Great Teachers are Great Learners

This post is in response to a “conversation” that I was having with Justin Tarte when I commented on his recent post entitled, “For the love of learning…”.  I mentioned a scenario in which I saw a teacher in our school teaching IB students about the scientific process by having them develop their own lab investigation using crickets.  The students were completely engaged and the learning was authentic and amazing!  After leaving that classroom, I walked down the hallway and the next room that I entered, students were filling in the blanks on a worksheet that the teacher has used for many years as they referred to the outdated textbook.  The students were disengaged and some were on the verge of sleeping.  Justin posed a few questions to me which made me think.  What is the difference between the two teachers mentioned above?

The conclusion that I came up with was that, apart from having the necessary skills, great teachers are great learners.  Great teachers are not afraid to step out of their “comfort zone” and experience something that is new to them.  If we want our students to be life long learners, I believe that we must lead by example and we must be the “lead learners”.  It’s not just about teaching a pile of content to your students…outstanding teachers witll teach their students how to learn the content.  Also, great teachers understand that not all students learn the same way, or at the same rate…differentiation is the key.  In order to become a master of differentiation, the teacher has to be willing to learn about the learning styles of their students.  Collaboration is essential for teachers as they become the lead learners.

Does anyone have anything to add?

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About Derek Hatch (Hatcherelli)
Assistant Principal and Technology Leader in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

4 Responses to Great Teachers are Great Learners

  1. Justin Tarte says:

    Derek,

    Thanks for the great response and great blog post. I think you are 100% correct; great teachers are all great learners as well, and they see learning as a way to grow and develop their skills to enhance the learning environment for their students. Great teachers see learning as an essential part of their job, and they don’t miss any opportunities to share and help their students find their “love of learning.”

    Keep on rockin’ sir!

    • Hatcherelli says:

      Thanks for the comment, Justin. I guess our job as administrators is to model life long learning and make sure that our teachers do not lose their “love of learning”.

  2. So here’s a few interesting questions, Derek:

    1. What can administrators do to encourage or support continued learning on the part of their teachers? What role have administrators—or school structures in the area of PD, testing, evaluation and/or funding—-have lead teacher #2 to their current instructional practices?

    2. What would you say if teacher #2 had good standardized test results? Here in America, no one important (read: policymakers) would give two rips about the differences in instructional practices. All they would care about is the differences in results. And results would be defined by performance on end of grade exams.

    Good stuff. Made me think.

    Bill

    • Hatcherelli says:

      Thanks for the comment, Bill. You have added some great questions. I think as administrators, we need to encourage our teachers to collaborate and learn from each other. School leaders definitely need to take some responsibility for the quality of teaching in their buildings. It would certainly be an awkward conversation with Teacher #2 when an admin is asking him/her why the students are so disengaged. Awkward…but probably necessary.
      As for your second question…that is a tough one. From an educational research point of view, the only way to measure whether a teacher affected student learning would be to test the kids at the beginning of the year, apply the treatment (the teacher teaching) and then use the same instrument (test) to measure if the students learned anything. As I have told you before, I cannot believe that standardized test results are used to measure teacher effectiveness. There are so many other factors (socio-economic, cultural, attitude, parental involvement, etc.) which could affect how students do on end of grade exams. If teacher #2 had better test scores, it would show us that teachers cannot be evaluated using the test scores. This is obviously a policy which was developed by politicians not educators.
      Would you agree?

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