Do You Know How to Be an Engaging and Highly Effective Educator?

Anyone can teach. We teach each other every day. For example, we give instructions to each other for such things as cooking, putting together furniture, and completing household other tasks. However, teaching someone is different than the process of educating someone. Consider the difference between informal learning and formal learning. An example of informal learning would be following a recipe to learn how to cook. In contrast, formal learning occurs within a classroom and usually is accompanied by evaluation and assessment. It may seem that teaching and educating are the same thing; however, the difference has to do with the place or context for learning.This is the same distinction can be made for teaching informally (giving instructions) and teaching students in a formal classroom environment. A person enters the field of education as a profession – either full time in traditional academic institutions or as an adjunct (or part time) instructor. The reasons vary for why someone would choose to be in the classroom. A traditional full time professor may likely be responsible for conducting research, teaching, and publishing scholarly work. An adjunct instructor may teach in a community college, traditional college, or an online school. When someone teaches students in higher education he or she may be called a facilitator, instructor, or professor. This is important as there isn’t a job with the word educator in the title.The questions I would like to answer include: What then does it mean to be an educator? Does it signify something different than the assigned job title? What I have learned through my work in higher education is that becoming an educator is not an automatic process. Everyone who is teaching adult students is not functioning as an engaging and highly effective educator. However, it is possible to learn how to educate rather than teach and that requires making a commitment to the profession.What Does It Mean to Teach?Consider teaching as part of the system of traditional, primary education. Those classes are teacher-led and children as students are taught what and how to learn. The teacher is considered to be the expert and directs the learning process. A teacher is someone who is highly trained and works to engage the minds of his or her students. This style of teacher-led instructional continues into higher education, specifically traditional college classrooms. The teacher still stands at the front and center of the class delivering information, and students are used to this format because of their experience in primary education. The instructor disseminates knowledge through a lecture and students study to pass the required examinations or complete other required learning activities.Within higher education, teachers may be called instructors and they are hired as subject matter experts with advanced content knowledge. The job requirements usually include holding a specific number of degree hours in the subject being taught. Teachers may also be called professors in traditional college classes, and those positions require a terminal degree with additional research requirements. For all of these roles, teaching is meant to signify someone who is guiding the learning process by directing, telling, and instructing students. The instructor or professor is in charge, and the students must comply and follow as directed. Here is something to consider: If that is the essence of teaching, is there a difference between that and educating students? Is the role of a teacher the same as that of an educator?What Does It Mean to be an Educator?Consider some basic definitions to begin with as a means of understanding the role of an educator. The word “education” refers to giving instruction; “educator” refers to the person who provides instruction and is someone who is skilled in teaching; and teaching is aligned with providing explanations. I have expanded upon these definitions so that the word “educator” includes someone who is skilled with instruction, possesses highly developed academic skills, and holds both subject matter knowledge and knowledge of adult education principles.Skilled with Instruction: An educator is someone who should be skilled in the art of classroom instruction, knowing what instructional strategies are effective and the areas of facilitation that need further development. An experienced educator develops methods that will bring course materials to life by adding relevant context and prompting students to learn through class discussions and other learning activities. Instruction also includes all of the interactions held with students, including all forms of communication, as every interaction provides an opportunity for teaching.Highly Developed Academic Skills: An educator must also have strong academic skills and at the top of that list are writing skills. This requires strong attention to detail on the part of the educator and in all forms of messages communicated, including anything written, presented, and sent via email. The ability to demonstrate strong academic skills is especially important for anyone who is teaching online classes as words represent the instructor.The use of proper formatting guidelines, according to the style prescribed by the school, is also included in the list of critical academic skills. For example, many schools have implemented APA formatting guidelines as the standard for formatting papers and working with sources. An educator cannot adequately guide students and provide meaningful feedback if the writing style has not been mastered.Strong Knowledge Base: An educator needs to develop a knowledge base that contains subject matter expertise, as related to the course or courses they are teaching, along with knowledge of adult education principles. I know of many educators who have the required credit hours on their degree transcripts, yet they may not have extensive experience in the field they teach. This