Powering the Global Education Conversation: About edCircuit

Can You Call Yourself a Teacher After 2 Years?

This piece was cowritten with Bernie Keller.

Bernie Keller and Dave GreeneGood teaching is a lot like a good acting. The script gives the actor a framework, a focus or direction, but what makes the play work is the way the actors respond to and play off of each other. This relationship is what takes the words off the page and turns them into, living, breathing ideas voiced by real characters. This relationship takes time to develop and cannot be developed in a sterile, “scripted” environment.

For all of the reforms, neologisms and twenty-first century ideas that have been advocated and espoused to” fix” education, not one of them has discussed or focused on this element, this relationship. One very good reason for this is that very few, if any of the reformers have ever been teachers. They may have taught for two or three years before professing themselves as being ready to lead and abandoning teaching to move into administration, but they weren’t actually teachers. Few ever became teachers in the true sense of the word because there is much more to teaching than just standing up in front of a room or using a Smart Board. They were more like actors memorizing a script, not acting out the ideas and emotions. Anyone who has ever “taught” would tell you that teaching is about developing relationships, about learning how to “hear” students’ questions and answers to get them where you know they must be (while getting them to think they did this all by themselves).

Like coaching, acting and parenting, there is no one-size-fits-all instructional manual or playbook. Like those areas, teaching is hard work, so we tend to be very skeptical of those “experts” and “reformers” who ran from the classroom to become the “leaders” of those to stay in the classroom to develop those relationships.

Not only does it take time to develop the individual, one-on-one relationship between teacher and each student, it also takes time to connect or develop that relationship with the school’s community including the parents and other siblings. Those relationships encourage students to “trust” you, to believe in you because other children, brothers, sisters, cousins, parents, and in some cases, their grandparents have developed that trust in you. That takes time.

Good teaching cannot be mandated or developed through a core curriculum. In the best-case scenario, these are only scripts with stage directions. They neither create nor guarantee good teaching. Good teaching is a composite, an amalgam. It is the combination of time, planning, commitment and the development of a relationship that turns lesson plans into living, breathing ideas students can take in and make a permanent part of their lives, which as one student wrote, “… will be the basis for now and many years in the future.”

Several years ago, there was a commercial for an investment firm that stated, “We make money the old fashioned way: we earn it.” Like the money in that commercial, if you want good teaching, you’re going to have to do it the old fashioned way: you’re going to have to earn it, you’re going to have to develop it and its relationships.

To paraphrase Joe Ehrmann, in his book InsideOut Coaching, a [teacher] “realizes the power of the [teaching] platform to inspire, motivate, and produce positive changes” in his or her [students]. “He or she is acutely mindful of the moral, social, emotional, and psychological needs of young people.” They “offer individual support and encouragement…and have a clear vision for the desired impact on their [students’] lives.”

That’s going to take time and work: not reform

Bernie Keller and Dave Greene

2 teachers from the Bronx.

Check out Keller’s personal op-ed about his world of education!

The opinions expressed here are solely those of David Greene and Bernard Keller and do not represent the opinions of edCircuit and/or its parent company MindRocket Media Group.

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