If you are at all interested in education, you have no doubt wondered about the best ways of educating children. How do some educators receive remarkable results with students, while others do not? Is there some special secret? Method? What do these teachers, educators, do that make them so successful? And, why do others fail to garner results?
Some have attempted to “bottle” the methods of successful teachers by documenting their practices, movements, the words they use, their stances, positioning in the classroom, and interactions with students. They have written books, which have become bestsellers, guaranteeing that simply by practicing these techniques, anyone can become a master teacher.
It’s teachable. Transferrable. Has nothing to do with luck. Or, innate skill.
Yet, observations in classrooms of people attempting to mimic the style of highly effective teachers reveal minimum, if any, success. Novices are not becoming master teachers. People with years of experience in classrooms have not suddenly begun to push the needle on what students are able to do. It just isn’t happening.
In fact, more people entering the teaching profession have become disillusioned with their jobs. Breakdowns in classrooms and during professional development trainings, where staff are asked to practice techniques in front of coworkers pretending to be students, are more common than optimal results.
It is rarely said aloud, but the truth is effective teaching is not something that can just be duplicated, borrowed, or adapted. And achieving results like those of skilled teachers is not something that can just be rehearsed and replicated. You either have it or you don’t.
So, what is the “it” that talented teachers have? What is “it” that the rest are missing?
Passion. A desire to do good. A longing to promote and be a part of ensuring equity in education and society. Participating in the work necessary to give all children the opportunity to achieve their fullest potential. Right?
But, of all the highly effective teachers I have met, spoken to, and know, not one wakes up in the morning; hangs student work on their bulletins; stays late tutoring; meets students during the weekend to study; repeats, rephrases, and reteaches; yells at, hugs, gets frustrated; cry when they graduate; cry when they don’t; are on a first name basis with every and any family member; and questions whether they gave their best that minute, hour, day, week, month, and year, because they are driven by a mantra.
When asked, it’s the faces of the students. It’s what they know about the children seated in their classroom and what those students are capable of, scared of, and yet to conceive, that compels them. It is the potential they see in every child. It’s that they care.
That caring transcends philosophies. It is how their methods were formed. They don’t scan their classrooms because they practiced hawking students to catch one not following directions. No. They look into the faces of each one of their children because they need to know whether or not their kids get it. Because in that moment, when confusion and self-doubt sets in, they know it’s time to reset, reteach, to use props, different materials, explain it in another way, to do anything, until “I got it!” registers on every child’s face.
Can technique be rehearsed? Are the methods lifted off of talented teachers and compiled in books able to be transferred? Is there any benefit to practice?
Practice is helpful – necessary, even. It is just not enough. Practice comes secondary to the why. And there are many why’s. Whatever the why, when genuine and combined with practice, amazing teachers emerge.