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What makes a great teacher? Part II

Sven
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Joined: Jul 22 2005

Because this thread is soon to be "closed for length," let's continue the discussion here.

 

 


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Sven
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Joined: Jul 22 2005

If student learning cannot be evaluated, then I agree that teacher performance, likewise, cannot be evaluated.

But, if student learning can be evaluated -- then teacher performance can also be evaluated.


N.Beltov
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Joined: May 25 2003

Great teachers typically view their work in one of the following 5 ways:

1. Teaching as a way of being.

2. Teaching as a creative endeavour.

3. Teaching as a live performance.

4. Teaching as a form of empowerment.

5. Teaching as an opportunity to serve.

 

 

 


N.Beltov
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Joined: May 25 2003

On the subject of evaluation, these things vary from province to province. But in all cases teachers are considered as professionals and belong to self-regulating bodies (as do doctors, lawyers, ...). So, in order to understand teacher evaluation, one must consult what the professional bodies do. In BC that is the BCTF. (BC Teachers Federation)

Be cautioned that all right wingers, almost without exception, have a visceral and undying hatred for this organization. See also Solidarity Coalition, Operation Solidarity, and the lengthy history of antagonistic relations between various neo-liberal regimes in BC and the legendary teachers' organization.

In addition to the professional body, the BCTF, there is also in BC the BC College of Teachers. The College also deals with teacher evaluation and certification. The BCCT was created, back in the late 80's or early 90's, by one of those neo-liberal regimes in BC history.

Any idiot who really wants to know about teacher evaluation should start with these 2 organizations. At least in BC. Other provinces vary.


Fidel
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Joined: Apr 29 2004

Well I think if we can rate the supreme idiots running our countries into the ground over the last 30 years, then whoever was responsible for educating them should be good candidates for assessment. Break out the red markers.


Sven
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Joined: Jul 22 2005

 

The purpose of identifying the common characteristics of a "great teacher" is to use that understanding when recruiting and hiring new teachers.  If those characteristics are shared by great teachers, then new recruits who possess those same characteristics (relative to new recruits who do not) will have a higher probability of being great teachers themselves.

This does not mean that a teacher is automatically a "great teacher" simply by possessing those characteristics (see N.Beltov's list above).  Rather, to be a "great teacher," a teacher has to actually deliver significant and positive educational results.

So, the "great teacher characteristics" can be very useful in the recruiting and hiring process.  But, once hired, a teacher's merit should be measured by results.


Sven
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Joined: Jul 22 2005

N.Beltov wrote:

So, in order to understand teacher evaluation, one must consult what the professional bodies do. In BC that is the BCTF. (BC Teachers Federation)

But, as Timebandit correctly pointed out in the original thread, there is an inherent conflict of interest between a union's role in protecting its members (which, to be honest, is its primary, if not sole, purpose for existing) and in setting the standard for proper conduct.

When looking at potential police misconduct, we don't just turn the matter over to the police union to decide whether or not there was police misconduct!!  Properly, there is (or should be) civilian oversight.


N.Beltov
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Joined: May 25 2003

Fidel wrote:

Well I think if we can rate the supreme idiots running our countries into the ground over the last 30 years, then whoever was responsible for educating them should be good candidates for assessment. Break out the red markers.

 

Keep in mind that assessing the assessments is also on the agenda. The feverish proponents of endless testing have, by their misplaced enthusiasm,  seen to that.


Sven
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Joined: Jul 22 2005

Le T wrote:

Quote:
How would you proposed student learning be evaluated? And, critically, how would you propose such evaluations be done such that one teacher in a classroom is not using a completely different standard for that evaluation than the standard being used by the teacher standing in the classroom next door who is teaching the same subject to the same grade?

I would ask teachers to develop their own forms of evaluation and feedback with their students.

See police union example above (the fox guarding the hen house, as it were).


Sven
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Joined: Jul 22 2005

Getting back to "great teacher characteristics" as discussed in the Atlantic article, is there any agreement here that determining those characteristics for use in the recruiting and hiring process has potential value?


al-Qa'bong
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Joined: Feb 27 2003

Quote:

But, as Timebandit correctly pointed out in the original thread, there is an inherent conflict of interest between a union's role in protecting its members (which, to be honest, is its primary, if not sole, purpose for existing) and in setting the standard for proper conduct.

 

Not necessarily.  I replaced an incompetent instructor whose position was to some degree protected by something like 15-20 years of seniority.  My boss, a union brother incidentally, had to go to great lengths to have this guy removed, but he was removed.  The guy was eventually given a permanent medical leave.

 

Quote:

Getting back to "great teacher characteristics" as discussed in the Atlantic article, is there any agreement here that determining those characteristics for use in the recruiting and hiring process has potential value?

