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What Makes a Great Teacher?

There is A LOT that makes a great teacher. I guess that's why this topic comes up over and over and over again. Hard to pin down and wrap it in some formulaic response. However, The Atlantic "What makes a Great Teacher", just tried to and though they hit a lot of nails, they didn't manage to really build a house.

They expound on the "Teach for America", "Race for the Top" and "New Teacher Project", all cash cows to both come up with the silver bullet that will kill a "bad teacher" and the "ecstasy pill" to make a great one. Poppycock! Each teacher must create their own system or be ruled by another.

First, they got the measuring stick all wrong! You don't measure success in education through test scores, nor do you use test scores as the measure of a teacher. Partly because you'll just be whipping lint off the microscopes and mostly because teaching isn't about "da numbers" but about creating a happy child. You'll never find out who is the "great teacher" unless you measure test scores over long periods of time AND make better tests. But still you are only getting a piece of the puzzle. I say to all this testing to determine a "Great teacher" - Poppycock!

Making a great teacher takes so much. So much that isn't even in control of a teacher (and so you got to judge things from that perspective also). Here's a picture of it....


Further, a great teacher is as the article suggests, about a person who constantly tinkers and changes (which is anathema to a "test driven culture and classroom). However, I challenge the whole "Teach America Team" to stir me up a soup that will make a great teacher. There is no recipe!

The article has a lot of thoughtful things in it. Teach America has thrown out some tired assumptions. However, why do they come up with their own assumptions that will just no sooner than my cheap suit, be tomorrow's second hand store item? It really is frustrating this wish, this need, this want for "pie in the sky".

From my own perspective, there are only two things that make a difference in the classroom. One, have passion and show it in your own manner as a teacher, gain their respect and have a rapport. Two, tell the kids they are smart, tell them they can do it. Sell success. All the rest, poppycock! (and see this blog post for more thoughts on the objective of education)

Here's an old presentation I show to new teachers - highlighting all the things that go into being an effective English language teacher. (there's a lot I've left out, including a good "poppycock" detector!). I recommend this much more thoughtful, recent essay about - A good Teacher.. Further, if you have the time, this ebook on The Master Teacher is full of great advice and common sense.


Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0

Views: 639


Supporter
Comment by Ellen Pham on January 12, 2010 at 12:42am
Such a lovely mind map.... I might be more specific (or actually, more general!) with the "Prior Knowledge" and call it Prior Experiences.... because people need to be reminded that this includes more than "book learning"... but lovely.

Also,

From my own perspective, there are only two things that make a difference in the classroom. One, have passion and show it in your own manner as a teacher, gain their respect and have a rapport. Two, tell the kids they are smart, tell them they can do it.

Lovely.
Comment by Cristina Milos on January 12, 2010 at 5:33pm
This reminds me of some words that Paul Benson (an educator I follow on Twitter) said in relation to teachers/teaching:
Paul Benson

Tomorrow must always be another day. Learners HATE you ‘dragging up the past’.

Don’t treat learners as a group. They are not all the same. Don’t let a minority skew your view of the whole class.

Remember that the students want to do well too.

Learners are like bacteria – eventually they become immune to certain strategies, especially those which we use too often.

Constantly reassure learners that you like them.

Encourage learners, much as you would a runner in a running race - particularly with pace & final laps.

Supporter
Comment by Ellen Pham on January 13, 2010 at 12:20am
More words to live by, Cristina! Your classroom sounds so warm and secure. And not boring!

This is a freeing concept, that has the effect of making everything ok:

Tomorrow must always be another day. Learners HATE you ‘dragging up the past’

I've found that nowhere in life is this easier to implement and believe than in the classroom!

And this one made me laugh:

Learners are like bacteria – eventually they become immune to certain strategies, especially those which we use too often.

Strategies exist to facilitate learning- not the other way around!

But our real ace-in-the-whole as teachers is, to constantly reassure learners that you like them. And to make sure that's true, no faking!! If we run into a problem in this area, it is up to us, the adult, to examine ourselves to figure out why we are having this response, and change whatever we need to in ourselves (not the kid!)

That's the way I see it, anyway.

Supporter
Comment by ddeubel on March 8, 2010 at 11:28am
Here is an article on "Uncommon schools" with a lot of insightful comments about "micro teaching" skills. Good reading about how the little things matter.

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