Categories
Education Teaching

Why my students dislike me?

Surely every teacher has had times when it feels that students dislike, or even hate everything you do. Sometimes it’s just temporary and not something you should worry about, but if this feeling is repeating over and over again, maybe there is something you can do about it.

I went through some research and found a couple articles that have something to say about this subject. My main source article is this, in which they have asked students and teachers write about characters of a good teacher. I’ve reformed this information to questions. Below each question section, you can see the exact wording from the essays. 

So, let’s begin with the checklist:

Am I speaking clearly and loud enough?

This first one is the easiest in the sense that you can almost always improve your articulation and maybe speak a bit louder (not too loud, of course). 
Listed traits: Clear, accurate, explanation, controlling if everyone understands, verbally competent 

Am I interested in students?

Students can’t see everything on teachers mind but they are very good at sensing whether the teacher cares about them and their personality. Very many answers reflect this in some way. However, it is possible to overdo this; if you suddenly become extremely interested about students’ issues that will feel weird. If you feel this might be the problem, try to improve gradually; focus on listening to what students tell you but don’t ask too many questions. 
Listed traits: Takes time to listen and to pay attention, shows interest in people, is available for non-school problems, shows respect, sensitive for pupils’ needs

Is my classroom work organized?

Are you the teacher who is always in search of the important paper while students wait? Or do your lessons flow naturally? Disorganized workflow can lower students’ respect for their teacher. Part of this is planning the lessons properly, but keeping the classroom clean also helps a great deal. Then you won’t lose your on-topic papers under the piles of other papers. Solution: Keep only the necessary papers on the desk and use a clear font for the lesson plan and other papers you may need to read during the lesson.
Listed traits: Care of classroom, organises work, keeps up with the times, plans work

Can I stop talking when I have given the task to students?

Every one of us has probably encountered one when still in school: Teacher who gives you an assignment that should be done quietly and … keeps talking and talking. Luckily the solution is easy: becoming aware of the situation and being quiet. 
Listed traits: Does not distract pupils

Am I being physical?

It’s hopefully clear to everybody that physical punishments are off the table, but refraining from touching in general would also be advisable. All people don’t like touching and if you are thinking of a classroom with dozens of people in it, it’s quite sure that there are some that only want to be touched by family members, not teachers. 
Listed traits: Not touchily, no physical punishments or aggression 

Is the amount of homework reasonable?

This one is not as easy as some of the previous ones. If you know that you are giving students three hours worth of homework every day while your colleagues only give one hour worth, there is surely something there causing negative feelings in students. But more often you can’t really compare that way. If you think homework is the problem, you can try to be more picky and avoid giving too many assignments of the same type. (For example, if you have some reading and some writing you want to assign, keep the both types but consider shorter parts of text for example. In maths, I always used to pick three different task types for homework, such as one mechanic, one applied and one verbal.)
Listed traits: Not too much homework, not too difficult & expecting too much, not too many or difficult lessons, not doing only nice & easy things, not working too hard

Can I spot my own errors?

Everyone makes mistakes and it’s perfectly normal. However, not spotting any errors in your own work means that you may have a blind spot that prevents you from evolving.
Listed traits: Displays self-criticism

Do I use various types of assignments?

Let’s face it: People have different learning strategies. There may be discussion in the field of education about different learning styles and how changeless they are, but we can safely say that at any given time, there are different types of learners in the classroom. Giving various types of assignments helps more students to feel engaged. 
Listed traits: Not all assignments entail autonomous work

Do I have clear rules in the classroom?

For most students, being clear about the rules makes it easier. It is easier to focus on the subject when you don’t have to worry about what you can and cannot do.
Listed traits: Makes rules, Maintains order, Not forbid too much

I’m I too authoritative?

Just like lack of rules, being too authoritative can also drag students’ attention away from the subject. The most dominant feeling will be fear, which naturally overrides the willingness to learn.
Listed traits: Not verbally aggressive, not authoritative, does not look down upon pupils  

Can I create a positive atmosphere?

