Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Is this really what makes a good Teacher?

Mr. McGuire in the The Reading Workshop blog laid out these inspirations in a post titled "What makes a good teacher."
  1. Interpersonal skills trump professional skills.
  2. Give students a job and let them do it.
  3. Be open and collaborative, but step in when needed.
  4. Be visible.
  5. Keep a sense of perspective.
  6. Finally, be a decent human being.
I look at this list and can't find "teacher" nor can I find anything that accepts the idea that the adult in the room is supposed to be imparting anything to the teenagers in the room. Everything screams "I am insecure in my knowledge and I doubt that the students are looking to me for anything."

Implicit is the idea that students are the equals of teachers, that their opinions are based on the same amount of experience and understanding. "Give them a job and let them do it" implies the teacher is only a obstacle to student achievement.

I know that some will blast me for saying this, but tough. If the kids were truly the equal of the teacher, why bother with the teacher? Why spend so much time, effort and money getting teachers to write curricula, design assessments and lesson plans, take workshops on classroom management and all the million other things we do? Plop him in front of the technology he loves so much and keep your old-school ways out of his way - yeah, <sarcasm> that works real well. </sarcasm> Just look at how much they accomplished last summer.

Why is being decent, having perspective and being visible, open and collaborative considered the be-all and end-all of good teaching? I think it's because so many of us are lousy teachers who aren't properly prepared, so we focus on our smiles instead of our subject. Being decent and all is important but it is not what makes a "Good Teacher."

When did the adults abdicate their responsibilities to be the leaders, to be the teachers? Why does that old joke about "those who can" still hold so much traction? The answers to these questions are complementary.

But not very complimentary to the profession.


  1. I don't dismiss all of this out of hand. But I dismiss most of it.

    For someone (who seems to be quite often) on the opposite end of the political spectrum, I find myself in surprisingly frequent agreement. Good teaching trumps all?

  2. In his book, The First Days of School Harry Wong says, "the one doing the work is the one doing the learning." I am a firm believer in this. So when I say, "give the students a job and let them do it," I am talking about having a class where students are active learners vs. a class where the teacher lectures for the entire period attempting to pour knowledge into the students' brain.

    When looking at my post, and seeing how you stretched it, I believe you must win the gold medal for the Olympics in the triple jump. :)

    I do believe their are classes where the old school ways may work, I just have never been a student in one.

    Even though we may not agree on our styles of teaching, thank you for giving me something to consider!