Essential Teacher and the One Best System

At our faculty meeting this afternoon, we spent some time trying to break down what are the essential characteristics for teachers in this small urban, multi-cultural environment. For most of those around me, with whom I could turn and talk, skill at curriculum was not an over-arching factor. Most of the teachers around me mentioned qualities such as “diligence”, “empathy”, “creativity”…. in fact, the list started to sound like the seven virtues.

What is important for a teacher to be effective? Can that quality be distilled and replicated? I wonder about that. People who have heard me get on my soapbox know it aggravates the heck out of me that in current educational discourse, there is an assumption that our students are widgets – all the same raw material to be turned into a finished product without fail.

Sorry. I teach living breathing humans whose day-to-day experiences are as varied as the number of children crossing the classroom threshold daily.  And while I want to make our classroom an environment bursting with thought and learning, sometimes all I can provide for a child is safety – a place away from the buffeting of daily traumas.

Is anyone measuring how successful that was?

Diagnosing what children need, for me that is an essential quality. While my vocation is not usually life or death (or is it?),  I think is essential for a teacher to be able to diagnose what a student needs, academically and emotionally,  and provide for those needs. That’s what I aspire to do and to varying degrees, there is some success to be celebrated here.

Recent surveys decry the drop in teacher satisfaction with their careers; headlines lament that many teachers leave this career within five years. People burn out from the constant bashing that we teachers don’t do enough, that our “products” are defective.

Can educational effectiveness be condensed so that it can be replicated over and over? Is there one best system? I believe I know how I would answer; how about you?

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