing your subject well enough to teach. Although hardly measurable, these parameters include a range of skills such as the ability to encourage and motivate students; find an approach to everyone respecting his individual learning needs.
A good STEM teacher never stops being a learner. The world of global economy is changing very quickly and the educational system has to adapt to it. But simply creating new programs and standards for teaching will not be enough. Now it is about helping teachers to advance their skills and getting them prepared to meet the challenges of the 21 century education.