Sometimes I think we are forever looking for a magic bullet in education. A recipe for the perfect teacher. We create frameworks, standards and checklists, trying to distill the characteristics of the most effective teachers into a simple formula.
We talk about good practices and bad practices and best practices, and we base it all on research.
In my twenty years of teaching, however, I’ve seen a lot of different teaching styles. Some of the most effective teachers I’ve known, with highly engaged classes and whose students show significant growth, teach with wildly different approaches.
Some use textbooks, some are very teacher directed, some rarely use technology, some are very traditional. Others are more student centred, or won’t touch textbooks, some are constantly ‘innovative’ and use technology very effectively to support learning.
I’ve seen some teachers who appear do the exact opposite of what a lot of best practice statements tell us but achieve great results with their students, and some who would do well on any checklist but are just not as effective.
My point is, I don’t believe good teaching can be reduced to a set of behaviours or indicators on a checklist. These sorts of guidelines are useful, but good teaching is more than that. It is as much relational as it is behavioural.
In my observation, students respond to teachers who care about them and respect them, who are enthusiastic about their subject, who genuinely want their students to share in that joy, and who bother to find out where their students are at so that they can bring them to the next level.
The strategies a teacher employs in their classroom are less important than the relationship they build with their students. Without a relationship of trust and mutual respect, a passion for the subject and a committment to helping each and every student to learn, even the best strategies can fail.