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Texas ISD School Guide
Texas ISD School Guide

Articles for Teachers

What Makes a Teacher Great?
By:Sarah Grace Del Rosario <sarah.rosario@oc.edu.au>

Teach for America is one of those admirable programs that throws brave new teachers into a mix of troubled classrooms and helps take students living in less than desirable conditions get a solid education. These teachers are the influencers and have shown their capability time and time again of giving students a better life.

The organization decided to take a look at their teachers and try to answer the question, what makes a great teacher? This question, while largely opinion based, seemed to deliver some fairly concrete answers over the course of their 20 year study.

During this time Teach for America researchers found teachers who were considered exceptional based on high student test scores. From there, they monitored these teachers to see what they were doing in their classrooms. Approximately four times a year a researcher would sit in on an exceptional teacher’s classroom and observe them in action. Their observations ultimately were compiled to deliver some concrete results about what makes a good teacher, great.

Here’s what they found:

Great teachers set big goals – Teach for America teachers were and are not afraid to dream big for the students they see in their classroom each and every day. This could be because of the poor conditions the students they teach come from, but the practice of setting big goals for students has shown to pay off in the end. When a teacher pushes a student to their maximum capability the student most of the time is surprised by how much they were able to accomplish.

Great teachers constantly reevaluate their systems – Many times, researchers would hear that a teacher was in the midst of redesigning their program when they made a visit. The teacher would claim that they felt old methods of teaching were not working and wanted to try something new. They worked hard to plan and reassess consistently. This seemed to prevail among exceptional teachers and ultimately it seemed to work in their favor.

Great teachers worked with family members as well as students – Because teachers are only able to influence a student when they are in the classroom, exceptional teachers made a habit of also including family members into the process. This helped teachers know that their students would continue learning at home too and kept everyone on the same page academically.

The study found that experience and money were not the driving factors behind great teachers, but rather a passion for the job and an appreciation for the differences they were making in students’ lives.

What do you think makes a great teacher?

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