Not being too negative is a good start and the next step is creating a positive atmosphere. That’s harder to do, I know. If I’m being honest for most of my teaching career, I’ve probably reached only the “not being negative” -step. But if you could create an environment where everybody can openly discuss their thoughts without taking all the space, you are a super teacher! But we can all keep this goal in mind and work towards it. 

Listed traits: Puts things into a positive perspective, enthusiastic, creates positive work climate, friendly towards pupils, organises nice things, makes pupils co-operate, encourages responsibility of pupils, rewarding, motivates pupils, distributes tasks among pupils

Is my grading fair?

This won’t be the first thing students notice about you, but if it turns out that the grading feels arbitrary, that can be bad for your reputation. I think it wouldn’t hurt to state the grading factors out loud when the course starts and again before grading or the big test takes place. You don’t need to spend too much time on it, but give a quick reminder how you are going to give the grades. That will decrease the amount of pupils surprised by their grades with almost no cost to you.

Listed traits: Marking well, gradings reflect pupils’ abilities, warns pupils in advance, not spending too much time on marking

Am I too moody?

Students don’t respect a teacher who is too moody and gets angry easily. Smaller students will be nervous and afraid and older students will make a joke out of that. 
Listed traits: Manners, does not vent his mood on pupils

Am I practicing what I preach?

Yes, there are different rules for students and teachers, but you should only appeal to this when really necessary. A teacher browsing their phone all the time is not a good example. 
Listed traits: Example for pupils

Can I learn more about pedagogy and life?

Students have respect for a teacher that seems to know a lot.
Listed traits: Has a lot of experience, Well educated, Writing well, Telling nice stories, A good storyteller  

Is my teaching at the right level?

Surely, there are a lot of learning goals issued from outside, but if the teaching is not adjusted to the listeners level of understanding, the outcome won’t be any good. 
Listed traits: Extra help for pupils who need support, helping slow learners, takes pupils’ understanding seriously

Do I use pupils’ solutions?

It’s a more meaningful experience for students if their solutions get attention. The solution doesn’t have to be perfect, but if it has some interesting angle it’s good to go through it, if possible.
Listed traits: Applies pupils’ solutions, discussing mistakes

Do I have a favorite class?

Most of us know that having a favorite student is not politically correct. However, you still see today that sometimes teachers have favorite groups. That can discourage the other ones, too. 
Listed traits: Does not compare pupils or classes

Other things worth mentioning

Not all traits earn their own question, but are still worth mentioning. Those are: Maintains good contact with parents, helps with problems, pedagogically sound, handling conflicts, invests a lot of effort, and is well groomed.

Some of these listed traits are more personal in nature, and here they are: Quiet, creative, flexible, stable, humorous, patience, serious, intelligent, not severe, a bit severe, severe, sporting, nice, socially competent, no bad temper, attending, careful, sociable, reliable, respectful, pleasant, meticulous, and fair. You may notice that you can’t please everybody anyway, because there are: not severe – a bit severe – severe, so no panic about these traits. 

I have left about 20 listed things out of this blog post, because they don’t offer any relevant information. 

Student’s success and relation to teacher

There is another research which concludes that students that do well, tend to have better relationships with their teachers. Of course, a teacher can’t do too much about it, but the research suggests that feedback after failure (in a test etc) would not be accompanied with person criticism. 

Students dislike me checklist:

Here are the questions once again in one list, if you want to quickly analyze what might be the problem.

  • Am I speaking clearly and loud enough?
  • Am I interested in students?
  • Is my classroom work organized?
  • Can I stop talking when I have given the task to students?
  • Am I being physical?
  • Is the amount of homework reasonable?
  • Can I spot my own errors?
  • Do I use various types of assignments?
  • Do I have clear rules in the classroom?
  • I’m I too authoritative?
  • Can I create a positive atmosphere?
  • Is my grading fair?
  • Am I too moody?
  • Am I practicing what I preach?
  • Can I learn more about pedagogy and life?
  • Is my teaching at the right level?
  • Do I use pupils’ solutions?
  • Do I have a favorite class?

