Message from the Principal
Few things seem to be more debated than how best to educate our young people! Everyone seems to have an opinion and they think theirs is right! It certainly is one of those issues whereby if ten people are interviewed on the topic, one gets ten different opinions or variations as to what are “best practices” in teaching.
This school year marks my 25th year of observing teachers - trying to assist them in their efforts to be the best teacher they can be. During that quarter of a century of classroom observations, there have been countless educational initiatives that were “supposed” to transform the way students learn. A small sampling of these initiatives include block scheduling, discovery learning, distance learning, balanced calendar, data projectors, iPads, e-textbooks and student directed learning. All of these initiatives have some ability to impact student learning in a positive way; however, I believe unequivocally that none of them are at the root of what really drives student learning.
After a quarter of century of classroom observations, it remains very clear to me that the factors most directly linked to student learning are the following: (1) the teacher’s extensive subject matter knowledge, (2) the teacher’s passion for their subject matter; (3) the teacher’s love for kids and passion for being around kids; (4) the teacher who sees themselves as a lifelong learner who always works to adapt and fine tune their craft.
I would like to elaborate on each of these factors that I believe most significantly impact student learning.
Subject matter knowledge
Simply put, one cannot teach effectively what one does not know thoroughly. A teacher’s subject matter knowledge must feature both breadth and depth. Experience has shown me that teachers who excel in this area do so in a couple of very specific ways: (1) They articulate complicated, hard to understand concepts in a clearer, more concise fashion than other teachers, (2) They are far more adept than other teachers at bringing students who are unclear or puzzled about a topic to a point of understanding .
Passion for subject matter
“Listen, if you can’t get excited about this material how in the world do you expect the students to be attentive and/or excited about?” Occasionally, but fortunately not very often, I have had to share that sentiment with a teacher. Regardless of whether it is a teacher in the classroom or a presenter at a conference, no one wants to be sitting in front of a speaker who lacks passion for their topic. Student engagement is almost always a by-product of a passionate delivery by the teacher.
A love for kids and being around kids
In recollecting over those 25 years of classroom observations, I cannot think of one great teacher who did not have an unabashed love for kids and a strong comfort level being around them. I recall a couple of very effective, good teachers who did not seem to like teenagers; did not seem to enjoy being around them. This kept them from being the very best teacher they could be. Their subject matter knowledge was impressive. Their passion for their subject matter was obvious. However, they were clearly uncomfortable around teens and had an almost confrontational approach to their teaching style. This compromised classroom climate and student-teacher interaction to such an extent that it kept them from being “great” in the classroom.
Lifelong learner – always seeking ways to improve their teaching
The great teachers have inquisitive minds. The great teachers are always reflecting on their teaching with a mindset of “How can I make it better?” The great teachers seek out other teachers to talk about their craft. The great teachers read professional literature with the intent of trying to expand their knowledge, their skills and their strategies. What the great teachers don’t do is pull out the same lesson plans each year and simply reteach them!!
One can only imagine what educational initiatives will be unveiled in the next 25 years, especially in lieu of the ever changing landscape of technology. Regardless, I think it is a safe bet that the factors that go into making a great teacher in 2038 won’t look a lot different than they look in 2013 or a lot different than they looked in 1988 when I started observing teachers in the classroom.
As always, please join me in praying for a safe, successful and productive school year for all Rebels!
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