What It Means to be a Great Teacher

I had the privilege of being in Washington DC this week at the release of our new study, Time for Teachers: Leveraging Expanded Time to Strengthen Instruction and Empower Teachers.  We have video of the tremendous speakers and panel so, if you missed it, you can view it here.

Of all the fine points made by the incredible set of presenters, I did want to call attention to one particular comment that has stuck with me. Fourth-grade teacher, RaStar West, of the Morton School for Excellence in Chicago, mentioned that she and her fellow teachers underwent somewhat of a transformation a couple of years ago. As she explains (and I’m paraphrasing a bit), “We used to be in our school to teach the students. Now we’re there to be learners, as well.  We learn from each other how to always improve our instruction, to meet our students needs better every day.”

That shift in perspective ofwhat it means to be a teacher—as a learner first—really struck me. Indeed, it seems the pithiest way of summarizing the approach of the many tremendous educators that we came into contact with writing this study. Of course, these teachers we met are great at instruction and at stretching young minds, but what underlies their ability to do that, is that they themselves are never satisfied with what they know. They are always on the lookout to get better and to learn from their peers on how to improve.

I would say that this study is ultimately dedicated to those educators who are always seeking new ways to reach their students. We hope that they find that the many things we learned in our travels will be valuable as they travel along their own path toward ever-stronger teaching.