What makes a good teacher?

What makes a great teacher is someone who teaches you more than just that subject. They teach you how to be a better person, how to act everyday, and live your life to the fullest. Teachers teach, but great teachers help us learn and live.

~ Brooklyn, 12th grader, Fairfax R-3 – “A Great Teacher is…”

teacher quote2

In 2009 Bill Gates explained during a TED Talk what makes a good teacher…

“…A top quartile teacher will increase the performance of their class based on test scores – by over 10 percent in a single year…

What are the characteristics of this top quartile? You might think these must be very senior teachers. And the answer is no. Once somebody has taught for three years their teaching quality does not change thereafter

Now, there are a few places — very few — where great teachers are being made. A good example of one is a set of charter schools called KIPP…

They’re constantly improving their teachers. They’re taking data, the test scores,and saying to a teacher, “Hey, you caused this amount of increase.” They’re deeply engaged in making teaching better…

I think there are some clear things we can do…First of all, there’s a lot more testing going on, and that’s given us the picture of where we are.

Putting a few cameras in the classroom and saying that things are being recorded on an ongoing basis is very practical in all public schools… have it so everyone sees who is the very best at teaching this stuff.

You can take those great courses and make them available so that a kid could go out and watch the physics course, learn from that. If you have a kid who’s behind, you would know you could assign them that video to watch and review the concept.

And in fact, these free courses could not only be available just on the Internet, but you could make it so that DVDs were always available, and so anybody who has access to a DVD player can have the very best teachers.

And so by thinking of this as a personnel system, we can do it much better.”

Bill Gates: “Mosquitos, malaria and education” TED Talk, February 2009

Effective and experienced educators know that good teaching is about building and maintaining individual relationships based on mutual respect and trust. Students learn best when they have emotional rather than digital access to their teachers.

Unless there is a connection between teacher, student and lesson, learning becomes tiresome to all involved. Veteran educator, James Comer, states that, ‘No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.’…

There is the belief among some that camaraderie between teachers and students leads to unprofessional familiarity or places the teacher in a weakened position in the classroom. Nothing could be further from the truth. Strong relationships encourage learner exploration, dialogue, confidence, and mutual respect

Of course, we can do just about anything online, including teaching and learning. But I guess I am just old school. I want to look into your eyes when the answer finally dawns on you. I want to hear that inflection in your voice when you are angry with me. I want to see the smile on your face when you forgive me. I want to share in the joy when we both realize that we make a good team.”

WATCH: How A Teacher Encouraged Her Students With An ‘F’ Rita F. Pierson 7/3/13

comer

You know the purpose of the school is not just to raise test scores, or to give children academic learning. The purpose of the school is to give children an experience that will help them grow and develop in ways that they can be successful, in school and as successful adults. They have to grow in a way that they can take care of themselves, get an education, take care of a family, be responsible citizens of the society and of their community. Now you don’t get that simply by raising test scores.”

School-By-School Reform: Dr. James P. Comer Interview PBS 2005

Using students’ standardized test score to measure the quality of teachers is like counting patients’ cavities to evaluate the skills of a dentist or using patients’ blood pressure and cholesterol scores at the end of the year to determine the effectiveness of their doctors.

These tests provide limited information regarding the overall health of the patient and just like a standardized test, they cannot determine the influence and impact of pre-existing conditions, patient behavior, and environmental factors on the test scores.

It seems Bill Gates and other reformers have not considered the possibility that an educator who can train students to get high test scores may not be a good teacher.

Rather than rely on Bill Gates or scores on a standardized test, what if we were to ask students, what makes a good teacher?…

A more meaningful measure of teacher effectiveness and quality would be how he or she raises the aspirations and confidence of students rather than how much the teacher raises standardized test scores.

I’m clumsy, yeah my head’s a mess Cause you got me growing taller everday…

But you got me feeling like I’m stepping on buildings, cars and boats I swear I could touch the sky…I’m ten feet tall.

You build me up Make me what I never was…

~ Afrojack, “Ten Feet Tall”

Students will learn more from good teachers who collect hugs and care about them, than from great teachers who are more concerned with collecting data and comparing them to others.

One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.  ~ Carl Jung

60237_475187302512542_878841619_n

“Being a good teacher is a lot like being a good gardener. Good gardeners are optimistic and patient. They are able to see the potential in those struggling young seedlings and enjoy watching them grow, develop and bloom. They give special tender loving care to those few plants that are struggling and not thriving.

