The best teachers | Chalkboard Project

The best teachers

Monday, November 19, 2012 Mary McGinnis

Teachers know. They know who the best teachers are. As a teacher I watch an interesting phenomenon every spring. All of my teacher friends scramble to make sure their own children are placed in classes with the best teachers for the next year. They make the rounds to counselors' and principals’ offices double-checking their child’s schedule. Ask any teacher, and they can tell you who the quality teachers are. It is common teacher talk. Recently, an elementary teacher in my district left the classroom for another educational position. As a teacher told me about the move, she said, “A lot of parents are going to be upset that she is no longer teaching. She is a dynamite teacher.” All students need the assurance they are going have a dynamite quality teacher next year.

Why is it important to have a dynamite teacher in every classroom?

In my last blog, I wrote about the “magic formula” for success with struggling learners and high achieving students alike. The largest component in that formula is to have a quality teacher in the classroom. Robert Marzano (2003) analyzed considerable research on what works in classrooms. All the research he studied concluded that the impact of the classroom teacher is far greater than any other factor in the child’s learning and achievement. The research is astounding. If a child begins school as average in math achievement—at the 50th percentile—and she has an average teacher for two years, she will remain at the 50th percentile. If she is in a classroom in a less effective school, and she also has a low-quality teacher, she actually drops to the 3rd percentile in math achievement. On the other hand, even if she is in a less effective school, but she has a high-quality teacher, two years later she leaves class in the 63rd percentile. She makes a 13 percent gain just by having a highly effective teacher. Quality teachers exert more influence on student learning than both socio economic status and family background.

What is a quality teacher?

Quality teachers are like master chess players. They see scenarios as they unfold in class, and they are capable of making quick adjustments to ensure students’ needs are met. They use a variety of effective teaching strategies including formative assessment and mastery learning. Quality teachers build positive relationships in class and vary their classroom management techniques. They do all this fluidly. Oregon has a lot of quality teachers. We need more, and we need to retain the ones we have.

How do we get dynamite teachers in every classroom teaching every child?

To get a quality teacher in every classroom, we make Oregon a great place for teachers to work. Although money is important, it is about more than money. It starts with teacher training. Teachers need advanced skills in order to be highly effective. This comes from learning under practicing master teachers. Next, we offer meaningful professional development for in-service teachers. Highly effective teachers want to teach where they have opportunities to grow and enhance their skills. Teacher leadership plays an important role. To attract quality teachers, we offer leadership opportunities—with additional pay. One of the characteristics of a highly effective teacher is that they are forward-looking and motivated. Teacher leadership recognizes and rewards dedication.

Another important component in attracting quality teachers to Oregon and retaining the ones we have is to provide diversity training. Oregon’s student population is increasingly diverse. Knowing they are supported in their teaching efforts with diverse student populations is important to highly effective teachers. Meaningful evaluations are also a vital element. It will assure that those of us on the inside of education won’t be the only ones who know the most effective teachers. Oregon already has a reservoir of highly effective teachers. We need to develop more so every child has an equal opportunity to learn.

  • Professional Development

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