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Outstanding in Your Field: What It Takes to Be a Great Teacher

| Ben Johnson

I am reading a book by Steven Covey called The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, which he wrote to help organizations and individuals find their voices. The premise of the book is that if you don't do this, you or your organization will not be able to achieve greatness. I highly recommend that you read it, and I will gladly lend it to you when I am done with it, but that is not the focus of this post.

I considered the word greatness for a long while. I asked myself this question: "What does it mean in education?" Then I started thinking about my career.

I never thought of myself as a great teacher. I certainly had passion, enthusiasm, and creativity, but I never thought I had the stuff for greatness; I did the best I knew how with the resources that were available. I found myself always thinking about what I could do to improve my lessons, to overcome negative student behaviors, or to encourage individual students, while at the same time, I pondered my own shortcomings. My strategies and skills were not unique. Aside from a little bit of personal flair, they were the compilation of wisdom and experience gained mostly from other teachers.

Although I was not great, I would like to believe that I was an above-average teacher. As most teachers do, I went through the typical three-step teacher-attitude cycle:

  • Whoa! This is too much, and I want out.
  • The students don't care. The administration doesn't support us.
  • I can do this. This is fun. Get out of my way, and let me do my job. If I help just one student, it is worth it.

I was able to get out of the second-phase trap of negativity and into the third, self-actualized phase because of wonderful mentor teachers who helped me understand that it helps no one to complain and point fingers. Mr. Devereaux, the Spanish department head, taught me that I first had to be the solution to all my problems, and then I could enjoy the excitement and challenges of the journey. I don't think I was an effective teacher until I learned that lesson.

As teachers are required to do, I attended workshops and teacher meetings in which I was inspired to be great. I saw Stand and Deliver, which depicts how a high school math teacher, Jaime Escalante, challenged the mental and social limitations his students had placed on themselves, thereby bringing them to greatness. I felt that if I could be that passionate about teaching students, I could do anything. Then I went back into the classroom and faced the reality that I had only a certain amount of time, strength, and energy, and my desire for greatness faded a bit, though I never let it die completely.

When I decided to become an administrator, that spark of desire for greatness was rekindled and refocused: I wanted to inspire other teachers to be great and thus pass that on to their students. So here I am.

I have seen that spark of greatness in you when I have been in your classrooms and watched you interact with the students. Recently, I have been a first grader, a second grader, and an eighth grader (and I will soon be a ninth grader), and I have witnessed elements of your greatness firsthand while spending the entire day at your campuses and in your classes.

In the second part of this post, I describe these experiences in more detail and pose some questions about greatness for you to ponder, but please share your thoughts about what I've discussed here.

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Nobel Peace Prize Nominee 2008, Semi-Retired UN Advisor/Education

As I am reading these

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As I am reading these comments, I notice that you are on the right track. But what I am failing to see is one of the most important reasons to be a teacher. To be an effective educator ( my wording) is to ask the student " How can I help you? What can I do within my capacity to help you understand the concept? Ms. Ann Sullivan was, in my opinion, an excellent example of motivation. She literally bent over backwards to help Ms. Keller understand concepts. Another example of being a great educator is Ron Clark. ( see The Ron Clark Story ). Being a great educator an individual must have empathy, Socratic philosophy, passion, ........in short....Heart.

Skills & Qualities of Great Teachers & Educators

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The learnable skills and the inherent qualities of great educators and teachers in educational leadership involve many things from dealings with colleagues and staff and students and parents to dealings also with authorities and community and industry often, these ways of great teachers may hekp aspiring teachers and educators and inspire: http://www.geocities.ws/greatteachersari

Great teachers

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I know that this blog has been here for awhile, but it is just what I needed. Teachers can be great with the support of their administration and the support of a Professional Learning Community(PLC). As teacher it is not just enough to attend workshops and stay up with the newest strategies and trends we also need each other. Simple grade level meetings are helpful but it is not enough to just relate scores and student achievement we also need to be there as a team that is working for the success of the students as an individual and as part of your class. By working as a team instead of a grade level there is so much more that we can accomplish. By sharing and working together we move beyond being good teachers and on to being great teachers.