 

What do you think job interviews are for?  Teaching is like any other job; those who hire look beyond paper credentials and try to assess how good a teacher will become by using all sorts of different means of assessment.


Sven
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al-Qa'bong wrote:

Quote:

Getting back to "great teacher characteristics" as discussed in the Atlantic article, is there any agreement here that determining those characteristics for use in the recruiting and hiring process has potential value?

 

What do you think job interviews are for?  Teaching is like any other job; those who hire look beyond paper credentials and try to assess how good a teacher will become by using all sorts of different means of assessment.

I agree.  I'm just thinking that some posters may not even like using "great teacher characteristics" for even that limited (but useful) purpose.

Why do I think that?  Because admitting there are "great teachers" necessarily means admitting there are teachers who are not "great teachers" (i.e., middlin' teachers and poor teachers).  And, for some, that's a very dangerous thing to acknowledge.


al-Qa'bong
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Joined: Feb 27 2003

Are we finally getting to the point of all this?  Who are these "some" to whom you refer?


Sven
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Joined: Jul 22 2005

al-Qa'bong wrote:

Are we finally getting to the point of all this?  Who are these "some" to whom you refer?

Although I would be happy to hear directly from him, I would guess that N.Beltov, for example, thinks that classifying teachers into "great," "middlin'," and "poor" would be dangerous to union solidarity -- and, therefore, something to be avoided.


Fidel
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Joined: Apr 29 2004

And unions are at the root cause of neoliberal economic meltdown, we can be sure. Maybe we should be grading banksters and corporate stooges in central planning for doing lousy jobs. And they should be cutoff the taxpayer's dole for anything below a B grade, which should cover most of our corrupt stooges and over-compensated "captains of industry."


al-Qa'bong
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Joined: Feb 27 2003

We could have people wear special badges to show their levels of production and contributions  to society, and uniforms to separate valued and valuable people from the worthless drones who produce little.

 

Sven, you're on to something here.


Fidel
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Joined: Apr 29 2004

Excellent idea, al-Q. Special colour coded badges all around. And slave wages as disincentive for useless eaters. Efficiency and productivity should be engrained in the system. We're all on the same page in this thread, say no more. Because standardized education should produce standard people so they can get out there in the real world and produce standardized widgets at a standard rate of profit. Because whether we're talking about people or widgets, we're really talking about the same things.


Sven
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Joined: Jul 22 2005

Here are some schools in which superlative teacher quality appears to be a key focus.  The schools (three charter schools in Harlem) gives the teachers enormous autonomy and support while still holding them accountable for delivering results.

These schools look like wonderful places to be a student.


Snert
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Joined: Nov 4 2008

From the previous thread:

Quote:
Bob may learn things that do not come out for many years afterwards. Teachers do many things, not all of which can be put under the microscope.

Then theoretically, education may be PERFECT exactly as-is, and we just have to wait for the results to "come out".  Or not.  I guess we'll have to wait 5 or 10 years to know.

Quote:
And, as I have mentioned on this thread already, both creativity and critical thinking are "learning" that is very, very difficult to evaluate or test. Does this mean to you, then, that both creativity and critical thinking as goals of education should be jettisoned? (Since the demonstration of learning is so difficult)

I'm not suggesting we abandon them, but at the same time, if we're willing to leave the teaching of creativity and critical thinking to chance (in other words, we're satisfied that maybe students did learn and maybe they didn't, but we're not going to bother trying to verify this, and so we're not going to know how to teach this any more effectively... assuming we're teaching it effectively at all) then I really have to wonder how important they really are.  Evidently, important enough to say "this is important", but nothing more.


Caissa
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Joined: Jun 14 2006

In my many years as a student I had more good teachers than I had bad ones. I can say the best ones were incredibly diverse. The bad ones, at least in my public school experience, all had one thing in common, poor classroom management skills.

I have had the privilege to teach sporting skills (tennis, racquetball and chess) as well as at the university level (history and university success skills). Looking back ther are some courses in which I was a good teacher and other courses in which I was not a very good teacher. When I did my B.Ed. the Chair of the Department emphasized that the purpose of the programme was to produce teachers well-started. Teaching like any other craft is one which needs to be honed. Teachers themselves evolve over time as they develop their pedagogical self.

All this is towards saying that I am skeptical that one can truly enumerate the characteristics of good teachers.

As a parent of two children in inner city schools, and a member of the Parent School Support Committees at each school, now running 8 years at an elementary school, I have seen clearly that the strongest correlation with student success is socio-economic class. This was just as true when I was a student at these schools 35+ years ago.

