from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

What Is a Good Teacher? 

this is cross-posted from www.dailykos.com

One of the focuses of the NCLB education law is that every student is supposed to have a "highly qualified" teacher.  And yet the way that status is determined may have nothing to do with the teacher's effectiveness in the classroom.

When I was doing research towards my never finished doctorate I was interested in characteristics of excellent teachers, not because I thought you could develop a checklist that could then be copied [we've tried that before] but because I felt that if we examined excellent teachers we might find out that our entire approach to evaluating teachers was wrong.

I am on several list from the American Educational Research Association (AERA), one of which, AERA-K, is dedicated to issues of teaching.   It was as a result of being a member of that list that some months ago I encountered what I will offer in this diary.  

Let me note that by most normal means of evaluating teachers I usually come off fairly well -- my students do their work, perform well on tests, my records are up to date, etc. But I usually feel that the way I am observed and evaluated is not a fair or accurate reflection  of what I am like as a teacher.

When I enountered this offering, so much of it rang true to me.  So, without further ado, let me offer  you the statement by a man who done extensive research on eachers and teaching and come to the following conclusions:

Traits of a "Good" Teacher
By Alan Haskvitz

"Some say that my teaching is nonsense. Others call it lofty but impractical. But to those who have looked  inside themselves, this nonsense makes perfect sense. And to those who put it into practice, this loftiness has roots that go deep. "

First, there is no hard and fast list that tells you who is a good teacher or who is not a good teacher. However, there are traits that excellent teachers have in common. These are not the usual qualities such as being a good friend, or have a nice personality. These are what researchers from around the world have found when they watched those teachers whose students
excelled once they left that teacher's classroom. Of course, not every teacher is going to be a skillful teacher for every child and a child spends only about eight percent of the year in school which means that
regardless of the quality of teacher a supportive home environment is essential to excellent learning.

Be unsatisfied
The first trait of a high-quality teacher is that he or she is a good learner. They are always eager to learn new things, expand their knowledge base, experiment with better ways to achieve success. They are life long
learners and they produce life long learners. So, the first trait is to be unsatisfied with what is. In other words, the best teacher is always a student.

High expectations
High expectations are the second trait of outstanding teachers. I once had a principal who said that having high expectations created failure. In other words, the principal did not want to set high goals for fear of having parent complaints. In reality, setting high standards brings out the best in students and creates in them a feeling of accomplishment. They become self-reliant, learn to delay gratification, and fit more readily into adulthood where competition is inevitable. High standards are not impossible standards. Setting high expectations may require making the student uncomfortable, much like taking the training wheels off a bicycle. In other words, good teachers encourage risk taking and accept errors.

Create indepedency
Thirdly, highly effective educators are adept at monitoring student problems and progress. They remediate when necessary and differentiate as needed. To do this they use their time well. They are not the center of the classroom. The students are encouraged to look for help and answers on their own. They are passionate about not teaching, but facilitating learning. As such, they are promoting their own obsolescence. Just as a fine manager has a team in place that can operate well without him or her, a good teacher creates in a student a sense of self that lasts a lifetime.  They promote a deeper understanding or concepts and work habits than just learning the curriculum suggests. In other words, they create independency.

Fourth, they possess a deep knowledge of the subject matter and are able to manipulate, simplify, and individualize this data more easily because they are a master of it. To gain this they are not just hard workers, but have a passion for the subject. They are able to empathize with students who might not like that subject and turn that lack of enthusiasm around by presenting the facts from a different angle. In other words, their bumper sticker reads, " This teacher stops for new ideas."

Fifth, first-class teachers have a good sense of humor. They make jokes and accept jokes. They are not comedians, but they are entertaining. They tell stories, point out silly things, bring joy to difficult situations, and are not afraid of laughter. They use humor to connect to their students. In other words, excellent teachers keep the students' attention without fear.

The sixth trait is to provide quick and accurate assessment of student work. Tests and other projects are evaluated in a timely manner.  The student work may not be filled with red marks or gold stars, but it is returned with the understanding of what was right and what could be improved. Without constant evaluation a learning child cannot make the progress of a student who is guided. A helpful teacher does not discourage original thinking, but it must be proven. At all times, the best educator is looking for the student's reasoning rather than the answer. In other words, student assessment is a teacher's assessment and provides ideas of what changes need to be made for both of them to improve because they are insightful.

