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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

The Power of Teachers: The Opportunity to Shape Lives

George Lucas offers ideas for preparing educators for their all-important role.
By George Lucas

Teacher.

The title conveys the highest responsibility of adults towards children. Apart from my parents, my teachers have done the most to shape my life. From kindergarten through college, their struggle -- and it was a struggle -- to help me grow and learn was not in vain. And I greatly appreciate their efforts.

There is no more critical need in our society today than preparing teachers who know their subject matter well and who understand the social and emotional needs of students. After decades of classifying or transporting students, or changing the textbooks and the tests, we now understand that the most active ingredients in improving schools are the knowledge and skills of our teachers. Education is now arriving at the same conclusion as other fields, such as business, medicine, the media, and the military: Investing in professional development should be the number one priority.

As schools of education and educational agencies move to develop a profession of teaching for the future, our Foundation hopes that greater emphasis will be placed on teachers:

  • spending more time, earlier in their student teaching, in direct contact with students in classrooms.
  • guiding students to use technology to find the latest information, assess its validity, and communicate with experts.
  • presenting curriculum that is both rigorous and integrated -- addressing, for instance, both history and science, as James Burke's Connections television series did so well.
  • understanding that students' attitudes and emotions need nurturing in the learning process. It's about their hearts, as well as their minds.

Investing in teachers and supporting their learning are the keys to improving our schools. We believe that teachers should themselves be learners because the current state of content knowledge, as well as our understanding about how to teach, improves constantly.

Those of us who make motion pictures are also teachers: teachers with very loud voices. But we will never match the power of the teacher who is able to whisper in a student's ear.

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