The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is giving $45 million to six school districts for a two-year study of teaching to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Hogwash! Give me and the master teachers I know the money and we’ll save the Gates’ time. We’ll all tell you what the research says about effective teaching—and it has nothing to do with spending hours writing a kajillion objectives and standards, following a plethora of administrative directives, employing the latest “silver bullet” fad (e.g. class within a class, using alternative regular education programs, initiating late start or early start schedules, or for that matter using curriculum and pacing guides).
I believe after the Gates Foundation analyzes their data, they will find that great teaching is not easily quantifiable. In fact, they may find that great teaching might be likened to great artistry or great musicianship—it is a “gift” that is honed and molded through hard work over the years to become a “tour de force.” The main commonality: Students learn from these caring, competent, compassionate teachers.
So Bill and Melinda, from the minds of some former great teachers, I offer you their top ten list of the qualities of great teachers: 1) insightful –knows about the students’ lives and is “street smart” , 2)intelligent-a master of the subject matter, 3)a good listener—hears out the students, 4)articulate-makes the subject matter understandable orally and in written form, 4)has a sense of humor-hey, once in awhile a student wants to play a joke on you, 5)has command presence—students know you are in charge without being a dictator, 6)has a fearless swagger-students just know that you know ,7)has a maestro’s instinct-can lead the group to perform masterfully, 8)well-read and well-versed in best teaching practices, 9)has developed a unique, winning “coaching” style like a Phil Jackson or Vince Lombardi, 10)is a taskmaster with high expectations for all students .
You see Bill and Linda, it wasn’t that hard—and inexpensive to boot!