Thursday, February 06, 2014

Getting to Know the Characteristics of Good Teachers

For most pre-service teachers, they have had 13+ years of "apprenticeship of observation" (Lortie, 1975) - that is, they  have been students in schools for thousands of hours and seem to know what teachers do everyday.  However, as any classroom teacher will tell you - there is a lot of time, thought and effort that goes on behind the scenes that students never see.  As a teacher-educator, I hope to help my pre-service teachers become more aware of how their previous experiences as students influences their understanding of teaching and learning and their own development as teachers.

 One of the first activities I ask my pre-service teachers to complete is a quick review of the "characteristics of effective teachers".  To accomplish this, I ask the students to search for and view four YouTube videos using search terms like - characteristics/qualities/traits and good/effective/excellent and teachers.  The students take notes on the author and purpose of the video and what characteristics were discussed.  Then, in small groups, the students combine their observations for a group list - which is then compared against the other groups.  It is not surprising, but the results are fairly consistent - passionate, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, fair, organized, supportive, patient, caring, friendly, respectful and creative.

I then introduce the book "Thank You, Mr. Falker" by  Patricia Polacco, which is a memoir of her struggles with dyslexia in school and the teacher who made a difference for her.  Jane Kaczmarek reads the story in this Screen Actors Guild video.  Using a Quick Write, students reflect on the teachers who have influenced them the most and share their responses with a partner.

Finally, in small groups, students draft a job description for a teacher.  This would include the objective, summary statement, qualifications, duties/responsibilities, required skills, and desired skills.  It could also include the salary range and hours. 

For many students, this was the first time they have broken down the actual job of a teacher into the smaller parts to consider the daily tasks of not just lesson planning and teaching, but communicating with staff and parents, assessment paperwork, additional duties like lunch and recess, after school activities, and assorted professional meetings.  I chuckled when one student commented, "Hmmm... I guess I should really look into actual job descriptions, considering this is what I want to do." 

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