Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Great Ones

It’s the Teachers, Stupid

Think about the greatest teacher you ever had. 

There’s nothing quite like a truly Great Teacher.  If you were lucky to have one, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  

The Great Ones were cool, man.  They seemed to have effortless mastery of the content.  They knew how to manage the class; they made jokes sometimes but always at the perfect time.  They were occasionally terrifying, but you killed yourself for their approval.  They might have looked horrible—no fashion sense, homely, downright ugly or bizarre—but you didn’t care.  At times they may have pissed you off, at times they may have made you cry:  but they changed you.

Like great athletes, mechanics, doctors, or pilots, they acted in the moment, made split-second decisions, and had access to great instinct and skill.  

And they made you want to be a better version of yourself.

Greatness Is Invisible To the System
You ever notice how little official "love" the Great Teachers got at your school?  The Great Teachers were often off on their own, doing their own thing, while other Good Teachers (and sometimes Lousy Teachers) were carried around on shoulders, having parties thrown in their honor, t-shirts made about them and crap like that.

In fact, Great Teachers were often scary or annoying to other teachers and staff.  Some of the kids didn't get them or even hated them.

I always turn into Holden Caufield when I talk about this stuff.  Celebrations of teachers often just feel like a Festival of Phonies.

It’s kind of gross.  Our educational system, of course, does practically nothing to attract, develop, or sustain Great Teachers.  Great Teachers exist IN SPITE of the constantly changing weather of education: the movements, the swings, the trends, and the political fray.  This is because Great Teachers are not managed, supervised, or led into being Great.  

         How does a Great Teacher "happen?" 
         There are only three ways-- and none of them are 
         addressed by our school systems.  
        Great Teachers are...
            1.  BORN great-- all the talents are there
            2.  MAKE THEMSELVES great on their own
            3.  are coached or mentored by an 
                 OTHER Great Teacher
That’s the problem.  Even though almost everyone in any school knows who the Great Teachers are in it, school managers have no “official” way of identifying them.  Administrators, generally not great teachers themselves, lack the skills or tools to even recognize Great Teachers.  They look at test scores, student behavior, and parent feedback—none of which consistently identifies Greatness in teaching.  

Squandering Resources
We don't spend any time actually talking about Great Teachers.  Like so many other teachers, I have sat through hundreds of hours of "professional development" that are not only insulting, they're ridiculously devoid of anything that can help me get better at my job.  Mind-numbing, soul-crushing, pencil-stabbing-your eye stuff.  And when I look at the few Great Teachers on my faculty (everyone always knows who the Greats are), I can't believe how ignored they are.  It's a sad and deplorable waste of time and resources. 

Our goal is to raise test scores?  Are you serious?  What are you smoking?  We don’t need better tests and test scores, better tutoring systems or education models, happier parents, happier students, better computers…

We need Great Teachers.  It's the whole thing, man.  

1 comment:

  1. Great teachers like you, my friend, know them when they see them. They see in others reflections of their own greatness. Sounds like the truth-doesn't it- because it is the truth. You've glommed on to anyone who can help you become the man you are, the man you will be. I'm happy to be along for the ride.