See also: 11 Timesavers for teacher, How Teachers Pay Teachers search algorithm works?

Categories
Algorithms Education TPT

How Teachers Pay Teachers’ search algorithm works

First a disclaimer. I don’t have any secret information from the company itself. This article is based on general information about how commercial search engines work and then reasoning about which of these apply to Teachers pay Teachers’ search algorithm plus some experimental findings.

Search algorithms of other online commerce sites

There are tons of online shops and search algorithms out there, and first we have to pick some of them for a closer look. We want those sites to have some things in common with TPT such as

  1. The site is selling something
  2. There are a lot of individual sellers on the site who have their own shops.

So, we won’t be comparing TPT to Google, however interesting search engine it is because it’s not selling products directly to consumers. I have picked three large online shops to compare: Amazon, Etsy, and eBay. All these three are public companies, TPT is privately owned. To set these to some sort of scale: Amazon has over a million workers, eBay has over 10,000. TPT has over 2,000 and Etsy over 1,000. So, you could expect Amazon’s algorithm to be the most refined, because they have more resources to put into it. For the rest of the companies, the fine tuning of algorithms depends on how much effort they put to them. But for purposes of this article, we assume that TPT’s search is about the same level as eBay’s and Etsy’s and all those look up to Amazon’s, thus it’s important.

Below, I list factors that matter for the search algorithms in some of these sites. After each factor, there are one or many of these ecommerce sites which utilize these factors. This information is based on sources that can be found from the end of this post. Note that if a site is not listed, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it doesn’t use that factor. This list is in no particular order. 

Title relevancy

(Ebay, Etsy) How well the product title matches the thing the buyer is looking for. This is more important if the buyer is using longer search terms, it would be hard to rank high by using some very general search terms like “fractions”, even if some people may do that exact search. The best long term strategy is to use titles that describe your product the best way, so use all the words that are relevant as long as it’s easily readable to a human buyer and don’t repeat words in the title. Algorithms generally punish repeating keywords too much. 

Seller authority or track record as a seller

(Amazon, Ebay, Etsy) This is definitely a ranking factor in all those marketplaces. In TPT context, that would mean the quality of your shop. TPT keeps the seller’s star rating at the upper corner of every shop’s page, so surely they think it’s important. That being said, TPT’s ranking system has been quite monotonic for years resulting that almost all old sellers have full star ratings. However, the system has been changed in order to get more variety to feedback. From all of that, we can reason that for e-commerce, shop reputation is generally important. Maybe it isn’t that important in TPT yet but surely it will be in the future. 

Organic sales

(Amazon) An organic sales is when a buyer searches something, finds and buys it. If the buyer finds the product via promotion, that’s not an organic sale. There is no 100% way of knowing if TPT distinguishes organic and promoted sales in future search results, but it’s something that may have some effect. 

The price

(Ebay) The price most likely affects the Amazon search too, as the Internet is half-full of sites about how you find the right price point on Amazon. It’s reasonable to believe that this also affects Teachers Pay Teachers’ search, but from an ecommerce site’s point of view it’s not that simple. People will generally buy cheaper products easier, but if products are too cheap, the revenue is harder to get and people tend to think less of products that have too low price. So, an intelligent search algorithm designer would favor middle priced products.

Off-site sales

(Amazon) Are you bringing more customers to the site by advertising your product? Then, you are a good seller! Maybe you even get some boost in the search engine. My own experience with TPT is that I rarely get sales from social media sources such as Pinterest. But there are times when I focus more on Pinterest marketing and more traffic from Pinterest is coming to my shop at these times. Even if those people are not buying right there and then, also my organic sales are higher at these times. So, it might have an effect. (Wishlisting is also a possible contributor here.)

Quality of product description

(Ebay) This is easy to implement in TPT, because you can always write a good product description. Some of the other factors are not in seller’s direct control. A good description has everything you need to know about the product and also all the relevant keywords. But again, stuffing the same keyword over and over again is punished nowadays. 