Administrator, author and educator

Somia's Dream

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Somia:

What I have seen is that this is not just my dream, but all teachers have this dream. Those that remain in the profession have the choice whether to follow that dream or to let it flicker and die. I sense in you the wonder and excitement of the challenge of education. I hope this article has inspired you to think rather than what I can do as a teacher to be great, to think what can I do to inspire the students to find their greatness, and that is how we find our greatness.

Good Luck!

Ben Johnson
San Antonio, TX

[quote]this article is a wonderful teacher

It shows you how to start the steps of your dream to be a great teacher

thank you very much[/quote]

To become a great teacher

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this article is a wonderful teacher
It shows you how to start the steps of your dream to be a great teacher
thank you very much

Kristy Gugino (not verified)

I totally agree with you that

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I totally agree with you that not everything can be learned in your first year of teaching. Not even by the time you reach 20 years of teaching do you know it all. We have a book in my district that outlines the different areas a teacher needs to focus on, such as communication, lessons, and assessment. It is explained on a continuum what a novice teacher does and what an expert teacher does. Now, I am in no ways an expert. I am only in my 5th year of teaching. To me, an expert teacher would be one that is an expert in all the areas outlined in the book. Let's face it, this is next to impossible. With the many interruptions throughout the day, the NTLB mandates that have teachers teaching to the test and teaching test taking strategies instead of teaching the important things, there isn't enough time in the day to be an expert on everything. I think this is really sad. Gone are the teachable moments when the moments don't deal with the curriculum. While I wouldn't consider myself a novice teacher any longer, I would never consider myself an expert.

Shawan (not verified)

Great Teachers

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What makes a great teacher? I am currently a student at Walden University and my colleagues and I discussed the attributes of a novice teacher vs an expert teacher. We were asked to place ourselves in that spectrum, and I too, like the author, do not see myself as an expert, but I know I fall somewhere in the middle. One of the most important factors I have to realize in my 4.5 years of teaching is that becoming a great or expert teacher takes time and experience! I didn't learn everything in my first year of teachiing, but each year I learned a little more about my teaching style and the effectiveness I had in my classroom with my students. I think the expertise of the teaching field is learned through experience, reflection, and continued education in the field.

Shawan
Intermediate Level (3-5th)

Shawan (not verified)

Great Teachers

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What makes a great teacher? I am currently a student at Walden University and my colleagues and I discussed the attributes of a novice teacher vs an expert teacher. We were asked to place ourselves in that spectrum, and I too, like the author, do not see myself as an expert, but I know I fall somewhere in the middle. One of the most important factors I have to realize in my 4.5 years of teaching is that becoming a great or expert teacher takes time and experience! I didn't learn everything in my first year of teachiing, but each year I learned a little more about my teaching style and the effectiveness I had in my classroom with my students. I think the expertise of the teaching field is learned through experience, reflection, and continued education in the field.

Shawan
Intermediate Level (3-5th)

Carol (not verified)

What it takes to be a great teacher

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What it takes to be a great teacher: The first thing that came to mind was one must have an open heart. There are so many children out there with no adult interaction in their lives. You might be the only person they can rely on for stability. Once they develop the trust, the learning will come. Therefore, a good teacher must know his/her area of expertise. A good teacher must follow the bench marchs put forth by the state he/she is teaching in. This guarantees that the children are being exposed to and learning all that is required of them. A good teacher uses tools to measure a childs success. This gives him/her the opportunity to remediate where necessary. A good teacher is flexible because children are not born out of the same mold. We must be accepting of all no matter what the race, color, religion or disability.

Ben Johnson (author) (not verified)

Internal Change

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K Teacher:

You have taken the first step to greatness. That does not mean that you quit expecting your administrators to help, or you isolate yourself from other teachers. What it does is it gives you the self will and confidence to tackle problems on your own, and at the same time enlist fellow teachers and administrators to do the same. In education, greatness is found in instructional leadership. A truly great teacher inspires students as well as colleagues, administrators and parents to perform at their best. That is your quest. Enjoy!

Ben Johnson
San Antonio, TX

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