Education Corner 17

05 MAY 2016 - In the last Education Corner I finished with a comment about Directors of Education; Health and Public Safety being political appointments and the position is “up in the air” each time there is a change in Governors. This is a very touchy question for professional educators-What role should elected officials have in the public education process? What do elected officials know about school accreditation? After all FSM Accreditation is about teacher certification; student learning outcomes; standards/benchmarks; school improvement plans, teacher contracts and the host of other topics we have looked at in the EC these past months Unfortunately for many elected officials who come from other employment backgrounds-not a great deal is known about such. But it is important that they learn quickly and they do. They must—it has to do with money available of education now and as we move to Compact termination in 2023. It has to do with watching the tax dollars and presently these are tax dollars of U S citizens. So for now our legislators watch U S taxpayer dollars as part of their jobs and try to assure they are spent wisely. In fact they know that if there is not improvement in these education areas there will be less money. Presently there are more areas in need of improvement than available resources so improving and not losing resources is the task at hand.

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Education Corner 16 - Training Awaits New Leadership

 APRIL 2016 - In the last EC we explained the Data for Decision Making project (DDP) where all the Pohnpei Elementary Teachers tested themselves in the five sciences and five social studies. These are to be taught every year and every grade. The teachers did this to find their weakest areas, openly admit to the weak subjects and ask their Principal for training for improvement. The DDP also surveyed the curriculum material available to students in the sciences and social studies. The DDP operated under the idea that improved teachers will improve students’ learning, Further when teachers have curriculum materials for students to practice reading, writing, listening and speaking skills in English, the all important ESL skills will be enhanced and Pohnpei student scores in reading comprehension will improve dramatically. Throughout the process have always believed that teachers requesting training was proof of motivation and part of the answer to the claim teachers are unmotivated.

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Education Corner 13 - FSM Technology Plan (2010)

FSM Technology Plan (2010) - MAR 2016

The matter of what to teach usually comes before aspiring teachers learn the how to teach. That is teachers learn most of their science and social studies standards content in before tackling the methods of teaching. The Data for Decision Making (DDP) project allows us to see where our teachers can benefit most from On Going Teacher Training in the content areas of science and social studies. When teachers are hired they are expected to teach five different sciences each year in our elementary schools. We know that some teachers have taken coursework in some of these sciences and not others. But recall that PDOE follows the FSM Science Standards which require each teacher to teach; Science as Inquiry; Earth AND Space Science; Life AND Environmental Science; Physical Science AND Technology; and Marine Science. The DDP asks teachers to self-identify their weak areas in the sciences (and social studies) and ask for On Going Teacher Training for improvement. We all see that only by improving teachers so we can we improve the students’ learning.

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Education Corner 15

In the last KPress the EC promised to finish up this edition with how we might motivate our Pohnpei teachers and inspire them to improve. We explained that while teachers said they would be motivated if they were paid a higher salary—higher salaries are really not in the future. The readers must forgive EC—there will be no final answer this week as promised. But there are the beginnings. Last issue ended with:
“We can never improve student learning until we improve our teachers and motivate them to be better.
We will continue next EC and remember it’s a simple idea-motivation. It is just is getting someone to do something. People either do things because they want to do something or they have to do something. People are motivated by success and not motivated with failure. People are motivated to fulfill wants and needs. People have difficulty deciding what are wants and what needs are. There are always more wants than needs and usually more needs than resources. Exploring these ideas next issue will help us some (I think) unravel how to inspire and motivated our teachers. At least I hope so.”
Recall all of this began when we looked at the idea of On-going Teacher Training or the constant updating of knowledge and skills by our Pohnpeian Teachers. We mentioned this was what the Pohnpei Department of Education wanted to do-that is put together a program where all the teachers have the opportunity to always be improving. We have noted that this on-going education is a hallmark of every profession from medicine to law and from engineering to education. But how do we inspire or motivate the teachers when we are reminded of the EC reader who said “I have a friend who is a public school teacher and like many of her colleagues is suffering from depression as a result of a lack of inspiration and motivation; low/ poor pay and an insecure tenure with the new short term contracts now in place, being a major factor.”? Whatever we did we knew many teachers did feel this way and inspiring such teachers would not be easy.

