Teacher Education, Part 1: What Makes an Effective Teacher
This week, I wanted to write about teacher preparation programs. In addition to my work for Catapult Learning, I teach in three teacher education programs, and I love talking about methods and pedagogy. But when I sat down Monday morning to write my blog post, the first thing I realized was that I needed to start exploring teacher education by defining what makes an effective teacher before we can talk about what makes a good teacher education program.
I decided to take my research on the road and ask the experts—the students. I asked my experts two questions:
- Who is your favorite teacher?
The answers I received to the second question are below:
“She learned what I like and let me learn about it.” —Lily, age 9
“She let us play after hard work.” —Noah, age 7
“She made me feel important.” —Ryan, age 7
“She cared about us.” —Olivia, age 12
“He was fun.” —Tyler, age 11
“She was nice, funny, and didn’t yell at us.” —Aidenn, age 9
“He knew a lot about what he was teaching and he made it interesting.” — Jack, age 12
“She treated me the same way she treated the adults.” —Sarah, age 16
“She gets the day started great.” —Nico, age 5[And my favorite answer . . .]
“You, because you are my mommy and you are a teacher.” —My son, age 7!
What I learned from these experts was that a teachers needs to be kind, fair, smart, respectful, and engaging.
For me, my favorite teacher was Mrs. Wescott, my eleventh-grade English teacher. She was also my ninth-grade English teacher. In ninth grade, I thought she was mean and difficult. In retrospect, I realized that she was challenging and had high expectations! She certainly earned my respect. However, she treated her eleventh graders with more autonomy. She learned about us as individuals and gave us assignments with clear expectations but loose guidelines. She allowed us to learn how and what we wanted to learn, while also meeting school and classroom goals and objectives. For example, we read Walden by Henry David Thoreau and had to complete a summative project and participate in class discussions. We did not have to take weekly quizzes, nor did we write a book report, but did have a clear rubric. Our assignment was to artistically represent what we learned from the book. I still have the assignment as well as a love of nature and philosophy, in large part because of her.
Who was your favorite teacher? How do you emulate aspects of her/his practice in your profession? While you consider your favorite teacher, I will consider how to teach pre-service teachers the art of being kind, fair, smart, respectful, and engaging!