Teaching how to teach?
The Atlantic asks, “What makes a great teacher?”
Parents have always worried about where to send their children to school; but the school, statistically speaking, does not matter as much as which adult stands in front of their children. Teacher quality tends to vary more within schools—even supposedly good schools—than among schools.
But we have never identified excellent teachers in any reliable, objective way. Instead, we tend to ascribe their gifts to some mystical quality that we can recognize and revere—but not replicate. The great teacher serves as a hero but never, ironically, as a lesson.
At last, though, the research about teachers’ impact has become too overwhelming to ignore. Over the past year, President Barack Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, have started talking quite a lot about great teaching. They have shifted the conversation from school accountability— the rather worn theme of No Child Left Behind, President George W. Bush’s landmark educational reform—to teacher accountability. And they have done it using one very effective conversational gambit: billions of dollars. Continue reading here
The article by Amanda Ripley includes video clips of four different types of great teachers. Via the Teach for America video library at http://www.teachingasleadership.org (to be live beginning next month), the exemplars of effective teachers include The Motivator, The Tour Guide, The Manager, and The Connector.
Ripley’s article is interesting to read alongside Jay Mathews’ reflection on a recent study of teaching practices:
The Study of Instructional Improvement document rips a big hole in the idea that changes in those schools’ reading programs will have much effect on what going on in their classrooms.
The study led by Brian Rowan of the University of Michigan found extraordinary differences in what teachers in adjoining classrooms were doing, even in schools supposedly ruled by comprehensive reform models that dictated how everyone used every hour of the day.
“For instance,” Robert Rothman reported, “the study showed that a fifth-grade teacher might teach reading comprehension anywhere from 52 days a year to as many as 140 days a year. Similarly, first-grade teachers spent as little as 15 percent to as much as 80 percent of their time on word analysis. Thus, the study found, students in some classrooms may spend the majority of their classroom time on relatively low-level content and skills, while their peers in the class next door are spending much more time on higher level content.”