Sunday, January 10, 2010

More than schools or curriculum - Teachers Matter

From your list of wonderful influences in your earliest classrooms, to mine (Mrs. Bloom in Homeroom, Mr. Martin and Mr. Foggianno in Math, Miss Jones in American History, Tim Paggard with English Lit) the obvious takeaway is that we need more of these influencers in our schools today. The next step might be the question that Amanda Ripley asks for the Atlantic magazine in their latest issue: What Makes a Great Teacher?

“One outfit in America has been systematically pursuing this mystery for more than a decade—tracking hundreds of thousands of kids, and analyzing why some teachers can move those kids three grade levels ahead in one year and others can’t. That organization, interestingly, is not a school district.”

Data has a way of being objective, or at least has the potential to be used that way. In a city that needs all the help it can get with it's Metro Schools, can Nashville make the change by taking a cue from the nation’s deepest well of analytics for educators?

“First, great teachers tended to set big goals for their students. They were also perpetually looking for ways to improve their effectiveness. For example, when Farr called up teachers who were making remarkable gains and asked to visit their classrooms, he noticed he’d get a similar response from all of them: “They’d say, ‘You’re welcome to come, but I have to warn you—I am in the middle of just blowing up my classroom structure and changing my reading workshop because I think it’s not working as well as it could.’ When you hear that over and over, and you don’t hear that from other teachers, you start to form a hypothesis.” Great teachers, he concluded, constantly reevaluate what they are doing.

Superstar teachers had four other tendencies in common: they avidly recruited students and their families into the process; they maintained focus, ensuring that everything they did contributed to student learning; they planned exhaustively and purposefully—for the next day or the year ahead—by working backward from the desired outcome; and they worked relentlessly, refusing to surrender to the combined menaces of poverty, bureaucracy, and budgetary shortfalls.

Kevin Pellatiro
Hoping to help you take advantage of the market – when you are ready.