I've spent some time this week thinking about what makes for a "good" teacher. There are much better minds than I (and others with far more influence, for better or worse) who are trying to get down to the nuts and bolts of good teachers---and I will leave them to their own work. Me? I've been thinking about perspective.
If I talk to parents about what makes for a good teacher, would I get a different list of attributes than if I asked a fellow teacher? What about the difference---if any---for different grade bands. Is a good elementary teacher different from a good high school teacher? What do students and administrators think?
What happens in a classroom is a complex dynamic. Can we...should we separate it from the factors that exist outside of it in order to identify what qualifies as "good"?
Part of what has been driving my thinking about this has been the projects I'm doing at work. Rest assured that I have absolutely no part of teacher quality discussions in this state. Rather, I've been interested to watch the participation in the ongoing field tests and opportunities for feedback and PD around the new assessments. Elementary teachers? They are ecstatic about jumping in to help. They communicate amongst themselves...collaborate and support one another in trying things out. They share. Middle school teachers? Maybe not quite as enthusiastic of a response as elementary, but still very collegial in their approach. High school teachers? *crickets* It is as if there is a continuum of hot interest to frigid refusal as you move up in grades.
Being a former high school teacher, I find this intriguing. Many of the high school teachers who have had at least a toe in this work are fantastic classroom teachers (by my personal standards). They give everything they have to their students, care deeply about their content...and struggle to commit to their own peers. This is not new to me---I could pull any number of posts from my archives detailing my frustrations with lack of support from other teachers in my high school. But recent events have me wondering: Can you be a good teacher if you're only good within the confines of your classroom?