will still allow these educators to teach the course, provided that they take time to read the course textbook and find methods of applying it to current practices within the field.Many schools hire adjuncts with extensive work experience as the primary criteria, rather than knowledge of adult learning principles. Those instructors I have worked with who do have a strong adult education knowledge base generally acquired it through ongoing professional development. That was my goal, when I decided on a major for my doctoral degree, to understand how adults learn so that I could transform from an instructor to an educator.Becoming an Engaging and Highly Effective EducatorI do not believe that many instructors intentionally consider the need to make a transformation from working as an instructor to functioning as an educator. When someone is hired to teach a class, someone other than a traditional college professor, they often learn through practice and time what works well in the classroom. There will likely be classroom audits and recommendations made for ongoing professional development. Gradually the typical instructor will become an educator as they seek out resources to help improve their teaching practices. However, I have worked with many adjunct online instructors who rely on their subject matter expertise alone and do not believe there is a reason to grow as an educator. For anyone who would like to make the transformation and become an engaging and highly effective educator, there are steps that can be taken and practices that can be implemented.Step One: Continue to Develop Your Instructional PracticeWhile any educator can learn through time on the job, it is possible to become intentional about this growth. There are numerous online resources, publications, workshops, webinars, and professional groups that would allow you to learn new methods, strategies, and practices. There are also social media websites such as LinkedIn and Twitter that allow for the exchange of ideas and resources within a global community of educators.You can also utilize self-reflection as a means of gauging your effectiveness. I have found that the best time to review my instructional practice occurs immediately after a class concludes. That is a time when I can assess the strategies I have used and determine if those methods were effective. Even reviewing end of course student surveys may provide insight into the perspective of my students.Step Two: Continue to Develop Your Academic SkillsI know from my work with online faculty development that this is an area of development that many educators could use. However, it is often viewed as a low priority – until it is noted in classroom audits. If an educator has weak academic writing skills, it will interfere with their ability to provide comprehensive feedback for students. For online instructors, that has an even greater impact when posted messages contain errors with spelling, grammar, and formatting. The development of academic skills can be done through the use of online resources or workshops. Many online schools I have worked for offer faculty workshops and this is a valuable self-development resource.Step Three: Continue to Develop Your Subject Matter ExpertiseEvery educator has subject matter expertise that they can draw upon. However, the challenge is keeping that knowledge current as you continue to teach for several years. The best advice I can offer is to find resources that allow you to read and learn about current thinking, research, and best practices in your chosen field. This is essential to your instructional practice as students can ascertain whether you appear to be current in your knowledge, or outdated and seemingly out of touch. Even the use of required textbooks does not ensure that you are utilizing the most current information as knowledge evolves quickly in many fields.Step Four: Continue to Develop Your Knowledge of Adult LearningThe last step or strategy that I can recommend is to gain knowledge about adult learning theories, principles, and practices. If you are not familiar with the basics there are concepts you can research and include critical thinking, andragogy, self-directed learning, transformational learning, learning styles, motivation, and cognition. My suggestion is to find and read online sources related to higher education and then find a subject that interests you to research further. I have found that the more I read about topics I enjoy, the more I am cultivating my interest in ongoing professional development. What you will likely find is that what you learn will have a positive influence on your work as an educator and will enhance all areas of your instructional practice.Working as an educator, or someone who is highly engaged in the process of helping students learn, starts with a commitment to make this a career rather than a job. I have developed a vision related to how I want to be involved in each class I teach and I recommend the same strategy for you. You may find it useful to develop teaching goals for your career and link your classroom performance to those goals. For example, do you want to complete the required facilitation tasks or would you rather put in the additional time necessary to create nurturing class conditions?After developing a vision and teaching goals, you can create a professional development plan to prompt your learning and growth in all of the areas I have addressed above. While this strategy may require an investment of time, it is helpful to remember that we always make time for whatever we believe is most important. Being an educator is not sustaining a focus on job functions, rather it is cultivating a love of what you do and learning how to excel for the benefit of your students. Becoming an engaging and highly effective educator occurs when you decide that teaching students is only part of the learning process, and you work to transform who you are and how you function, while working and interacting with your students.

