Teacher Gets Schooled

I’m a lousy teacher.

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I’m a great teacher.

I’m also a mediocre teacher.

In the course of a year I’m all of those.

Sometimes I’m all of those in a single 42-minute period.

I’m in my sixth year teaching.

As I learn more and more about my craft I spend more time as an excellent teacher, somewhat less as a lousy one. But when I really look at my practice, I realize that most of the time I’m pretty mediocre.

There’s been a lot of discussion about teacher quality lately. Atlantic Magazine has an interesting article on the subject.

It seems that despite the billions of dollar spent on curriculum development, technological upgrades, renovated or new physical plants and tons of books, it’s the teacher in the room that makes the biggest difference.

I make the difference.

If you were the parent of a student in my class, or someone from whom I might seek a teaching job, you could, and should, ask me what qualifications do I have to take on this awesome responsibility of teaching.

I have a BS in Education Studies from SUNY/Empire State College and a Master of Science in Teaching from Fordham University GSE, with 4.0 averages at both.

I passed all the exams New York requires and, for good measure, the ones NJ requires, too.

I did 15 weeks of student teaching in a suburban second grade, then another 20 in a multi-grade class at Blythedale Children’s Hospital School.

I also have 40 years of work experiences in a variety of professions and 56 years of (just the one, so far) life experience to draw on for something those extra insights that add so much to lessons.

Impressive, some would say, while others will call it merely adequate. As paradoxical as it may seem, both groups are right.

My qualifications for my job are impressive.

They are also not nearly enough.

Good teachers never stop learning; never stop trying to get better.

I’m fortunate that I have found two different groups of smart, dedicated, generous and talented people who help me learn more about how to do what I do better.

The first group started developing in my rookie year when my mentor, Oksana Kulynych, introduced me to Phil Panaritis and the Teaching American History program in our half of the Bronx. For five years Phil and the college professors he recruits have taught me a tremendous amount of subject content and applied pedagogy.

The second group started developing when I joined Twitter.

Through Twitter I started connecting with what has become my PLN, my Professional Learning Network of teachers, librarians, school psychologists, principals, administrators and others connected to or interested in education.

I’ve been on Twitter for 15 months or so, about as long as I attended graduate school and did student teaching.

I have learned far, far more about teaching, gathered many, many more resources and gotten much more support and constructive criticism on Twitter than I did getting my master degree.

It was a hell of a lot cheaper, too.

Later this week I will travel to Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia I will meet some of the members of my PLN at the Science Leadership Academy. Principal Chris Lehmann, along with the teachers, students and parents connected with the school, host Educon, 500 people having a three-day long series of conversations about teaching and learning.

I am tremendously excited about the learning opportunity Educon presents.

I will come away exhausted, my head spinning with more inspiration, more techniques, more knowledge and more questions.

It will take me some time to digest it all, but in the end it all will help me become a better teacher.
My qualifications will be that much more impressive.

But it will not be enough.

It will never be enough.

There’s always something else to learn, something else to try.

I will find it.

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6 Responses to Teacher Gets Schooled

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ira Socol, Deven Black, Anne Simmons, Links Jovanic, Chip Buckwell and others. Chip Buckwell said: "Teacher Gets Schooled" http://is.gd/76EOI A wonderful introspective guide to look at ourselves! […]

  2. Thank you for summing it up so eloquently. While I have yet to master Twitter, I have spent the last 7 months finding and devouring all the wonderful blogs from educators like yourself. I can’t ever learn enough and there is always something new. Thanks you for your contributions to my PD as a teacher and I hope to figure out twitter soon!

  3. Deven,

    A good teacher is a reflective teacher. A good teacher never feels that they are the ‘perfect’ teacher. If we never had room for improvement, we never would improve!

    You bring to the table what many other teachers can’t:”Real World” experience.

    Educon is going to be amazing!

  4. Philip says:

    I appreciate your reflection. My favorite thing about teaching is that it allows me to be a continuous learner, but I confess it took me a few years to figure out that I didn’t have to have all the answers. Now, as a parent, that’s what I want most for my own kids–to be surrounded by adults who model personal growth and a love of learning.

    I’m jealous of your trip to Educon. I’ll be following online and via the back-channels!

  5. I love the beginning of this post. Funny I usually say the same thing to myself, only I substitute the word “mom” for teacher.

    It sounds like you’re a pretty awesome teacher to me. That’s because, in my book, a willingness to continually learn and grow are high on my list. Sounds like you are doing both.

  6. Anne Barbano says:

    That’s an inspiring piece and I thank you! When families are given the opportunity to build their teams with adequate funding and accessible expertise (EPSDT) one thinks of a teacher or team player like you, as what your blog suggests. Someone willing to learn and relearn. Thanks for the inspiration! Hope you can catch a show posted from me on TWITTER. (I know it takes some getting use to!) ~ ANNE (host of autism/disability/diagnosis radio show The Next Frontier on http://www.theradiator.org & archived on my website)

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