Skip to main content

We Must Look to the Best

I recently finished reading Todd Whittaker’s What Great Teachers Do Differently: 17 Things That Matter Most. While I’m always skeptical of the promise of “best practices” or any type of guarantee, I quickly realized that the things that Whittaker discusses in this book really are the things that the colleagues I consider to be the best really do.

And Whittaker makes the argument that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to the worst to improve our practice. Part of the problem lies in the fact that “many ineffective teachers also think they are doing a good job,” and that building the ability to self-reflect is really hard work. But we can only deeply self reflect and improve our practice when we have exemplars to emulate.

Although there were 17 practices that he shares, I’m really thinking about these:

-“When a student misbehaves, the great teacher has one goal: to keep that behavior from happening again. The least effective teacher often has a different goal: revenge.” (25)
-“Great teachers look to themselves for answers, while poor teachers look elsewhere.” (38)
-“The very best teachers —whether they are eager first adopters or a little more cautious—ask themselves one question: ‘Is this the best thing for students?’ If the answer is yes, they will move forward. Others ask, ‘Is this the best thing for me?’ That is one reason getting everyone on board is such a challenge.” (44)
-“One easily remembered standard for classroom management is that we always treat eour students as if their parents were in the room.” (86)

Popular posts from this blog

Targets and Time

I just finished Cris Tovani and Elizabeth Birr Moje's No More Telling as Teaching: Less Lecture, More Engaged Learning from Heinemann's Not This But That series edited by Ellin Oliver Keene and Nell Duke.

Needless to say, I pick up anything that's by Tovani and Moje because of Tovani's belief in the workshop model and Moje's extensive work in both disciplinary and out of school literacies.

After finishing this quick read, I've been thinking a lot about two things.

First, how we spend our time matters. I get less than 60 minutes with students each hour. Time is a hot commodity! Because of that, I am constantly looking at ways to maximize instruction. If I pass papers back this way or if I move this to this point in time, I can gain another minute. And those minutes add up! Sometimes, however, it feels like there is just never enough time. All teachers know that. In fact, I've yet to meet a teacher admit that she or he has too much time with students, especia…

A Lasting Impact

I love graduation season. It's a time to celebrate hard work and academic achievement. For many students in both my hometown and where I work, many students who are graduating are the first in their families to graduate from high school.

As teachers, sometimes we forget that. I've been guilty of assuming before that because we're past Y2K that everyone has a high school diploma. I remember my own realization when I found out my mom's mom hadn't graduated high school. Encouraged by a doctor to drop out (I remember her vaguely mentioning something about an enlarged heart), she was told that she wouldn't live to be 18. Naturally, she carpe diem-ed. (Well, there wasn't much living it up. She married and had five kids. She also lived to her late 70s.)

So as I sat on the dais at my hometown's graduation ceremony, I reminded myself to remain calm about the air horns, the catcalls, the shouting. High school graduation might not seem like a big deal to me (everyo…

Stop Ignoring Research

I just finished Kylene Beers and Robert Probst's Disrupting Thinking. I keep thinking about page 103 in the text, where they discuss the idea of "research-based practices" and how many of us "are willing to ignore what we know from research." They mention teaching grammar in isolation, spelling lists, lack of conferring in writing classrooms, monologic talk, prescribing novels without choice--the list goes on and on. I get frustrated because I hear from other teachers often excuses for why they do these things. And even I have felt forced to resort to some of these practices at times because it's what kids have been conditioned to expect at school. It is amazing how quiet a classroom can be when you give every student a worksheet. And if compliance is our end goal, then a worksheet works. But if we want students to undertake meaningful work that's often the work supported by best practices, we're going to have to be willing to get a whole lot more u…