Perfect My Practice: Quality vs. Quantity

How many of us feel like some days we are just “teaching to the test”?

Everybody does feel like this at some point. I know I have.

I’ve felt guilty because it goes against everything I believe a teacher should be. Education is more than just passing a test right? I know you would all agree.

At TLP last week we were discussing what factors influence a student’s ability to achieve at school. We looked at some research from John Hattie, University of Auckland. Hattie determined that 50% of a student’s ability to achieve is dependent upon their own genetic make-up. If they’re bright they’re naturally going to learn more than someone who is less so.

The next most significant influence on student’s achievement was, in fact, the teacher. A whopping 30%. Other variances, which I know would be extremely influential in some of the school’s we teach at, included home life, the actual school itself, principals and student peers.

At this point I felt all warm and fuzzy. I often forget, amidst the movement and energy of the classroom, the piles of marking, the meetings, the paperwork and the phone calls why I am doing all of this. Sometimes I think we forget how hugely important we are to children and their learning.

30% of a child’s learning is dependent on me.

In reading that, I felt important again. I feel like I have some reason or purpose for doing this job. I think through the fast paced nature of our lives these days it is something we can often forget. Plus we’re often so hell bent on being negative all the time we forget to give ourselves a little credit. I have had countless moments where I’ve felt like throwing in the towel and just thinking, why, why, why?! To have an oppportunity to stop and think about what qualities I have and the qualities I use each day to make a difference is really nice.

Here is my list of what I think makes a quality teacher:

1. Having a good relationship with students. Being approachable. Knowing who they are as people.

2. Supporting students learning. Rewarding students, strategising and modifying lessons for their specific needs. Setting goals.

3. Knowledge.

4. Enthusiasm, confidence, motivation, determination, vision.

5. An interest in lifelong learning. You don’t know everything. You can be better.

6. Sense of Humour.

7. Organised.

Some of the comments that were made by others were that sometimes your whole program can go out the window simply because someone says something or something happens in the classroom that changes the tangent and that this is not necessarily a bad thing. In one teacher’s classroom, a cricket came into the room and all her little primary schooler’s were fascinated by it. They started Googling it and looking at it on the interactive whiteboard and discussing it. What they were meant to do was writing but this small detour became just as valuable as preparing for the upcoming NAPLAN tests. They used it as the basis for their writing! It’s not how much you teach but what you teach and the way you teach it.

In saying this however, there are a range of teachers at any school at any one time. Teaching and schools do not belong in a vacuum. They are constantly evolving and changing in new and interesting ways. There is often a dynamic mix between new and experienced staff. A variety of ages, attitudes, ideas and expectations. As we enter a time where many teacher’s are retiring, the experience is being lost and that can be invaluable in an environment full of young inexperienced teachers.

We all learn from our mistakes. So, how can we prepare our teacher’s so that in the event of retirements we can ensure quality teaching and leadership will continue? How do we maintain quality teaching? Do we put in professional learning plans? Schedule reflective discussion sessions? Set up a mentor/mentee program between teachers within the school? How will that differ for the graduate teacher through to the professional accomplished?


Image Credits:

Student’s Blues, Perrimoon, Used Under Creative Commons.