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.

What Do Trash Cans Have to Do with Teaching?

This week I am humbled to be part of a group of accomplished educators in this historic NBCTsonthehill event. Together eighteen of us from all over the country have been brought together to help Ron Thorpe and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards move forward with their vision of making National Board Certification the norm for educators.

In the words of the CEO of NBPTS, Ron Thorpe, we can’t become a true profession by saying, I’m good. Trust me. We need to prove it. To this I have to say I agree; in every other aspect of our teaching lives we use evidence.

Ramona Lowe likens teachers to the surgeon who calms a nervous patient telling him not to worry because he is too good of a surgeon for him to die. Well, we should all be too good of teachers for our students to fail….or have anything less than success!

Those of us in education know that we must have relationships with our students. First and foremost before we can teach them or have a well-managed classroom it’s about the relationships we make. Knowing this, Siema Swartzel had her students create the trash can band kids. They created music in a way that was meaningful to them, and as a result of building this rapport, she saw huge gains in some of her toughest students.

Principals Mary Harris and Kiela Sneider have both created an amazing culture in their schools through National Board Certified Teachers. In Mary’s case, establishing the culture of accomplished teaching. Kiela used the reflective nature of the National Board process to naturally improve a high needs school. The turn-around in student progress is quite impressive, and even once she moved on from that school, the results remain.

We want this culture of accomplished teachers. Lisa Markussen agrees that having this high concentration of NBCTs creates this collaborative culture. In contrast to medicine, says Rhonda Blankenship, most teachers are still working in isolation. Jeffrey Wright sums it up well; in medicine students are taught by board certified doctors. That’s not the case in teaching.

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