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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Good Teacher or Great Teacher?

In my experience as a parent and a teacher, I can attest that great teachers are honest, passionate and gritty individuals who are never satisfied with “good”. Today, I’m going to focus on the qualities of great teachers; the kind of teachers I want my daughter to have. Great teachers have to be honest people. After all, no one wants his or her child taught by a dishonest person. Honest teachers engender trust, and trust is a critical component in fostering a diverse learning community—be that a classroom or a school. Thankfully, the vast majority of teachers are honest people.

However, a great teacher needs to be more than an honest individual. After all, my accountant is honest, but that does not make him a great teacher. No, honesty is best viewed as a prerequisite for a great teacher. Good teachers are honest, but great teachers are passionate about teaching and learning. The surest sign that a teacher is passionate is evidenced through reflective practice. Great teachers use a variety of strategies to interrogate their instructional practices. For example, great teachers use formative assessment to diagnosis student progress and instructional effectiveness. Great teachers realize that teaching and learning are about continuous improvement and are never satisfied with their results. This drive to improve feeds their passion to perfect their craft and realize ever-higher levels of student achievement. Needless to say such teachers are intellectually curious and creative people.

It should be no surprise that great teachers are gritty individuals. I define grit as the determination to accomplish an ambitious, long-term goal despite the inevitable obstacles. Grit encompasses tenacity, resiliency, self-discipline, and optimism. Teachers with grit never quit.

The difference between good and great when it comes to teachers is one of character and work ethic. In a world of instant messaging, speed dating, and immediate gratification, being a great teach comes down to perseverance.

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