Increasing Personal Productivity

When it comes to achieving your goals, one of the best things you can do is to increase your personal productivity. People who get more done in a day aren’t exactly smarter than everyone else, they just know what to focus their limited amount of time on and cut down on things that waste their time. These people are simply just more efficient. When you become more efficient, you will produce more and that in turn will allow you to achieve more.There are lots of ways to improve personal productivity like having a list, prioritizing it, and checking the tasks off as you complete them. Here are some other things you can try as well.Schedule a set amount of time during the day to work on your most important task. Many times, the thing that we have to do most is the thing that we least want to do. In order to ensure that we get it done and not procrastinate on doing it will be to set a specific time where you will do nothing but that task. Typically, you want to set a time in the morning. After lunch, as you know, can be a tiring time to work on anything important.When you are actually working on this task, you want to make sure you get rid of all disturbances. That means, put your cellphone on silent, let your phone calls go to voice mail, and inform everyone around you to not interrupt. By doing this, you will have a solid hour or 2 of focus time. This will allow you to finish what you need to do efficiently because you won’t get side tracked or lose focus. With other tasks that are of less importance and don’t require much concentration, you can tackle that while doing other small tasks at the same time.Increasing productivity isn’t exactly rocket science but it does take a little bit of experimenting. Some things will just work better for you than others. For some, having this focus time won’t work since they need interaction and movement to get things done. What you want to do is measure your results in order to find out what’s working or not. You can do this by simply keeping time of how long it takes you to do certain tasks. When you find one way of doing it helps you get it done faster, stick with that strategy.

Starting A Photography Business: A Structured Approach For Success

Starting a photography business seems easy to begin with. All one needs is a good camera, an understanding of photography techniques, a love for photography itself, and the enthusiasm to turn a passionate hobby into a business.Unfortunately, it really isn’t as simple as that!The moment a talented amateur photographer makes the decision to become a professional, to earn money from their photographs, he or she ceases to be a photographer and instead becomes a marketer and seller of photography.The distinction between photographer and businessperson is crucial and understanding of this is essential if the would-be professional has a desire to be successful at selling their photographic work.Put simply, photographers do not make money taking photographs. They make money selling photographs.Sadly, the ease of entry into the photography business is so simple that many photographers find themselves asking the question, “how do I start a photography business” after they’ve already discovered that the reality is not as simple as they thought it would be after all!For those who are new to the photography business, or considering making the jump from being an amateur to professional photographer, there is a structured approach that could save some agony further down the line. This systematic methodology is called “The Six Pillars Of Success” and can apply to almost any small business.The six pillars are:
Mindset
Positioning
Marketing
SEO
Sales
Client relationships
MindsetBeing in business is not for the faint-hearted or thin-skinned. Because of this, it’s essential to maintain a positive mindset and keep your business goals firmly in sight. Commitment is a big factor here, too, and it’s important to be 100% committed to your success no matter the current circumstances. This also means investing in your continuing business education, and having a forward-thinking mentality that’s focused on your future growth.PositioningKnowing where to position oneself in the marketplace is something that will set the aspiring professional photographer apart from the competition. Identifying a photographic genre as a specialty, together with the demographic and personality of the ideal target client are a great start here. A pricing model also helps to determine which of those ideal clients will be willing to invest in the photography services and products on offer.MarketingIn its most simple form, marketing is the process of earning, and competing for, your ideal clients’ attention. Effective marketing helps to educate your photography prospects about who you are, your values and beliefs, how you conduct business, and how the client can most benefit from the experience of working with you.SEOSearch engine optimization (SEO) is critical to the success of any business in this day and age. A photographer might be the most personable and friendly person in the world and produce the most incredible photography their clients could possibly imagine, but that won’t matter one bit if no one can find them online. Even with the most amazing-looking photography website, it’s essential to ensure that the search engines have a good idea of what the website is actually about.SalesNo one wants to come across as the stereotypical used-car salesman, and if the client senses the photographer might be uncomfortable with his or her own prices or at all nervous about asking for the sale, they will instinctively become much more resistant to the sales process, making the sales job much harder. The answer is to learn how to sell from an ethical standpoint, and with the client’s needs firmly at heart.Client RelationshipsThis is where most professional photographers really trip up! They attract the right clients, create beautiful work for them, do a great job of selling it, and then never talk to the client again! This is a huge mistake, and can mean the photographer is stuck in a never-ending quest for new clients. The solution is to stay in touch with your family of valued clients. It’s easy to send them an occasional card in the mail, an email newsletter, or even call them on the telephone just to see how they’re doing.An Upward Spiral To SuccessAs you reach the last of the six pillars, you’ll see that a happy family of clients naturally causes you to be happier as a businessperson, which helps create an even stronger positive attitude.You also get to know your clients in a lot more depth, which then helps you when it comes to positioning yourself and your business in the marketplace.The process of marketing becomes much simpler and a lot less costly, since you’ll see a lot more benefit from word of mouth marketing.The SEO for your photography website is also made much simpler because your blog articles, for example, further help the search engines to see you as a local authority.The sales process becomes easier to manage because you’ve now created a good reputation within the community.Finally, your family of happy clients will love you more as your photography business becomes more established.