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As a new school year kicks into full swing everyone seems to be focused on teaching and education. So, what makes a good teacher, and can these qualities be measured?

 

These days everyone seems to be talking about teacher quality; how to determine it, how to improve it, or how to quantify it.   None of these questions can be answered until we know, what makes a good teacher.   Is the best teacher the one with the most prestigious education or the most degrees on his wall?  The one with the smallest class who can provide the most individual attention?  Does she have the most years of teaching experience, or spend the most time planning elaborate lessons?  What makes a great teacher?   If we do not know, then how can we go about measuring it to determine teacher quality?

If I asked you to think of the best teacher you had, who would come to mind?  What qualities did that person possess?  I bet it is likely that all of us would describe our favorite teacher very differently.   Since we all learn in a unique way, it is unlikely that any group of people could come to a consensus on one style or set of characteristics of an excellent teacher.  Educator and philosopher Parker Palmer explains it this way:

Good teaching isn’t about technique. I’ve asked students around the country to describe their good teachers to me. Some of them describe people who lecture all the time, some of them describe people who do little other than facilitate group process, and others describe everything in between. But all of them describe people who have some sort of connective capacity, who connect themselves to their students, their students to each other, and everyone to the subject being studied. (1999, p. 27) http://sabes.org/resources/publications/adventures/vol12/12hassett.htm

Have you ever listened to someone who is obviously extremely intelligent, but just cannot communicate what they know to others?  It is clear that one can be both very bright and very bad at teaching.  So, maybe it’s time that we admit that teaching is not just about being knowledgeable.  Although no one will argue that knowledge of the content area is important, the fact is that kids (and all of us) want to learn from someone who is engaging.

Professor Bob Pianta, Dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia put it this way, “The things we think typically matter to make an effective teacher — how many years experience, how many degrees you have, whether you have a degree in this or a degree in that — don’t seem to matter much at all.”  So, what does matter?  According to Pianta, it is how a teacher interacts with kids, delivers instruction, and engages them in the learning process.  He further explains that a good teacher is a good social worker, manager and instructor.  I think that this is a perfect description of what an effective teacher must strive for, and also an explanation for why teachers are so tired at the end of the day.  After all, we are doing three jobs!

Just like a good social worker, a good teacher forms relationships with kids and their families.  This means learning to reach out to and connect with all types of people, even those who do not really seem all that interested in forming a relationship with you.  Great teachers find a way to engage students in what they are learning, and how do they do that?  They get to know their students.  They know what each student is interested in, their goals and their families, and they use this information to find a way to hook them into the curriculum they are teaching.  Excellent teachers use these relationships to teach values like kindness, integrity, and the rewards of hard work to students who may not receive this type of guidance anywhere else.  Yes, an excellent teacher forms positive teacher-student relationships with each of their 90+ students and offers them a sense of emotional support. Because in order to learn, you have to feel safe enough to ask questions and make mistakes and this can only happen in an environment of trust.

Secondly, a good teacher must be the CEO of their classroom.  They must possess the qualities of an excellent manager.  A great teacher knows how present an assignment so that kids are excited and understand what they need to do.  They also know how to make a C+ feel like an achievement and an A+ feel like the Nobel Peace Prize.  An excellent teacher must also have great time management and planning skills.  How else could they get 28 first graders to build a model of the solar system in one hour without total chaos ensuing?  If you have ever tried to do an arts and crafts project with even a few small children, you know how difficult this task really is.  This brings us to the next thing a great teacher manages well, student behavior.  An excellent teacher is an excellent communicator and practices successful classroom management, because we all know if the class is going crazy, talking, and passing notes, then no learning is taking place.

Lastly, a good teacher has to be a good instructor.  They should know well the subject they are teaching.  Not just well enough to regurgitate it, but well enough to find ways to make it interesting and understandable to everyone, and well enough to build a child’s thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving skills.  An excellent teacher does not just go through bulleted points on the curriculum map; he or she teaches children how to learn so that they are able and motivated to make their own discoveries.   Good teachers plan and then make a new plan until it works, because we all know that what works in our head does not necessarily work as well with 30 little people involved.  The best teachers serve as leaders in setting big goals and high expectations for their students, so that they are constantly growing.

As one can see, being an excellent teacher is quite a task.  In fact many would argue it is a calling rather than just a job.   As such, teaching excellence is something to constantly work towards, and equally hard to quantify, although the folks in this article have some interesting ideas: http://www.wbur.org/2011/05/23/a-teacher. I am excited to hear your thoughts about what makes a good teacher and whether, or how these qualities can be measured.

-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.
Owner | Parrish Learning Zone, LLC
540-999-8759

                                       ~Nina

Nina Parrish, M. Ed.

Nina Parrish, M. Ed.

Co-Owner and Director of Education

Proud mom of two adorable girls. Teacher who has developed an education business that started at a kitchen table and has grown into a thriving small business... Click here to Learn more about Nina.