 


p-sto
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Joined: Nov 11 2009

I like this quote from the article Sven just posted

Quote:
But the threat of being fired if you don't do a good job is not what makes a teacher great


N.Beltov
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Joined: May 25 2003

Good observation, Caissa.

Bowles and Gintis demonstrated that truth - that student success is strongly correlated with social class or, what the sociologists coyishly call "socio-economic status" - long ago and I don't think anyone has refuted it. [The claim in an article by Bowles and Gintis is that years of schooling are strongly associated with parental "SES". ]

There are plenty of people - liberals and conservatives - who ignore their analysis. The reasons are rather obvious.

Bowles and Gintis on Schooling in Capitalist America

Basically, these two show that since the 19th century, "educational reform" has been about 2 things: equality of opportunity and social control. School is done TO and FOR the poor, for example. Here is a quote:

"... the system today allows the well-to-do to perpetuate in the name of equality of opportunity, an arrangement that consistently yields them disproportional advantages, while thwarting the needs and aspirations of the working people of the U.S.."

It's a very good idea to contextualize discussions like this one about "great" teachers so as not to individualize discussions of education and thereby miss the forest for the trees. Thanks for the reminder, Caissa.

 

 


Sven
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Joined: Jul 22 2005

p-sto wrote:

I like this quote from the article Sven just posted

Quote:
But the threat of being fired if you don't do a good job is not what makes a teacher great

That doesn't surprise me at all.  I think great teachers are driven by passion for their students, a desire for excellence, an interest in overcoming challenges, and many other positive factors -- not fear.

I think those are the same things which drive most successful professionals.


500_Apples
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Joined: Jun 3 2006
I didn't realize there was a thread on this, I referenced this article in the Rhode Island thread, here are my thoughts: ************************ There was a good article in a recent issue of The Atlantic on the US social program Teach for America. TFA is set up to get recent university graduates to go teach in inner city schools that can't attract staff for one or two years. They've been at it for a few decades now, and they've collected a wealth of data on the question of what makes a good teacher. It comes with a catch though. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/01/what-makes-a-great-t... What they've found is that what makes a good teacher is the "oooooomph", do the applicants have a history of not just being in leadership position, but being useful leaders who get things done? How good is their attitude? That's what makes a great teacher in their experience, and today, due to their better selection criteria, 44% of TFA teachers raise students by over 1.5 grade levels in 1 year. What's the catch? A huge number of TFA teachers either burn out at the end of the two years, or they burn out even faster and quit after one year. The lesson here, imo, is that even in these worst environments, a teacher can make a difference... however, it has to be the absolutely greatest teachers, and even then it can only be for a very short period of time. It's kind of like the Heisenberg Time-Energy uncertainty principle, yes you can violate conservation of energy, but only for a very short period of time. Here we have the sociology-time uncertainty principle, yes you can repudiate sociological predictions via "hard work", but only for a very short period of time. TFA gets access to government money, corporate sponsors, and it can select its teachers with very high rate of selectiveness. They've been modulating their criteria for 20 years, and even they cannot reasonably break the sociological shackles these kids find themselves in. I want you to think some more about this. TFA selects teachers who got into and completed degrees at places like Harvard and Princeton. These are overachieving kids who put in 20 or 30 hours a week of volounteering and extra curricuulars from the age of 13 through 23 while maintaining straight A's in HS. All that, and they get burned out from teaching in inner city schools for just one or two years.

al-Qa'bong
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Joined: Feb 27 2003

The internets were awash in articles about the US educational system this morning, all of which put these "teacher" threads in context.

 

The Struggle Against Privatization This Battle is About More Than Schools
Quote:

In Washington State, a movement is developing around announced budget cuts aimed at the public education system--from kindergarten to the university.  Just as in other places mentioned in this article, the proposed cuts will hit those who can least afford it.  That is, working class families, many of whom are either unemployed or partially employed due to the current capitalist crisis.  Also, like the other situations mentioned here, the growing crisis in Washington state is but the latest volley in a battle over the nature of public education the modern United States.

 

Schooling in Orange Jumpsuits

Quote:

As I say, high-stakes testing is all about holding someone accountable. Diane Ravitch, writing last week on HuffingtonPost about the recent firing of all 93 teachers, administrators and support staff at the "underperforming" high school in Central Falls, R.I., commented, quoting a blogger called Mrs. Mimi, that "we fire teachers because ‘we can't fire poverty.'"

The "underperforming," low-testing schools - the ones that get shut down, emptied out, metaphorically forced to don the orange jumpsuits - are always in low-income communities, where children struggle against enormous obstacles, at home and on the streets, that schools cannot control. Rather than take a holistic approach to the educational challenges of these communities, rather than mandating smaller class size, the equitable allocation of resources and other changes that would do immediate good, test-pushing pols seek to punish convenient scapegoats, start over and change nothing.