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Education Corner 12 - Commitment to ongoing training

Commitment to ongoing training - FEB 2016

The matter of what to teach usually comes before aspiring teachers learn the how to teach. That is teachers learn most of their science and social studies standards content in before tackling the methods of teaching. The Data for Decision Making (DDP) project allows us to see where our teachers can benefit most from On Going Teacher Training in the content areas of science and social studies. When teachers are hired they are expected to teach five different sciences each year in our elementary schools. We know that some teachers have taken coursework in some of these sciences and not others. But recall that PDOE follows the FSM Science Standards which require each teacher to teach; Science as Inquiry; Earth AND Space Science; Life AND Environmental Science; Physical Science AND Technology; and Marine Science. The DDP asks teachers to self-identify their weak areas in the sciences (and social studies) and ask for On Going Teacher Training for improvement. We all see that only by improving teachers so we can we improve the students’ learning.
Last issue we went to great length on the importance of curriculum material,explaining the efforts to survey the curriculum available to students and teachers in the sciences (and social studies). To date have found very little and certainly less that is readable for a student. Remember when teaching sciences or social studies the teacher should have reading, writing, listening and speaking skills incorporated in every lesson taught. This will greatly improve our students reading scores on the FSM standardized exams to students. In the content standards teachers are asking for training in all sciences at every grade level. The DDP is quite revealing and it leads us to another purpose that being Professionalism. PDOE is calling for an attitude change and one that promotes one hallmark of the true professional teacher and school principal.
Commitment to Life-long learning: This is a simple phrase that means continuously updating of training. The necessary knowledge and skills of professionals needed in today’s ever-changing world is constantly changing. Readers need only read some current events in the world and one understands this fact. To meet these changes, formal and informal On Going education should be an important part of a professional teacher’s life. Why is this? It is simply because the answers to the basic daily questions of: What am I going to teach? And the ever changing question of how am I going to teach? ; change constantly. What do teachers teach? They teach the approved standards and benchmarks. For sure, the curriculum standards and benchmarks change as new content is added to the total body of world knowledge. Teachers must be current and aware of new content in their curriculum. How do teachers teach? For sure, teachers must be constantly updated to meet changes and new methods, strategies, and skills necessary to teach in today’s world. Presently what is known as “Best Practices” must be part of all On Going training. It’s all about “hands on: and active learning by students and teacher guidance rather than the old lecture- Teacher talks, students listen and take notes for the test. The use of technology for improvement is our most important example. How do teachers know students have learned what has been taught? New techniques for measuring learning are important for teachers to know but changes in what “the public” demands to be measured are equally important. Likewise, new ways to creating positive learning environments should always be sought out by professional teachers. With On Going education, teachers find ways to address gaps in weak areas of their day to day teaching lives.
Some continuing education is generally required for professionals to maintain professional licensing or certification. This usually means continuing education units or college credits recognized by the licensing agency. For teachers, this can often mean advancement on a professional pay-scale. This condition obviously serves as strong motivation when more paycheck money is tied to continuing education. However, sometimes this is not the case and teachers must take additional training just to maintain their certification. Naturally, it is always better when teachers develop the internal motivation and hunger for improvement and continue education because they want to improve and become better teachers for their students. The internal desire for improvement is certainly important. It is important when On Going education not is not paid for by the usual Pell Grant. When such is the case other national, state, or local tax money or outside funding sources will be needed. Is it worth it? Perhaps the following little story can illustrate.
The young man was attending a 25 year party for the worst professor he had experienced as a graduate student at the university. As he walked besides his wise old mentor he said “I did not know Professor X had taught for 25 years” to which the mentor quickly replied “He hasn’t taught 25 years. He has taught the same bad year 25 times”
Curiosity is the cure to boredom—there is no cure for curiosity This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Education Corner 14 - Motivating Teachers

23 MAR 2016

In the last EC column we promised to continue with the question –how do we motivate teachers to do a good job? Please be prepared for several EC’s as the topic is so very important to improving our children’s education.
Last issue I responded briefly to the reader who wrote- “I have a friend who is a public school teacher and like many of her colleagues is suffering from depression as a result of a lack of inspiration and motivation; low/poor pay and an insecure tenure with the new short term contracts now in place, being a major factor.” She had asked how can we inspire and motivate our teachers. I tried to stall and wrote her I would ask some teachers and principals that very question. What would motivate you to do a better job?
Moreover in education we would consider a good teacher job is evidenced by students learning the school subjects well. Students should be learning to read, write and do math. But too they should be learning the sciences and the social studies. That’s a good job so how can teachers be motivated to want to do an even better job? How do we motivate teachers to embrace “being professional”? Professionals follow a path marked “Continuous Improvement” so just how do we get more teachers on this path?

