Archive for August, 2012

Building a teacher

In the article “How to Build a Better Teacher ”  ( http://www.slate.com/articles/business/the_dismal_science/2012/07/how_to_improve_teaching_new_evidence_that_poor_teachers_can_learn_to_be_good_ones_.html )  one suggested  method is to  provide struggling teachers with mentoring from experienced, good teachers. Now, I second that.

Firstly,  a great deal of the craft of teaching  can be acquired not through theoretical study, but through application within the classroom setting.  Mentoring and feedback by other teachers is invaluable in providing the type of learning that will enable a teacher to reflect on practices and work, with guidance, towards improvement. Teaching can be a very lonely, introverted job when the teacher is left to manage within the classroom on his or her own. The demands of the classroom often leave the teacher with little time to reflect on practices.  Having a mentor can help the teacher reflect on what is happening in the classroom.

Some of the things I did as Head of Department to enable this were:

1. After establishing the practice of classroom observations, my teachers eventually all agreed to me walking into their room unannounced.  These sessions were kept nonthreatening, firstly, by my focus on the students work, secondly by my nonintrusion into the lesson ( unlike some supervisors I have seen who feel tempted to actually take over the lesson) and thirdly, by the type of feedback I gave the teachers – always just one positive and one suggestion for improvement.

2. We met each week for just a half hour to plan lessons and talk about ideas to implement.  This enabled teachers of similar levels to feed off each other and enhance their own practices.