What Makes a Great Teacher? – Magazine – The Atlantic

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.

via What Makes a Great Teacher? – Magazine – The Atlantic.

Worrying about our education system in this country is one of the few things that truly nags my mind.  I think I could become obsessed about the problem if I had more time to contemplate the problem.

What is the problem? I see the symptoms in my “day job” manifested in high school “graduates” who can barely fill out applications for court-appointed legal representation and one, if you can believe it, spelled his name differently in two places on the application. I hear of failures of education when colleges have to provide remedial courses for students who took dual-credit courses (whom you might have assumed were high-achieving students).

For all of those reasons I was intrigued by this article describing an objective approach to identifying truly effective teachers and learning what makes them different — different in that they are bringing their students along much faster than their peers.  Bill Bennett talks of studies demonstrating that getting rid of the lowest-performing 5% of teachers can have dramatic effect on the overall educational results in America.

Let’s figure out what makes great teachers great and try to replicate the distinguishing features. America cannot survive and retain its place in the world if we don’t.

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About Gil Jones

CPA/Attorney/Judge by training and trade. Hobby nut at heart with BMW m/c, computers, ham radio, kayak fishing, photography, hiking and, starting in 2010 some semi-serious running and bicycling (road and mountain bikes). Retired after 16 years on a Texas District Court bench and since 2013 have been mediating cases. I am a Credentialed Distinguished mediator (TMCA).
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3 Responses to What Makes a Great Teacher? – Magazine – The Atlantic

  1. Pingback: Chinese Democracy from Atlantic Magazine at Thomas W. Johnston

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  3. Most of us have at least two perspectives concerning the effectiveness of teachers. We were once students affected by teachers and many of us have children who are affected by teachers. I have a third I worked side by side with teachers as an instructional aide in the public schools and as a coach in both the public and private schools. Reading the article “What Makes a Great Teacher?” brought a smile to my face and gives me some hope in the future of our education system.

    I believe that great teachers should be rewarded while extraordinarily poor teachers should be purged. The Teach for America model of identifying the most effective educators and its goal to replicate those teachers should be the criteria used in every school district.

    As a student I recall Mrs. Hundley quietly standing on her desk at MF High when she needed to express something of importance and I recall continuous use of positive reinforcement, like Mr. Taylor in the article, to teach.

    At MFISD I taught alongside several master teachers who always seemed to have control of their classrooms and the adoration, and respect, of their students who seldom found the need to raise their voices, who utilized peer teaching and who kept their students engaged, teachers like Mrs. Nesrsta.

    As a parent I’ve seen my daughter respond to exceptional teachers like Mrs. Warren who are always in contact with parents and who are always looking for innovative ways to teach a lesson, teachers who are adored by their students and who have the test scores to justify the teacher bonuses that are discussed in the article.

    Unfortunately, I’ve seen teachers who are on the opposite end of the spectrum. When I was forced to deal with my daughter’s inability to pass the Achievement Test to advance into high school I had to make a few tough choices. We were told we should allow my daughter to repeat 8th grade, told that we should put her on “calming” medication to address her Attention Deficit Disorder. My daughter, times to numerous to recall, was told that she was stupid or was the butt of an easy joke by the teacher to the whole class.

    My wife and I chose to enroll her at Sylvan where we learned our daughter was reading at the lowest 1 percentile in the area of comprehension for all 8th graders tested by them while she could read orally at an 11th grad level. Within 3 weeks of intense work with Sylvans teachers she passed the TAKS. Within one year she moved to 9th grade level reading comprehension and ahead of grade level in all other areas of Math and Reading. Sylvan has zero tolerance for negative reinforcement. We saw one of my daughter’s teachers fired using negative reinforcement.

    Today, on our way to watch the UT softball game this same daughter asked to stop by the Sylvan Center and see the people who helped change her life. Great teachers make a difference.

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