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Education Corner 10 - The C-word Revisited and the DDP

18 JAN 2016

About 10 days ago I was informed that someone was expressing some serious disagreement with the W&A (2015) EC Column—the C-word in the on-line Micronesian Forum. It is a public forum so I immediately visited that site and indeed found a headline--COM-Professor Dr. Womac and his concept of culture and change. Is he real? The reader not only was disagreeing but was quite angry. At first I was taken aback because the interpretation was certainly not my intent. When this occurs I always take it to mean I was unclear and should try again. I did so and 7-8 others joined in and some real critical thinking occurred. But the whole exercise required the initial objections. Someone must challenge in this case the authority, me. As I mentioned in one EC (The R-word) when I taught at the college I always told the students how I wished someone would just stand up and say “Dr. Womack-I disagree and here is why”. I always pointed out it is one way to develop critical thinking skills. But my students always fell back on the R-word telling me that they just cannot be disrespectful to an old man-a professor-a doctor. This is actually why I enjoyed the criticisms and joined in the discussions and as always— learned some more about Pohnpeians and Pohnpeian Culture. EC readers can view the various discussions at the Micronesian Forum and see folk’s opinions on many topics. I will now visit myself at least monthly as I did several years ago.
However the discussions force me to repeat several points EC has mentioned earlier
• Dr. Womack is no longer a professor at COM-FSM
• Womack and Associates (2015) is simply a group of professors who are “standing ready” to help train teachers and write textbooks and other much needed curriculum materials as called upon.
• Dr. Womack is a voluntary point person for W&A (2015) and serves as spokesperson, develops specific training and curriculum proposals, and writes the Education Corner. He is the Senior Associate—because he is the oldest of all Associates and he is real
• Always feel free to mail us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with questions or criticisms. These are always answered within 24 hours. We accept all questions even those we are unable to answer—when that happens we will say so. If you want to air complaints publically that’s fine too.
• W&A (2015) has only one current project with Pohnpei State titled Data for Decision Making Project (DDP)
Data for Decision Making
All the Education corners to date were written with this project in mind. We introduced you to little Willy doing first grade math and sister Willymina doing first grade addition problems. One had 80% and improvement was simple. The other missed four out of five and improvement may take more time. It was pointed out that it is the wrong answers that we actually want to look at. That tells us the improvement areas. Further, we introduced topics as need for evidence; FSM Accreditation; the R-word and C-word, standards and benchmarks; getting students to school and on time; Student Learning Outcomes; and assessment for improvement. But these were just preliminary to the project. We were trying to do a little education about Pohnpei schools, the teachers and the students and test scores on National examinations. We stated that educators, parents, and the community at large wishes to see improvement. Everyone does. But it is very possible. We firmly believe that improving students requires improving teachers. When we do this student scores will improve. This is an obvious truism but is sometimes ignored.
During the next several months we will test all elementary teachers on the science and social studies standards. This enables us to see the strengths of the teachers and weaknesses of the teachers. It is on these weaknesses where specific focus for Continuing Education can improve individual teachers. We can see individual school weaknesses and like groups of weaker teachers and treat them. We treat teachers as we expect teachers to treat students—that is when they don’t do well we offer a prescription—as do doctors. By focusing on teacher weakness we know where and to whom to offer Continuing Education. We know of no profession where Continuing Education in not found and usually it is required. At the same time the project focuses on the School Principal and the role of the school’s curriculum leader. This role is critical as we all work with a new system that grants all schools more independence. The demands on the school principal are almost over whelming. This project adds one more. Get your teachers into Continuing Education and see to their improvement.
And At the same time we shall inventory all science and social studies curriculum in each classroom in every school. We shall see where there are needs for new textbooks. These should be written at grade level using our local environment the reference. Next EC we will do “Making Relevant Curriculum. We think many of you will learn quite a bit from this upcoming topic.