Conversion rate

(Amazon) Conversion rate is a ranking factor on Amazon and because TPT lists it as one of the product statistics it’s probably a thing in TPT, too. Logically, the bigger, the better.

Listing of terms of service

(Ebay) This idea of being clear about terms and service could translate into TPT language in licensing policy. If TPT takes this to account, it is likely to favor those products that have a clear licensing policy written down in the description. 

Listing quality

(Etsy, Amazon) If a buyer makes a search and then clicks a product on the listing, that counts towards listing quality. In TPT, if there is such a feature, good thumbnail pictures will help you with this.

Recency

(Etsy) Other things being equal, a new and fresh product is better than ten years old. It may not feel that way because other factors tend to favor the older ones. I have heard rumors that updating a product in TPT would have a positive impact and that is in line with recency. 

Other interesting search factors from these sites:

  • Words at the beginning of titles are considered more important than words at the end.
  • Past intellectual property infringement issues can have a negative effect.
  • Store location in relation to buyer
  • Shop’s information page about the seller

Experimental findings about Teachers Pay Teachers’ search algorithm

Because your search history may affect the results I did some test searches when I was logged out of the site. If you use some popular search term, the results in the first page have pretty much everything right, so you really start to see more interesting patterns when browsing more pages down the search results until the matches are not “perfect” any more. Here is something I found: 

This is from page 9 with a search “Adding and Subtracting Fractions with Unlike Denominators”. This may sound a bit arbitrary thing to search, but in fact it is one of the popular search terms every now and then. Grade level at this search was three. (There is no actual reason for that, I forgot to take it off after the previous test.) I didn’t take the whole page in the pictures, but the idea is that most of the resources have only a couple of stars, while the resources in page 1 would have hundreds of stars. But there are few exceptions, pointed out with arrows. 

It took me a moment to figure out what was dropping these resources down. I have covered the seller names in the pictures, but I checked them and they were perfectly top rated, established sellers. The problem was that these products have very few pages. The ones that cost $1.00 had only one page per product. So, the lesson is, that if you have very few pages accompanied with a high per page price, your resources will not do well in the search. 

Summary

Based on logical reasoning, we could expect at least the following factors to have something to do with the order of Teachers Pay Teachers’ search results:

  • Title relevancy
  • General shop quality
  • Organic sales
  • The price
  • Off-site sales
  • Product description
  • Conversion rate
  • Clear listing of license terms
  • Customer clicks in search listing
  • Recency
  • Price per page

Hopefully this article was helpful! Have you experienced some weird rankings in Teachers Pay Teachers search? Leave a comment!

Sources: Amazon’s A9 algorithm, eBay optimising listings, How Etsy search works.

Categories
Education Finland

Finland’s education system explained

In this post, I’m going to explain the basics of the Finland’s education system. I’m starting at age zero even if it’s not school, but that way it explains better how the system works. There will be links referring to sources that are in Finnish. I apologize for the inconvenience, but all the data is not available in English. 

Time before school

The baby year, age 0-1

Babies are at home with their mother and/or father. One common way to do this is that the mother is at home most of the time, and the father is at home some of the time. But there are other ways around it, too. About the first four months will be paid leave for the mother, after that it can be either one of the parents.

The age of 9 months is a bit of a turning point, if you have two parents in the family, the money you get from the government will decrease heavily at this point, and some babies will start a daycare at this age. If you have to start at a very young age, it’s quite common to start with a family-like care in the childminders home. This is called “perhepäivähoitaja” which translates to “family daytime care”. If the family has only one parent, the turning point age is approximately 11 months. 

Starting at daycare (age 1-3)

There is no one particular age for children to start the daycare in Finland. Most kids will start somewhere between ages 1-3. This is because even if you won’t get the full paycheck from the government, you will receive some support to care for your children at home if they are younger than three. This gives some flexibility to the families, and many people put their children to daycare at the age of 1 or two.

