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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Pride of Profession: Striving to Become a Great Teacher

Ben Johnson

Administrator, author and educator

This is the second post in a two-part entry. Read part one.

In the first part of this entry, I discussed greatness in educators. One of the nice things about my current position is that I can go into the classroom and see this greatness all around:

  • I saw a teacher treating her students like little adults, and those first graders responded accordingly by doing fourth-grade work and mastering parts of speech as if they were in high school.
  • I witnessed a brand-new teacher vividly and effectively demonstrate the three states of matter by having the students be molecules and act out what the molecules are doing in the different states. Because of this, the second graders easily used the scientific method to establish the three states of matter in a hands-on experiment.
  • I saw self-assured and responsible eighth-grade students catching the vision of how school can be a stepping-stone for college and careers in an AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) class. They learned the unspoken curriculum of how to overcome fear and doubt and how to effectively work with their teachers. Everything about this class empowered them to actually believe that through individual determination, they truly can advance.

(A regular, everyday English teacher, Mary Catherine Swanson, started AVID because she wanted to help her students be truly successful and find and believe in their greatness. In doing so, she demonstrated her own greatness. If you want to learn more about it, read Wall of Fame, by celebrated journalist Jonathan Freedman.)

In those wonderful visits to your world, I saw many other elements of greatness in both the students and the teachers. We should all believe that we have the best students in the world and that they are certainly capable of being great. It is their right and our responsibility to help them achieve it.

That brings me to the point of my post: How can we expect the students to aspire to be great if we are not doing the same? We all have a certain amount of greatness that we demonstrate frequently, but the biggest enemy of success (greatness) is an attitude of "That's good enough." In that spirit, I would like to inspire all of us to do some self-reflection.

I appreciate all that you do and especially the fact that you take the time to read my ramblings. If you can spare the time, I would like you to answer the following questions, at least to yourself. But I welcome you to share your responses with me in the comment section below so I can compile the answers and give a report next month. If you would like to respond but do not want your responses included in the report, just let me know.

Consider these questions:

  • If I think of myself as at least a good teacher, what would I do differently in order to be a great teacher?
  • What student outcomes do great teachers achieve that I don't achieve?
  • What qualities does a great teacher possess?
  • What sacrifices would I have to make to become a great teacher? What am I willing to give up to become great?
  • What does a great teacher's classroom look like?
  • What kind of relationships do great teachers strive to create with fellow teachers and administrators?
  • What will be my first step toward greatness?

These are great questions for you to discuss with a teacher aide or a partner teacher, or in your professional-learning communities and at grade-level meetings. Another book that has inspired these ramblings is Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don't, by Jim Collins. It is on my list of books to read soon.

Please respond to the questions I have posed above, and share your thoughts.

Ben Johnson

Administrator, author and educator
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