They don’t blame the plant when it’s not performing well; they check the growing conditions. Is the soil the plant is growing in suitable or does it need amending? Does the plant need more water; does the plant need less water? Does the plant need more sunshine; does the plant need less sunshine. 

Good gardeners are good problem solvers, but realize that sometimes no matter what you do, the plant still will not grow the way you would like it to.”

~ Elona Hartjes, “Good Teachers Are Like Good Gardeners”

Advertisements

Performance Standards

testiop

The Common Core’s emphasis on higher learning standards is well intended but poorly executed and evaluated. Standards are expectations of student learning and skill development. Skills must be acquired by students rather than imparted by teachers or the standards.

We are mistakenly evaluating student learning and predicting future outcomes based on how well a child meets a particular standard of performance at a predetermined moment in time regardless of individual circumstance, ability, or disability.

Availability of funding, class size, academic support programs, wrap around services, along with numerous other  “barriers to learning” that exist outside of school and beyond the reach of teachers, can also have an impact and diminish student performance.

Furthermore, cognitive skills emerge and develop differently in people depending on both genetic and environmental factors, and that is why K-12 education programs should focus on the acquisition and cultivation of individualized, customized, and transferable skills, rather than standardized ones.

dewey

Conversely, learning activities that foster the development of foundational social and emotional skills and cultivate student agency should be standard practice and a primary focus of all K-12 programs.

Students learn differently and school programs that emphasize a standardized curriculum and standardized testing will not by osmosis standardize student skills and abilities or synchronize student learning.

Students must actively participate in the learning process and care to do better if their performance is going to improve.

Learning is not done to you.

learning is something you choose to do.

~Seth Godin

10398680_776118422419989_2663671610843062905_n

Student agency and self-efficacy is an essential component of achievement and learning in school. The appropriate and effective application of hard skills is soft skills dependent.

Rather than a narrow focus on the acquisition of “college ready” numeracy and literacy skills measured by a standardized test, K-12 education programs should cultivate the development of diverse academic, social, and emotional skills that will prepare students for the real “tests” in life.

Common Core’s misguided emphasis on rigorous “college ready” math and ELA skills may be well intended, but in practice other critically important skills and vigorous learning experiences are crowded out and receive less attention in the classroom.

A broad-based and well balanced K-12 education program will help to assure that each child achieves his or her academic, social, and emotional potential as they acquire a comprehensive and customized set of life skills and “tools”.

A contractor may possess the literacy skills to understand building plans, permits, and blueprints along with the numeracy skills to construct a level, square, and properly angled structure but that is of little consequence if he or she lacks the self-confidence and courage to climb a ladder and the balance to work on a roof.

1779350_711748105523688_1724889301_n

Every person is unique and cognitive ability will always differ among our students. K-12 education programs must include activities and diverse experiences or “pathways” that cultivate academic, social, emotional, and vocational skills that will enhance and support student learning and growth throughout life.

Passion-driven learning respects students as individual learners with unique interests, talents, and abilities while data-driven Common Core education programs seek to rate, sort, and compare students according to a narrow and standardized set of math and ELA skills.

respect

Cognitively delayed and disabled students who are resourceful, creative, persistent, self-reliant, compassionate, generous, curious, confident, flexible, open-minded, courageous, resilient, and volunteer will succeed in college and careers.

Students who are academically and cognitively proficient but are selfish, lazy, hesitant, dishonest, unreliable, dispassionate, rigid, compelled, doubtful, indifferent, spiritless, unimaginative, and narrow minded will not be successful in college and work environments.

A more accurate and reliable indicator or predictor of “readiness” is not how well you perform on a standardized test at a particular moment in time, but whether you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and continue learning and striving towards a higher level of performance.

It is foolish to claim that all high school graduates must first acquire the same “college ready” Common Core math and ELA skills in order to attend and succeed in college, when they just need to be “ready to learn” and apply the numeracy and literacy skills they do have in more advanced and challenging ways.

What would have been the likelihood of Michael Jordan being “career ready” if his K-12 schooling was focused primarily on acquiring the same math and ELA skills as his classmates at the expense of time spent discovering his passion and developing his unique and special athletic skills and abilities?

04fdaec72805f22c3e50009875c3526d