Years at the daycare (age 3-5)

The very basic idea is that children are in the daycare while the parents are working but kids can go to nursery even if the parent(s) are at home. On the other hand, children at this age group can also be at home. Maybe there is a smaller sibling that mother or father is taking care of at home, or maybe the family just chooses to keep children at home for longer.

How much education do you receive at the daycare? Well here is the interesting point: Teachers at the daycare centers are educated, they must have a degree of Bachelor of Arts (Education). The translation of the degree isn’t the most fluent English, but apparently, there is a law that states the right translation[1]. The teachers plan educational content for every day, but these lessons are much shorter than a day in school would be. In addition to teachers, there are also nurses to take care for the children during the day. 

So, in Finland’s education system kids at age 2-5 receive upbringing provided by teachers with a bachelor’s degree in education. The differences (compared to countries that present the formal education at earlier age) are:

  1. It’s not mandatory
  2. The educational content is chopped to relatively short lessons or integrated to the daily routine
  3. It’s not called school. (That would sound too much work!)

The price of the daycare is partly subvented. Usually a family pays a few hundred euros per month, the cost depends on the parent’s income level and the city/municipality they live in. 

Level 1: Basic School

Preschool (age 6)

Preschool is one year long, and it’s the first mandatory part of Finnish educational system. Children start preschool in the calendar year they turn six. The official goals of preschool are a bit abstract. There are things like interaction, taking care of oneself, multiliteracy, and ability to use technology. It’s not officially listed, but you could say that recognizing letters and numbers is something you would do in preschool. [2]

The basic school (peruskoulu)

The basic school in Finland’s education is the level one and it’s for ages 7-15. It’s mandatory with one technical exception: You don’t have to put your child to school if you make sure that the child learns the basic school curriculum some other way. In practice, homeschool is very rare, because sending kids to school is just easier. In rural areas the municipality has to take care of getting your child to school with a bus or taxi.

Lower grades of basic school (ages 7-12)

At grades 1-6, you typically have one teacher teaching most of the subjects, and then maybe one or two teachers for special subjects like foreign language (typically English) and handicraft/sewing. (These subjects are only examples.)

Upper grades of basic school (age 13-15)

At grades from 7 to 9 you typically have several teachers and all those teachers have been studying their own subject at university to the master level. If one teacher has several subjects, she/he will have one of the subjects as a major subject and about one year’s studies of the other subjects. Students can spend about 1-5 hours with one teacher in a week. That means the students would have close to 10 teachers in the same week. They do have one teacher assigned for the class but the teacher won’t be teaching much more than a few hours a week. So from the students point of view, the system really changes when shifting to upper grades.  

Level 2: High school or vocational school

The second level (ages 16-18)

This used to be optional, but now it’s starting to be mandatory. However, this law has been since 2021, so no-one has real experience about mandatory second level. [3]

In this level, you have two major options: Lukio (the closest translation would be high school, but it’s not 100% the same) or ammattikoulu (vocational school). The typical time for level 2 would be three years, but it can also be two or four. It’s possible to take both, high school and vocational school at the same time, then it’s probably four years. There are also other options such as apprenticeship, but it’s less common at this stage. 

Requirements for the teachers in high school are the same as the upper grades teacher at level 1 and that is a master’s degree from the subject in question. For a vocational school teacher, the requirements are the same if you teach some general subjects such as math. If you teach vocational subjects, you must be an expert on your field and have some work life experience before teaching. 

Matriculation examination

Matriculation examination (ylioppilaskirjoitukset) is a significant set of tests you take at the end of high school (lukio). Nowadays it’s more common to do it in several parts, for example in the fall term of third year and the next spring. It’s also possible to take all tests at once. You can select your set of tests, except that the first language test is mandatory. (First language can be Finnish, Swedish or Sámi language. [4]) The results of these tests will highly affect where you can go studying because many universities select at least some students based solely on these tests.

Level 3: University / University of Applied Sciences

Selection test system  

In many universities in Finland, there is a selection test. Often it measures your ability to 

  1. understand the books you should read for the test 
  2. apply new solutions to new problems. 

