What Makes A Great Teacher?

There is A LOT that makes a great teacher. I guess that’s why this topic comes up over and over and over again. Hard to pin down and wrap it in some formulaic response. However, The Atlantic “What makes a Great Teacher“, just tried to and though they hit a lot of nails, they didn’t manage to really build a house.

They expound on the “Teach for America”, “Race for the Top” and “New Teacher Project”, all cash cows to both come up with the silver bullet that will kill a “bad teacher” and the “ecstasy pill” to make a great one. Poppycock!

First, they got the measuring stick all wrong! You don’t measure success in education through test scores, nor do you use test scores as the measure of a teacher. Partly because you’ll just be whipping lint off the microscopes and mostly because teaching isn’t about “da numbers” but about creating a happy child. Poppycock!

Making a great teacher takes so much. So much that isn’t even in control of a teacher (and so you got to judge things from that perspective also). Here’s a picture of it….

Further, a great teacher is as the article suggests, about a person who constantly tinkers and changes (which is anathema to a “test driven culture and classroom). However, I challenge the whole “Teach America Team” to stir me up a soup that will make a great teacher. There is no recipe!

The article has a lot of thoughtful things in it. Teach America has thrown out some tired assumptions. However, why do they come up with their own assumptions that will just no sooner than my cheap suit, be tomorrow’s second hand store item? It really is frustrating this wish, this need, this want for “pie in the sky”.

From my own perspective, there are only two things that make a difference in the classroom. One, have passion and show it in your own manner as a teacher. Two, tell the kids they are smart, tell them they can do it. Sell success. All the rest, poppycock!

Here’s an old presentation I show to new teachers – highlighting all the things that go into being an effective English language teacher. (there’s a lot I’ve left out, including a good “poppycock” detector!)

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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