Teacher quality is something no one can really argue with. I mean the idea that supremely excellent teachers will do a better job at educating our nation’s kids than weak, apathetic teachers is self-evident.
But don’t fantastic doctors save more lives, exceptional lawyers win more court cases, and phenomenal police detectives crack more crimes? Of course they do.
So the question really is, how do we create more great teachers?
And they are created, not born. In the spirit of the book OUTLIERS, I’d suggest that we are looking at great teachers as if they were simply born that way. Sure, they went to school, did their requisite reading and had a bit of knack for working with kids, but the fact is, if we want more great teachers we, as a nation, are going to have to make them.
And how do we do this?
The objective? The sharing of best practices.
The fact is, the world of teaching has changed spectacularly in the past few years. To wit, 5 years ago I don’t think I even knew what Google was; now it’s an active verb in my teaching life and I do things like take Google Lit Trips — a term that might as well have been spoken to me in Russian but a very short time ago… and still might appear like something in Russian to many, many teachers out there today.
And the fact that I am blogging this on a ning is not lost on me. This is an entirely new vocabulary in the lexicon of education and without me having had these things shown to me, explained to me, taught to me by other educators, I simply would not have these methodological tools in my teacher’s toolbelt.
Then again, I go to teacher conferences.
Sure, I am often invited to speak at them which makes getting to them much, much easier (like my district is off the hook for the funding of this stuff) but look at the arsenal I have available to me as a teacher as a result of being in attendance at national conferences like NCTE. Does this time at the conferences pay off for my district in terms of what I can offer to my students and/or illuminate to other teachers on our staff?
It’s not even a question.
Of course, people ask me to come do professional development for their districts all the time but in so many ways, I am just standing on the shoulders of those who illuminated different tools, ideas, strategies and so forth for me once upon a time. Yes, like any chef, I will often play with the recipe in order to make the meal my own, but first I needed someone to inspire me as to the meal I could cook.
My career is now dedicated to being more of a share-er. (It truly is a place where I find great personal and professional satisfaction.) I try to share through the posts I author, through the material I post on the web at my website, and through the curriculum I write for authentically engaging reluctant readers and writers. But if our nation is serious about great-en-ing our country’s teachers, we are going to have to put teachers in a position where they can be learners, where they can work on improving their craft.
We need to make a commitment to those who work as as teachers in our schools to remain well schooled. We need to make a greater commitment to sending teachers to professional development conferences. It’s where the best of the best gather to give… and I always leave with a full bag of fantastic goodies.
Conferences are the moments in which great teachers are created.