Change the Paradigm: What Makes a Skilled Teacher?

I am a firm believer that teaching itself is a skill. Sure, being a content expert is important, but you have to be a kid expert, a human expert also. This is an entirely different set of skills than knowing your content. Don’t get me wrong, teachers must know the content they teach, but just as important is knowing how to make that content come alive for the students they teach.

Those of us in education, or even parents who have seen the magic of a great teacher, know that it is just that –magic. It is an art and a science all in one. For some people, it is natural, but for many it can be nurtured and taught through the process of education and skilled mentoring. Deborah Ball hits the nail on the head in this speech when she states that we in the field cannot state that it’s just what we do…. we have to acknowledge that it is something that can be multiplied and taught in others.

We have to begin to speak this language of accomplished teaching from the time pre-education majors (if you will) enter the field, so that as a profession we begin to meld together as a profession. We have to begin to work together as ONE: university professors, undergraduates, teachers, administrators, and district officials. All of us must come together with a common language, a common goal, and a common understanding.

That must be that teaching is highly complex and it takes all of us working together with common vocabulary and intentions for the good of all our children to make the future stronger than the past and the present.

National Board Certification for the Masses: What Would that Look Like?

Imagine a teaching force of accomplished educators who are reflective about their practice, knowledgeable about the content they teach and how best to teach it to their students, and willing to look deeply at themselves through data and videos to improve their craft. Current research done in several states tells us that the students in National Board Certified Teachers’ classrooms gain an average of one month’s ELA instruction and two months’ math instruction over a year’s time compared to the students in non-NBCT’s classrooms. One study was done in LA Unified. Another was done in Gwinnett County, Georgia. There is also research on the positive gains of students in the classrooms of NBCTs of low-income and minority students.

So what would it look like if from the time every undergraduate began an education program, the Five Core Propositions of National Board became part of the language –if from the beginning it was understood that the end result was that educators needed this Board Certification. If we were talking about being accomplished teachers from the start of our programs and learning that this would be the end result –that the highest achievement that a teacher can achieve–NBCT– was the expectation, much like it is for a doctor, could we build an even stronger profession in the way the medical profession has?

For many teachers reflection comes naturally. These teachers go back at the end of the day and ask themselves what went well and what could go better. They figure out why they didn’t get through to that one student who was taught that lesson in three different ways and still didn’t grasp the concept. Those are the teachers who take responsibility when students don’t understand. These are the teachers who understand that good classroom management starts with good relationships. But what about those who aren’t as reflective? For those of us who went through the National Board process, consider what seeing ourselves on video for the first time did for our practice. What would that do for education overall if every teacher went through this process?

A nation of reflective, accomplished practitioners; stronger teacher-student relationships; better student engagement; and therefore a more professional profession? Could National Board Certification be one way to strengthen our profession?

A Place to Reflect & Ruminate

Catina: teaching, learning, leading, creating

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