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Ms Brown was wonderful with tutoring my child in Algebra ll.
Pam Cantrell Burton
Pam Cantrell Burton
2020-10-14T16:15:51+0000
Parrish Learning Zone helped my daughter with on-line SAT and college essay preparation. She not only scored in the top 90 percentile on the SAT after working with Lauren Cannavo, she especially benefited from the tutoring she received for her admission essays. My daughter was accepted at Notre Dame, UVA, William and Mary, and received scholarships to George Washington University and the University of Alabama. She was initially deferred at the University of Chicago and waitlisted at University of Michigan and Emory University. She eventually chose not to remain on the waitlists and committed to UVA.Lauren also advised our daughter regarding her submission of a 20 page essay on community service for DECA, a high school business club. Our daughter, along with her partner, won second place in her category at the DECA state competitions in 2019 and 2020, and received second place at the DECA international competition in 2019.Lauren was not only a top-notch professional, she really cared about our daughter and was so pleased about her accomplishments. We are so very grateful to her and Parrish Learning Zone.
Marijayne Kruus
Marijayne Kruus
2020-05-11T21:51:37+0000
My daughter has a math learning disability and hated math. We started working with Nina Parrish and stuck with it for several months. Her grades have improved, but more importantly, so has her self confidence. She now loves going to work on math and will even work on it at home by herself. We are grateful for Parrish Learning Zone!
Laura Ellis
Laura Ellis
2018-12-14T14:36:43+0000
Mr. Chaves is an extremely gifted chemistry teacher. It's such a difficult subject--my son was drowning by the time we found PLZ. This was truly a last ditch effort on our part. Mr. Chaves was able to turn that ship around after only 4 lessons and my son passed the SOL! He was able to distill difficult concepts in a way that made them comprehensible and he was patient and kind and gave my son the confidence to succeed. His actual eacher expressed surprise and made a point of telling him he didn't know how he did it but he was impressed. It takes a gifted teacher to get results like that.I only wish we'd found PLZ and Mr. Chaves in the beginning of the school year.
Wendy Zelazny
Wendy Zelazny
2018-06-08T02:05:15+0000
Highly Recommend
Anne Kater Reeves
Anne Kater Reeves
2018-06-07T22:46:05+0000
I highly recommend Parrish Learning Zone. My daughter was able to achieve the SAT score she was aiming for with the help of her Math (Mr. James Slane) and English (Mrs. Lauren Cannavo) tutors. Not only did they help her with practice tests but they also boosted her confidence in taking the SAT. The owners (Nina and Jay) were always prompt in answering my emails. They are very accommodating and worked around my daughter’s schedule (thank you Shiela for all your help in finding available dates for my daughter to meet with her tutors). Thank you Parrish Learning Zone for helping my daughter achieve her goal!
Beth Yankovich
Beth Yankovich
2018-03-23T20:29:18+0000
I can't say enough good things about Parrish Learning Zone. My son has historically suffered from low reading comprehension. I felt he needed a little extra help so I contacted Parrish Learning Zone. The owners at Parrish matched my son with the perfect tutor for him, they developed a rapport almost immediately. He is now in 8th grade and doing well in all his classes. My son is very active in school sports and the staff at Parrish are always very accommodating. They always reschedule with no problems. My son even likes to go early to chat with Sheila.
Beth Kent
Beth Kent
2017-11-08T18:59:11+0000
Awesome! Very structured and student focused - they identified the areas of weakness and turned those into areas of strength in a very short amount of time. I loved the communication from the tutor and the company. I received a specific report of my child's tutoring session including improvements and areas that needed continued work. I received reminders of upcoming tutor sessions - which I needed!! I felt the individual attention and service was worth every penny AND found the prices to be much more reasonable that other tutors in the area. I would HIGHLY recommend Parrish Learning Zone to any parent that needs to find highly competent tutoring help for their child. Parrish is simply the best!
Michele Hiltbrunner Freemyers
Michele Hiltbrunner Freemyers
2017-03-14T15:53:50+0000
An excellent place to take your kids for any tutoring needs! PLZ is a very personalized and hands on service! Both of my teenage boys have been through here for various reasons and I know we will continue to make use of them!
Tammy Elms Mosco
Tammy Elms Mosco
2016-06-02T12:20:59+0000
SAT Prep Course with Parish Learning is definitely a worthwhile invest !!...My son's scores improved over 200 plus points!!
Janice Boles
Janice Boles
2014-12-02T22:34:32+0000
I am extremely thankful to Parrish Learning Zone. I have a son that is a freshman in college majoring in mechanical engineering. I am so glad that we found out about the Parrish Learning Zone because they were very caring and really worked hard around my sons high school football schedule to ensure that he received all of the needed instruction in order to do well on the SAT testing. It was a great investment for his future. I believe this experience prepared my son for the transition to college life. He was able to attend a top engineering college and to play football there. My daughter is a senior in high school now and was admitted into two of the top ranked public schools in Virginia. She will be a freshman at one of these schools next year. She also was enrolled in the Parrish Learning Zone for preparation for the SAT. I am again thankful to the Parrish Learning Zone and feel that this was a great long term investment into their futures. I would strongly recommend the Parrish Learning Zone to anyone looking for an environment that offers a caring and knowledgeable approach to educating students. They are the best.
Angela Jackson
Angela Jackson
2014-05-15T00:39:39+0000
Andrew Powers
Andrew Powers
2014-02-09T12:32:29+0000

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