Archive for January 6th, 2010
Snow is falling in St. Louis at midnight. This is one of my favorite times. Everything becomes exceedingly quiet and beautiful in a new way. It’s almost like you are on a movie set, because it seems a little too perfect. I ran outside with my camera on a tripod and took this shot looking west from the median in front of my house.
First, great teachers tended to set big goals for their students. They were also perpetually looking for ways to improve their effectiveness. For example, when Farr called up teachers who were making remarkable gains and asked to visit their classrooms, he noticed he’d get a similar response from all of them: “They’d say, ‘You’re welcome to come, but I have to warn you—I am in the middle of just blowing up my classroom structure and changing my reading workshop because I think it’s not working as well as it could.’ When you hear that over and over, and you don’t hear that from other teachers, you start to form a hypothesis.” Great teachers, he concluded, constantly reevaluate what they are doing. Superstar teachers had four other tendencies in common: they avidly recruited students and their families into the process; they maintained focus, ensuring that everything they did contributed to student learning; they planned exhaustively and purposefully—for the next day or the year ahead—by working backward from the desired outcome; and they worked relentlessly, refusing to surrender to the combined menaces of poverty, bureaucracy, and budgetary shortfalls.
Are great teachers flashy? Not necessarily. Teach America is:
not very interested in the things I noticed most: charisma, ambitious lesson objectives, extroversion. What matters more, at least according to Teach for America’s research, is less flashy: Were you prepared? Did you achieve your objective in five minutes?
This article points out that having a good teacher really matters. Great teachers work hard at teaching and they get good results, regardless of their circumstances; they don’t blame poverty and family dysfunction, even where those things do exist.