Seventh, the best teachers use the community as their resource. They see education as more than what is done in the classroom. They belong to civic groups, participate in organizations, and use their contacts to enhance student learning. For example, they bring in guest speakers, seek donations from the community as needs arise, and allow their students to display their work for the citizenry to critique and enjoy. They use technology as an extension of the community and find new resources to make their lessons more attractive. They use a newspaper and current events to open a child's mind to what is happening in the world and at all times they search for a teachable moment. That is any instance where a child expresses an interest in something that could be used to stimulate their learning. This includes both negative and positive items and is the main reason that lesson plans are never mentioned as a trait of good teaching because superior teachers abandon them to follow more encouraging leads. This is why educators and education is so misunderstood by those who feel that children are cans of soup, all alike and open ready for knowledge to be poured in and sealed.  Excellent teachers encourage student input and use the community to make for more invigorating teaching.  In other words, a quality instructor is a master of flexibility.

Eighth, a first-rate teacher provides an array of methods to learn. They integrate the lessons among several subjects, they have research papers, artwork, poetry, and even physical education as part of the learning process. For example, when a child is studying an explorer the teacher shows them how many miles per hour they walk, how to create a graph of the calories they would need, make a map of the trip with legend, write a journal of what they saw, draw pictures of the flora and fauna, and make a presentation of what the student felt was the best and worst part of the discovery. In other words, the proficient educator offers children a diverse array of avenues to pursue  excellence.

Ninth, a quality teacher is unaccepting.  They do not accept pat answers.  They do not accept first drafts. They do not accept false excuses. They are not the easiest teachers because of this trait. The rationale for this trait was the need for a child to be educated. Education is in essence the disciplining of the mind. A student who knows the rules knows what to expect and knows what is right. The best teachers are those that have standards that are appropriate and that build good habits. In other words, a superior teacher understands what a child needs now and in the future.

The tenth, and perhaps most interesting traits, is that a quality teacher keeps the children off balance.  The student is not bored, but challenged. When a child who has a  skillful teacher comes home they talk about what they did in class. They are riled up, they are motivated, and they know they need to be ready for the unexpected. A high-quality teacher can be dressed up in an outfit, show a video, take them to the library, have them work on a project, create lessons for one another, work on a computer, proofread a classmate's work, and invent a game to play at recess all before noon. One day is seldom like the next. There is continuity, but diversity is everywhere.

A communicator
What is of note is that not one research paper or comment said that a trait of good quality teachers were their bulletin boards, tidy rooms, easy grades, ability to write neatly, or dress well. All the traits dealt with the ability to trigger learning and that is the most important trait of all, the ability to communicate, the final trait of superior teachers.

Below are traits of good teachers as expressed by young people around the world from UNESCO.

 From Indonesia
  A great teacher smiles to his/her pupils even when they screw him up. A good teacher shows the whole wide world to the students.

 From India
One who help his students in all respects. He makes his students able to live better life. He teaches students to take decisions in all the conditions.

 From Croatia
A really good teacher should be child in his soul...

 From Ireland
It is fundamental that a teacher cares about humanity in general.

 From Chile
A good teacher is someone who can learn from his students, who can learn with them, and for them.

 From Egypt
To win their confidence should be the teacher's first aim - though strictness has to be in its place.

  From Germany
A good teacher, of course, has to be humorous... a teacher has to enjoy what she does!  Has to remember how it was when he/she was a child

A guide...
A real friend is someone who knows all about you and still he loves you. A good teacher is a good friend.
Good teaching is keeping yourself in the shoes of your students.

One who doesn't 'teach' but instead is willing to 'learn' with the child and from the child.

 From Mexico
The teacher is to the students what the rain is to the field.

 From Chad
A good teacher should answer all questions, even if they are stupid.

 From Jamaica
To become a good teacher, you not only teach the children but you also have to learn from them.

 From Nigeria
A good teacher must be prepared to be foolish if that will help his pupil attain wisdom.
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