From the Principal

For the love of teaching

This poster hangs on my office wall. It has faded but I will not remove it.

As I have moved from the class teacher’s desk to the principal’s office it has become less of a reminder of the joy I felt first watching the film and more of a reminder of how easy it is for an education to become less about learning important things and more about meeting government prescribed objectives.

It also reminds me why I started teaching, how much I still had to learn about the craft before I moved away from it and how much we all owe the dedicated, often brilliant, and inspired teachers who populate our schools.

“From my experience, a good teacher is one that inspires you both as a person, and to learn. Someone who cultivates a student’s interest in a subject, who exudes passion for what they are teaching. For me, someone who you see on a regular basis, who themselves is an accomplished individual, who has been through all of the stuff in life that you are preparing for, who is an example of what it means to follow your calling and passion in life, is what I would call a teacher.”     Keeping Good Teachers, Mark F. Goldberg

Although the qualities that make great teachers are not easy to inculcate or duplicate, understanding these qualities can give all teachers a standard of excellence to strive for, and guide schools in their efforts to recruit and retain the best teachers.

Willingness to Put in the Necessary Time: You cannot achieve greatness by working from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Teaching, like every other serious profession, requires time. A great teacher indicates to students that she or he sincerely cares about their learning. They don’t hesitate to go beyond the contract in order to meet the needs of their students.

Love for the Age Group They Teach: Most teachers find joy in teaching because of their talent for relating to students in a particular age group. An important part of greatness is the match between the teacher’s skills and interests and the age of his or her students.

An Effective Classroom Management Style: The most effective teachers draw from well-known theories, but adapt them to their own personality. Because great teachers develop and hone their own classroom management style, their techniques vary.

Positive Relationships with Other Adults: Too often, we underestimate the amount of time that teachers spend with other adults in a school—other teachers, administrators, and parents. Great teachers work well with each of these groups. These teachers understand that the lack of a strong partnership between teachers and families may undo many of their best efforts.

Consistent Excellence: Greatness in teaching requires consistently outstanding performance over the years. The best teachers consistently find ways to integrate new methods in an ever-changing profession into their successful practices. Dedication to their work, flexibility, and the willingness to grow are common to great teachers in the face of difficulty and change.

Expert Use of Instructional Methods: Great teachers use a variety of instructional methods that they feel comfortable with getting excellent results. No single teaching method or approach works best for every teacher with every student.

In-Depth Content Knowledge: Everyone agrees that great teachers possess a solid command of content, whether their expertise lies in knowledge of reading in the early grades or a serious command of biology or mathematics at the high school level.

Capacity for Growth: Like any other profession, teaching undergoes constant change. Great teachers remain intellectually alive and open to responsible change grounded in theory, research, and practice.


Watch Hugh Jackman, the ex-teacher:

As principal, I can never hope to replicate the relationship between the teacher and class I found in the past. I am now removed.

I also notice that films where students wreak revenge on their school or principal (or deputy principals) are no longer as much fun as they once were.

What I can do from my office is work to:

  • ensure that the very best teachers at SCAS have the very best opportunities to be their very best professional selves.
  • find ways to help them continue to lead the evolution of  the teaching profession, making the style and type of learning even more effective in preparing our students for their future
  • support the teachers in imbuing in students a love of learning in their classes that will see these students become lifelong learners – not only by dint of need but through love of acquiring knowledge and skills that they had modelled in the classroom.

Probably not as good as the “real thing” but in a line stolen from “Love Actually”: “Enough. Enough now.”

Related posts
From the Principal

Who is teaching what?

From the Principal

Think before you attack

From the Principal

Educating for the future

From the Principal

Principal's Blog