The Qualities of Great Teachers

In many ways the debate about great teaching goes to the very heart of the debate about education’s purpose, objectives and what teachers ought to be held accountable for (and hold themselves accountable for). If we can figure out what it is that great teachers do, or at least do more of, we all hope and believe that we can bring about significant improvement in quality and standards of education for all the children in our schools.

In these days of obsession with data as ways of measuring and defining when good education is or isn’t happening, it’s dangerously possible to forget that there can’t be good education without good teaching. Whilst I’m an advocate of things like Khan Academy, I truly believe that the school and the teachers in school have the ability to support critical learning of 21st Century skills in ways that IT alone cannot (the key is to have teachers harnessing the powers of IT as critical tools in the process).

Over the last few months, I’ve been gathering together some interesting materials that reflect on these issues of what makes a great teacher. One of the things that i found most interesting is the combination of timeless attributes and ‘new’ 21st Century skills.

The first resource is a video presentation by Sir Michael Barber for an education conference in Jamaica. He was one of the presenters in the film “We are the people we’ve been waiting for”, a senior adviser to the Tony Blair government in UK on education and now a thought leader for Pearson’s on education policy and future directions:

Next we have a debate/ exchange of ideas amongst a panel of five prominent educators with some interesting reflections:

NPR-Ed - 5 Great Teachers on What Makes a Great Teacher

The third piece is an ASCD blog post by educational consultant, Elliott Seif who deliberately sets out to discuss 12 qualities that are given less attention, but are nevertheless vitally important. He sets them out as a brief list first and then elaborates in some detail on each of the 12:

ASCD Blog Post - One Dozen Qualities of Great Teachers

I would love to hear what people think. Do you agree with specifics in some of these pieces, or think the writers and presenter are missing the point? Are there some qualities listed here that you really think shouldn't be focused upon? Are the qualities of great teachers culturally specific or do the same qualities hold good in every education system in the world?

If we were to agree that these represent a great foundation for defining great teachers, is it realistic to look for these qualities in all teachers, or is that just too far beyond what's possible?

Learning When Information is no Longer the Issue

Here’s a really nice 10 minute TED talk from a US teacher sharing her journey as an educator and her findings and perceptions about learning from mistakes:

Making Science Accessible

Here’s a quick post that i hope contains some interest and inspiration, particularly for all science teachers. It’s a set of seven lectures given by the renowned physicist, Richard Feynman.

Seven lectures by Richard Feynman
(Click on the link above to see all seven lectures on a single page)

Should Schools Be Teaching Coding?

Here’s the full length video which i found very thought provoking. I love the way they’ve made it really geek-free. There’s no question in my mind, this is the future for large numbers of our students today:

Podcasting with Students

Podcasting is something that i’ve heard quite a few teachers express an interest in, but they tend to be a bit daunted about where to start and how to tackle it, especially as a learning experience for students.

So, i was pleased to come across this great Curriki resource file that is packed full of great ideas to really help a teacher get started.

Curriki – Podcasting

Some Great Teacher Resource Websites

The following piece appeared some weeks ago in the US Education Week website. The links given are such good ones for teachers I wanted to share the article.

Selected low-cost curriculum and PD resources for teachers.

Wiki-Teacher

As the name suggests, this site is like Wikipedia for teachers, by teachers. Though supported by the Clark County School District in Nevada, anyone can contribute K-8 lesson and unit plans to the site. The lessons are then searchable by key word, grade-level standard, or a specific textbook. Want to see what a guided-reading lesson looks like? Need some advice on how to organize student folders? Check out the demonstration videos, which provide short clips of real teachers demonstrating their instructional, management, and organizational techniques. Administrators may want to consider showing the free videos to staff members for quick and easy professional development.

Teach-nology

This site boasts 28,000 free lesson plans for K-12 classrooms and a variety of tips, printable worksheets, and games for all subjects. Users can scroll through pre-made graphic organizers and rubrics to get lesson ideas or create their own using a template. There are various worksheets, such as word searches and Mad Libs, that some teachers might consider using as centers or for students who finish their work early. Teachers who pay a yearly membership fee have access to more extensive resources.

Curriki

The names of this site’s main sections “Find, Contribute, and Connect” give you a sense its offerings. Teachers can search through a collection of math, science, language arts, and social studies lesson plans and activities for students of all ages and grade levels. They can also add their own resources to share with the community by uploading files or creating lesson plans, from templates or scratch, and adding them to the site. Many of the resources are evaluated by content experts and teachers through the ‘Curriki Review System,” and given a rating of basic, good, or exemplary. Users can also create a profile, write blog entries, and keep lists of their favorite resources. Through the “Connect” option, teachers in similar subject areas, grade levels, or geographic locations can find each other and hold group discussions. Educational organizations such as CyberSmart and Cool School have partnered with the site and added to the collection of curriculum resources.


VoyagerU

VoyagerU specializes in professional development courses in reading. The programs use a mixture of group-study sessions with a trained facilitator and individual online activities and assessments. Participants keep track of their progress through an online report card that shows their remaining activities and allows them to work at their own pace. They also have access to a variety of lesson plans and activities they can take back to the classroom, such as printable, leveled reading books. The courses are research-based and applicable for all K-12 teachers who are helping students develop reading skills. Although there is a considerable fee for the resources, federal School Improvement Funds may cover the costs, and VoyagerU offers help securing funding.

Annenberg Media

Sponsored by the Annenberg Foundation, this site advertises video professional development workshops for K-12 teachers in the areas of arts, foreign language, literature, mathematics, science, and social studies. Teachers can sign up for workshops alone or in groups, and have the option of using the hours for graduate credit. Workshops are geared toward specific grade levels and include titles such as “Assessment in Math and Science: What’s the Point?,”and “Conversations in Literature.” All materials are available for free through Video on Demand and PDF files on the Web site; alternatively, participants can purchase DVDs and books. The Teacher-Talk e-mail lists allow class-takers to communicate and discuss ideas. The site also offers free educational videos that teachers can download and show to their classes.

Library of Congress—Teachers Page

This site gives teachers ways to use primary sources from the U.S. Library of Congress in their classrooms. On “The Learning Page,” teachers can find suggestions on teaching with primary sources and explore the American Memory collection, an online resource providing free access to photographs, sound recordings, and historical writings that document the American experience. The page also provides a collection of 4th through 12th grade lesson plans and activities in the areas of history, government, and literature. The lessons include opportunities for students to practice using American Memory’s primary sources. In addition, the site describes three forms of available professional development workshops: in-house workshops at the Library of Congress, distance-learning videoconference programs, and self-serve workshops for school in-service trainings. For information on the workshops, teachers should contact edoutreach@loc.gov.

By Liana Heitin