Friday, March 28, 2014

What exactly is a good (or great) teacher? (Part 1: Inspiration?)

What is a good teacher? With all the debate over how teachers should be evaluated and compensated, perhaps it's important to remember that there's no universal standard by which to define a good, or even great, teacher. There are no universally agreed upon measures, rubrics, or checklists.

It's not enough to say "I know a good teacher when I see one." Recall the proverb: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Over the next few posts, I'll discuss a aspects that could potentially be of use. Today's topic: inspiration.

Are good teachers those who inspire?

I commonly hear people remark that good teachers inspire their students. Is this a good measure?

How many kids would a teacher have to inspire to be considered a good teacher? 1 out of 100? 1 out of 10? At least 5% per year? A full 100% of the students?

Should the results of that inspiration be taken into account? Do we assign greater significance to those teachers who inspired people like Bill Gates over those who inspired some woman working full time at a supermarket and a second job at a hotel to support her family? What if the inspired student eventually became a homeless drug addict? In any of these cases, inspiration happened, but the end result differed.

Do we assign greater significance to teachers if they inspire those from less ideal social backgrounds? Is it more important to inspire students of certain economic backgrounds? Do we assign greater weight to those who inspire students of disadvantaged racial or ethnic groups? Should we assign greater weight to teachers who are able to inspire students of a racial or ethnic background different from his or her own?

What if a teacher inspired only one student his or her entire career? Would that be considered a god or great teacher?

What if that one student was Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. or Helen Keller?

What if that one student was you?

Other posts in the series:
Part 2: Test scores?
Part 3: Student evaluation?
Part 4: Grades and scores?
Part 5: Closing thoughts

Follow me on Twitter: @MatthewTShowman

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