Another way to get in is to do well in the matriculation examination. 22% of the students are selected based on the ME only. [7] In some schools, often related to art, there are some other measures for taking students in. 

Between levels 2 and 3, it’s common to have a year or two off before starting at the university or university of applied sciences (Later also: UoAS). This is caused partly by duties to society and partly by the selection test system. In highly competitive fields, such as medicine, it’s typical to try several times before getting in. A person who didn’t get to school of choice can

  • Study some other subject for a year and try again
  • Get some job and study for the test and try again
  • There are also commercial prepping courses for those trying to get in.

Mathematics plays a huge role in student selection nowadays, and it has been a matter of discussion if it should be reduced when the studies won’t require it. Of course, some people are able to get to their school of choice straight after high school. There has been a tendency towards faster start of the studies via favoring marticular examinations, but the selection test system is not likely to disappear any time soon.

Who can apply

The rule is that if you have completed the second level you can apply to the third level. If you’re heading to the university you usually take the high school. To get into a university of applied science you can take either high school of vocational school. Applying from a vocational school to university is unorthodox and usually these are cases where a person has been in the work-life from some years and then changed the plans. 

University of applied science

The idea behind University of applied science is that in some professions, you will need both a practical and theoretical approach. Examples of professions: nurse, police, several bachelors, several engineers and so on. Many of these studies can be completed in three years if you study full-time, but some of them are longer and it’s also common to comprise study and work. Sometimes it’s for money, but also for the experience and getting contacts. It’s also possible to do a couple extra years in UoAS and get to the masters level.

University

In Finland you will apply to study a certain subject and each faculty decides how they will take the students in. After you are in, you can usually select some supporting subjects. Theoretically, after three years you should be able to do your bachelor’s degree and after two additional years the master’s degree. Some students may do that faster and for some, it may take a bit longer time. 

After completing the third level?

If you are sure that you want to get a PhD and become an expert in your field, applying to doctoral studies can be your choice. But generally, if you don’t have a clear vision about a career in university, it would be a wise choice to get some experience in work life. Those with a degree and experience tend to have a wider choice of jobs than those with a PhD but no work life experience. 

How old are you when graduating?

If you do everything at an ideal pace, you would turn nineteen when completing level 2. The bachelor’s degree would be complete at age 22 and master’s degree at 24. But, for reasons explained above it’s typical to be slightly older than that.

Price

The education is basically free. In the old days, you had to buy your own books from level 2, but since it’s becoming mandatory the books will be included in the future. But the third level books you will have to buy, unless you get them from a student library.

Summary of the Finnish teachers’ education level throughout Finland’s education system: 

  • At the nursery, your teacher is a Bachelor of Arts (Education)
  • School years 0-6: Your teacher will have a master’s degree in Education
  • From year 7 to the end of high school: Your teachers will have a master’s degree on one of their subjects and one years worth of studies in additional subjects.
  • At the university, you’ll be of course teached by a PhD. (University of applied sciences may hold some exceptions.)

References:

[1] https://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/alkup/2012/20120421 
[2] https://www.oph.fi/fi/koulutus-ja-tutkinnot/esiopetuksen-tavoitteet
[3] https://minedu.fi/oppivelvollisuuden-laajentaminen
[4] https://www.studentum.fi/tietoa-opiskelijalle/ylioppilastutkinnon-kokeet-7790
[5] https://opintopolku.fi/wp/aikuiskoulutus/opettajan-pedagogiset-opinnot/yliopistotutkinnolla-opettajaksi/
[6] https://findikaattori.fi/fi/9
[7] https://www.oph.fi/fi/uutiset/2019/korkeakoulujen-yhteishaussa-opiskelupaikka-yli-48-000-opiskelijalle 

The picture is based on: The fact that level 2 is as wide as level 1 is based on the mandatory education now applied to everyone over 18. [3] At the moment, it would be a little narrower. The wideness of level three pieces is based on 2019 statistics that about 32% will study at the third level[6] and the information that about half of those start at some university of applied sciences[7]. The daycare part is based on my artistic view and understanding about the daycare system.