What Makes the Best Teacher

by NYC Firm Schools on April 6, 2009

Student and Teacher
Creative Commons License photo credit: Wonderlane

That teachers and educational leaders make a difference in NYC schools is not arguable. It is fact. Great teachers make great differences in children’s lives and create a lasting impact. Deciding what or who makes a great teacher, however, not something so simply stated.

The Cleveland.com blog recently wrote about some of the attributes that make a great teacher and how the definition itself is dependent on the person asking.

But up to now, there’s been little consensus on exactly what goes into making an effective teacher.

Is it the training they get, the certification conferred by the state, advanced degrees earned or years of experience tallied? Or is it something more nebulous?
“We’ve been looking into this for a century,” said Adam Gamoran, interim dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “First researchers focused on personality characteristics, then qualifications, and now we measure what teachers do in the classroom.

The National Council on Teacher Quality is one of many groups devoted to the issue. Some of its conclusions:
• Master’s and other advanced degrees don’t appear to improve effectiveness, even though they — along with length of experience — largely determine how much teachers are paid.
• After the first four to five years, the value of classroom experience seems to level off or at least become unpredictable.
• So-called “soft attributes” — such as need for achievement, sense of responsibility and ability to motivate — count for a lot.

Look back on your own days and try to focus on your most memorable teacher. What made them so meaningful to you, and what kind of lasting difference did they make in your life? Talk to your school age children to learn more about the teachers that they have, and try to predict who will be the teacher that makes the difference in their lives.

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