The thing about education is that everybody had one – good or bad – and so everyone has an “expert” opinion on what we should or should not be doing.
While there appears to be a diversity of opinion about what we teach, few people fail to recognise the value of a good teacher in achieving excellent outcomes for students.
From academics to politicians and parents, we seem to be able to agree that the choice of the teacher in the classroom makes a big difference to educational outcomes.
“Research shows that effective teachers are the most important factor contributing to student achievement. Although curricula, reduced class size, district funding, family and community involvement all contribute to school improvement and student achievement, the most influential factor is the teacher.”
An agreement on what a good teacher is and how to find and keep one to ensure a quality education is less clear. A sample of comments from the print media:
- There is no simple solution to the question of who makes the better teacher A strong knowledge and love of your subject is paramount, as is a willingness to continue learning both what and how to teach. Vivienne Parsons, Thornleigh, SMH
- Few young people choose to become teachers when the teacher’s right to discipline pupils, the right to tell pupils and their parents the brutal truth about inadequate achievement, the right to show affection towards pupils, and the right to respect from pupils and parents are all heavily curtailed. Ross Drynan, Lindfield.
- While a certain degree of academic expertise is necessary, the ability to communicate, manage and engage is equally important. Max Redmayne, Russell Lea (Note: I have a suspicion that I worked with Max at a school in Sydney – A very good maths teacher.)
- If we want our kids to flourish at school, we can’t just cross our fingers that our kids get the best teachers. Angela Mollard, Daily Telegraph.
Teachers: “It is what teachers know, do, and care about which is very powerful in this learning equation. “ John Hattie
At the risk of over-simplifying the education debate about the “basics”, ignoring the funding issues and the politics, I believe the solution lies in the following equations:
The Best Schools hire the Best Teachers.
The Best Teachers are always learning how to improve their professional capacity and their school supports this..
The Best Teachers get the Best Results because they engage, inspire and bring out the best in their students.
The Best Results a school can achieve are engaged, discerning, knowledgeable and skilled students who are ready for the next phase of a successful life.
So, hire and develop the best teachers and be the “best school”
(That’s what we do)
Prof. John Hattie has spent years looking at what really works in education. His view of expert teachers is that they:
- have a deep knowledge of the subjects they teach
- set challenging goals for learners and give them difficult tasks
- have a deep understanding of how learners learn
- use high quality instruction methods including reviewing previous learning, providing model responses, giving adequate time for practice and progressively introducing new learning (scaffolding)
- are able to connect learning content to other topics in the curriculum
- assess using multiple measures, focussing on proof of student gains
- are better at monitoring problems from learners and give the learners more relevant and useful feedback
At St Columba we are fortunate to be able to attract high quality teachers to apply to work at our school and have a set of processes to ensure that we not only hire the best but ensure that they become even better teachers through strategic professional development.
This means that we are not only able to offer a great education today but will be able to keep doing so in the future.
Visiting other schools as part of my role as principal, I am constantly aware of how lucky our school is to have the quality teachers that every day offer your child new opportunities and offer exciting learning scenarios that make education “real”.
“Teachers Change Lives. … By forging strong relationships, educators are able to affect virtually every aspect of their students’ lives, teaching them the important life lessons that will help them succeed beyond term papers and standardized tests.”
Mr Terry Muldoon
Principal, St Columba Anglican School