Friday, April 23, 2010

Are You a Highly Effective Teacher?

by Ann Abbott

The latest issue of "Kappan" lists some of Steven Farr's findings about successful Teach for America teachers (from his book, Teaching as Leadership).  Although we're not all facing the same challenges at Teach for America teachers, it seems to me that many of the characteristics he lists are true for any teacher.

However, I also feel like some of the characteristics (the last one in particular) can contribute to the already troubling "Mommy-fication" of language instructors.  (Elena Lanza from Northwestern talked to me about "Mommy-fication" at a recent symposium we both attended, and I was immediately struck by how she put a name to something that so many of us have felt.)

What do you think of these characteristics?  What characteristics do you resist? Do you think the characteristics of effective community service learning teachers would be different? Leave a comment!

  • Set big goals informed by an ambitious and inspiring vision of where their students will be academically at the end of the year.
  • Invest students in owning those big goals and recruit families and other influencers to convince students that they can achieve those goals.
  • Plan purposefully be working backward from the desired learning outcome.
  • Ensure that the details of their everydady work are focused on helping students achieve their learning goal. For exmaple, successful TFA teachers check constantly for understanding by using methods that allow them to see if all students get it (dry-erase boards, popsicle sticks, clickers, exit tickets, etc.)--and follow up if some don't.
  • Reevaluate constantly what they do, looking for ways to improve their teaching and reorganizing their classrooms and approaches.
  • Assume personal responsibility for improving student learning, even if it means going far beyond traditional expectations.

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