01 February 2008

Do you have the answer?

The BBC has a question for you: What makes a good teacher?

Their short answer is "I dunno," but the article does report what some experts in the field are thinking. It's not one's qualifications---the number of degrees you have or years of experience. Instead, the "best" teachers are ones who can build positive relationships with students, are reflective about their classroom work, and promote active engagement of the learner.

I know, I know, you're reading this and thinking "Duh." I am, too---and at the same time, when I ask myself this same question about what makes a good teacher, I'm not sure exactly what the answer is. We have lots of research out there, but is there truly a magic mix of attributes? Can we look at someone's characteristics and know for sure that they will be dynamite in the classroom?

I recently had an admin ask me "Are you a good teacher?" The question caught me off guard. Am I the best thing since Jaime Escalante in the classroom? Nope. Not even. I think I do all right in the classroom. I can't say that every day is successful and that every lesson reaches every kid and strikes all of the targets. I can say that I care about my students---both as human beings and learners. I'm interested in them as people and in helping them grow in their abilities. I can say that I make a conscious effort to plan lessons that provide more than one way to access the information...and try to use a variety of assessments to gauge what students can do. I want to find ways to help every kid and am frustrated when I can't. What did I tell the admin? I said that I did think I was a good teacher. When my students ask me why their other teachers don't teach like I do, I take that to mean I'm doing right by them. And that's all that should matter: Is what I do in the classroom good for kids? Do I have room for improvement? Definitely---and I'm okay with that.

What about you? What do you think makes a good teacher?


Unknown said...

Good morning,

I read your Feb. 1 post about What makes a good teacher? Your comments recognize the importance of the classroom community and classroom environment.

In the coming week we will host an online conversation with Brian Cambourne about his work on conditions of learning. We hope you will click below and join the discussion. There is no cost to subscribe, and unsubscribe information is at the bottom of each message posted on the listserve. Please take a look at the invitation. And please share this information with colleagues. We will be happy for you to join us.

Richard Owen


Jude said...

You! caring about student as human beings is #1; able to carry on a conversation; being frustrated when you can reach every kid or help them. Next time your admin ask, don't think or hesitate...say YES!
We all have room to improve; that is what keeps us challenged and coming back for more.

Hugh O'Donnell said...

Nothing like asking a great, big, open-ended question that someone should write a good book on!

I'd start with being a strong, but humble, forthright and just, gentle, moral human being, and go from there.

The Science Goddess said...

The funny thing is, we do have a lot of literature out there to tell us what makes a good teacher, but it must not be the answer people are either looking for or want to hear.

Perhaps people are hoping for a "recipe" of some sort---something that would allow you to take anyone and make them a good teacher. I don't think that's going to happen.

Barbra The Bloggess said...

I wonder if the admin. knew that answer about you....
Kind of slippery of him. The one thing about a 'humble' answer is once we are aware on our own humility we have missed it completely.
As an educator I can only go by what others tell me. I do what's required and the rest comes from the heart.
I work with young children so they have a "no bones about it attitude" when they say how they feel they are being treated. If your mean...they tell you and everyone else. You may even get a nasty nickname.
I have seen great teachers. The ones that go above and beyond. They don't strive for recognition and put their heart in their work. Their motive is clear-their is something transparent about it. They will be loved or disliked for it.
I know one thing...I've never heard and excellent teacher boast they were good...just that they could do better.