“I always wondered in school, why has nobody discovered me? Didn’t they see that I was more clever than anybody in the school? That the teachers had trouble learning, too? That all they had was information that I didn’t need? It was obvious to me. Why didn’t they train me? I was different. I was always different. Why didn’t anybody notice me?” – John Lennon
I recently had the opportunity to review our “Bright Lights” presentation which articulates the strategies and skills of many of our educators. I am always intrigued by the creativity, passion and reception by learners of others’ teaching practices. I remain captivated by the magic that professionals bring to the organization of teaching and subsequent learning that goes on in classrooms.
Teachers and teaching matters. Most people understand the impact of good teachers and research supports this contention. Let’s review some of the research on good teachers and great teaching.
The RAND corporation in a recent study using student results on standardized tests revealed that being taught by an effective teacher has important consequences for student achievement. They found:
1. Teachers matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling.
2. Non-school factors do influence student achievement, but they are largely outside a school’s control.
3. Effective teachers are best identified by their performance, not by their background or experience.
4. Effective teachers tend to stay effective even when they change schools.
Russell Bishop (2003) provided us with one of the most effective interventions available for all students but most importantly for minority students and that was the belief that teachers have in their students. He argued that those teachers who come into classrooms with the belief that students can learn and achieve to a high standard and who work collaboratively with others in this proposition actually help students learn more and to a higher level.
John Hattie, in his book, Visible Learning (2008) concluded that effective teachers exhibit characteristics. Some of these include:
1. They are directive, influential, caring, and actively and passionately engaged in the process of teaching and learning
2. They are aware of what each and every student in their class is thinking and what they know, and what they are capable of achieving.
ReLeah Cossett Lent in the book “Overcoming Textbook Fatigue; 21st Century Tools to Revitalize Teaching and Learning” , provided some interesting strategies and learning activities that are used by good teachers in promoting student success. These included Inquiry Based Learning, Project Based Learning and Students Collaborations. These are all activities that are not new to any of us. However Lent discussed the effect of the following as foundations that influence learning even more when used as elements in instruction:
1. Respect and Relationship building by the teacher
2. Communities of teachers working collaboratively to support students (must be visible to the learner)
3. Teachers as coaches to students and each other
Michael Strong in his book “The Highly Qualified Teacher” outlines the personal attributes of teachers as articulated by young learners. The top 12 characteristics most consistently mentioned by the students were:
1. Cooperative, democratic attitude
2. Kindliness and consideration of the individual
4. Wide interests
5. Personal appearance and pleasing manner
6. Fairness and impartiality
7. Sense of Humour
8. Good disposition and consistent behaviour
9. Interest in pupils’ problems
11. Use of recognition and praise
12. Unusual proficiency in teaching a particular subject.
Again it is reinforced for me that there are terrific educators working around us. The best are those who have a personality that allows them to connect with the learners they serve, an orientation to working collaboratively as a community of learners and professionals and have skills in the organization and presentation of learning activities.
Sounds easier that it really is. We are fortunate to have so many terrific educators in our district.
“Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear, and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions, and you will cultivate success. Dream” – Lao Tzu