Sunday, January 17, 2010

What is a great teacher?

My last post on mediocre teaching created a lot of "buzz" in my elementary building. I'm not talking about the kind of buzz from too much coffee before an 8:00 am staff meeting, but rather the kind of buzz that energizes people into thinking about their practices in the classroom.

One teacher asked me if average teachers (I prefer mediocre) think they are good in the classroom. I quickly answered "yes" deciding that most teachers who think they are good instructors have obviously lost the ability to reflect on their practice. Instead, I asked the teacher this question, "Do our great teachers know they are great?"

Think about it. I have seen some excellent teachers in the classroom that leave the building each day asking themselves what they could have done better. Great teachers put in long hours each week, feel frustration when a lesson is not perfect, are dedicated to the profession, and constantly look for ways to improve. A great teacher has the innate ability to ensure that every child learns regardless of the child's circumstances or abilities.

We, as educational leaders, need to tell our great teachers everyday that they are the best person in that classroom!

The following excerpt comes from the 6 + 1 Traits of Writing: The Complete Guide (Grades 3 and up) by Ruth Culham. I think this best captures the qualities of a great teacher.

A Good Teacher
(Written by an 8th grader)

To be a good teacher, one needs to love kids, love education, be caring, dedicated, cheerful, etc. Yeah, we've all heard it before. We've been writing this essay since 2nd grade. It's what we're expected to tell you in our big, colorful words for our big, colorful grade. Sure, I agree, it does take all all of that, but maybe it takes a wee bit more, hmm?

Maybe a good teacher need passion. Not necessarily for teaching, but for life. Perhaps they need to be rebellious and independent, as opposed to standard issue Model A.

I think a good teacher should teach what's in their hearts. They should be outrageous and have fun with their subjects. They should be there to give advice, but they should not force it upon those who don't want it.

A good teacher should understand that being free spirited doesn't mean you're stupid and that being shy doesn't' mean you have no opinions. I think a good teacher could let loose and be causal. Let us have our freedoms without losing control.

They must realize that I am not 4, nor am I 40. A good teacher should never fear a new idea. They shouldn't be afraid to make mistakes. They should respect me and my privacy, understanding that this will bring respect to them.

A good teacher must realize that we are individuals. They should involves us in discussions and teach us about reality and things that are relevant to us. They should understand that we don't need to be sheltered as much anymore. Now we need to be taught.

A good teacher listens.

A good teacher learns.

If you leave the school building each day thinking to yourself, "What could I have done better today?" Take a moment to pat yourself on the back. You are a great teacher.

1 comment:

  1. I love that essay... I remember being inspired by that when I used the book with my students. As an administrator it's nice to be able to make someone's day by acknowledging their hard work and accomplishments with students. Perhaps I should spend more time doing so!
    I also want to say this: Although it's not the easiest job, we owe it to our students to be honest enough with staff to tell them when they need to improve. I'm currently in a situation as a new principal where the staff was always told what a "great job" they'd done, year after year, with no real sense of urgency for teachers to grow professionally or challenge the status quo. This has resulted in stagnant performance for our students.
    "A good teacher learns" is the last sentence in the excerpt you mentioned. I couldn't agree more, and it's my job to help them do so!