I’m a lousy teacher.
I’m a great teacher.
I’m also a mediocre teacher.
In the course of a year I’m all of those.
Sometimes I’m all of those in a single 42-minute period.
I’m in my sixth year teaching.
As I learn more and more about my craft I spend more time as an excellent teacher, somewhat less as a lousy one. But when I really look at my practice, I realize that most of the time I’m pretty mediocre.
There’s been a lot of discussion about teacher quality lately. Atlantic Magazine has an interesting article on the subject.
It seems that despite the billions of dollar spent on curriculum development, technological upgrades, renovated or new physical plants and tons of books, it’s the teacher in the room that makes the biggest difference.
I make the difference.
If you were the parent of a student in my class, or someone from whom I might seek a teaching job, you could, and should, ask me what qualifications do I have to take on this awesome responsibility of teaching.
I also have 40 years of work experiences in a variety of professions and 56 years of (just the one, so far) life experience to draw on for something those extra insights that add so much to lessons.
Impressive, some would say, while others will call it merely adequate. As paradoxical as it may seem, both groups are right.
My qualifications for my job are impressive.
They are also not nearly enough.
Good teachers never stop learning; never stop trying to get better.
I’m fortunate that I have found two different groups of smart, dedicated, generous and talented people who help me learn more about how to do what I do better.
The first group started developing in my rookie year when my mentor, Oksana Kulynych, introduced me to Phil Panaritis and the Teaching American History program in our half of the Bronx. For five years Phil and the college professors he recruits have taught me a tremendous amount of subject content and applied pedagogy.
The second group started developing when I joined Twitter.
Through Twitter I started connecting with what has become my PLN, my Professional Learning Network of teachers, librarians, school psychologists, principals, administrators and others connected to or interested in education.
I’ve been on Twitter for 15 months or so, about as long as I attended graduate school and did student teaching.
I have learned far, far more about teaching, gathered many, many more resources and gotten much more support and constructive criticism on Twitter than I did getting my master degree.
It was a hell of a lot cheaper, too.
Later this week I will travel to Philadelphia.
In Philadelphia I will meet some of the members of my PLN at the Science Leadership Academy. Principal Chris Lehmann, along with the teachers, students and parents connected with the school, host Educon, 500 people having a three-day long series of conversations about teaching and learning.
I am tremendously excited about the learning opportunity Educon presents.
I will come away exhausted, my head spinning with more inspiration, more techniques, more knowledge and more questions.
It will take me some time to digest it all, but in the end it all will help me become a better teacher.
My qualifications will be that much more impressive.
But it will not be enough.
It will never be enough.
There’s always something else to learn, something else to try.
I will find it.