 

 

Corporate Barbarians at the Gate: Wal-Mart internships at Detroit Schools

Quote:

When Jamal, an 11th grade student, arrived at his English class in January of this year, he thought he would be continuing with his reading and analysis of The Crucible, by Arthur Miller.  The Crucible is 11th grade reading for the Frederick Douglass Academy for Young Men, a 6-12 high school in Detroit, Michigan .  Jamal was sadly mistaken.  As he took his seat in class the teacher notified all students that they would be shifting their focus, just for awhile she told them, from the reading and analysis of literature to the construction of a mock ‘resume’ or ‘job application’.

 

A Challenge to Corporate Feudalism?

Quote:

19,000 California public school teachers have received pink slips and 20,000 students will be turned away from community colleges next fall.  Add in thousands more support staff facing layoffs, cutbacks, and shrunken benefit packages and you have a mass of angry students, educators, and workers.

 

Teachers' unions would obviously resist what's going on in the above articles, hence the reason they have become such clear tagets.


N.Beltov
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Joined: May 25 2003

Yea, well, once right-wing atrocities are successful in the US, the (Conservative) 5th columnists in this country bray like mules to import the same horrors here. It's useful to see what's going on in the US for that reason; also, we have the actions and statements of those who resist to guide us.


Skinny Dipper
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Joined: Dec 23 2005

Here's one parent's struggle to get a child out of writing Ontario's EQAO standardized tests: http://eqaomustdie.wordpress.com/2009/05/11/hello-world/.


Skinny Dipper
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Joined: Dec 23 2005

From the Ontario College of Teachers:

The Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession are:

Commitment to Students and Student Learning

Members are dedicated in their care and commitment to students. They treat students equitably and with respect and are sensitive to factors that influence individual student learning. Members facilitate the development of students as contributing citizens of Canadian society.

Professional Knowledge

Members strive to be current in their professional knowledge and recognize its relationship to practice. They understand and reflect on student development, learning theory, pedagogy, curriculum, ethics, educational research and related policies and legislation to inform professional judgment in practice.

Professional Practice

Members apply professional knowledge and experience to promote student learning. They use appropriate pedagogy, assessment and evaluation, resources and technology in planning for and responding to the needs of individual students and learning communities. Members refine their professional practice through ongoing inquiry, dialogue and reflection.

Leadership in Learning Communities

Members promote and participate in the creation of collaborative, safe and supportive learning communities. They recognize their shared responsibilities and their leadership roles in order to facilitate student success. Members maintain and uphold the principles of the ethical standards in these learning communities.

Ongoing Professional Learning

Members recognize that a commitment to ongoing professional learning is integral to effective practice and to student learning. Professional practice and self-directed learning are informed by experience, research, collaboration and knowledge.

 


Skinny Dipper
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Joined: Dec 23 2005

I will state that the public school teachers in my region work with the same degree of professionalism that the teachers in Teach For America do. The main difference is the terminology used by American and Canadian (Ontario) teachers.

Never would I say or write that students from low socio-economic status groups are impossible to teach. A good teacher and school will know that one way to reach the students is to make their school into a community centre where students can participate in creative programs during morning and lunch recesses and after school. Many teachers do volunteer with students at least once per week. One teacher I know teaches African drumming. About 95% of the students are white.

One teacher in the article took it personally when about one-quarter of his students did not pass a standardized test. Something I have learned is not to take things personally. When I teach, I do my best. I have great days and not-so-great days. Yes, I do reflect on my teaching and figure out what I can do better next time. I do talk to other teachers to find out what they do in similar situations. One thing I love about teaching is that I get to have fun with the students. It's a lot of hard work; it's also very rewarding.


N.Beltov
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Joined: May 25 2003

Elizebeth Green had a piece in the NYTimes Magazine along the lines of "Can Teachers Be Taught to Teach Better?" or some idiot title like that.

Idiot, I say,  because this issue is addressed by Professional Development in every educational system in the world. Idiot as in obvious. Anyway, the article is full of the usual cheerleading for privatization of education, war on teacher unions, charter schools, child abuse (OK - kidding about the last one!) , etc., etc.  in the USA but the comments section is full of excellent rebuttals for all of this usual right wing drivel. For whatever reason - perhaps the escalation to mass firings of teachers - the political right in the US is interested in this subject.

I think some babblers have posted userids and passwords to the NYTimes and that may be useful here.

Anyway, here's the article. Check out the comments section. There are hundreds of them.


Skinny Dipper
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Joined: Dec 23 2005

I read the very lengthy piece.  I enjoyed many of the comments.

SD BEd


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