A few weeks ago, I wrote about the main principles I took away from the National Youth-at-Risk conference. The third point was, “We need great teachers.” We do have some great teachers in Allendale, but we definitely need more. (Who doesn’t?)
Ideally, schools, families, and the community should work together for the common good of each child. However, even without family and community support, teachers can make a difference in the educational success of a child.
The Difference a Teacher Makes
It’s common knowledge that children from poverty under-perform their middle-class peers in terms of educational achievement. But if that child has an above average teacher for just three years in a row, that gap can be closed (see this for example).
Having a teacher in the top 20% leads to an average of two to three times the growth in test scores, versus having a teacher in the bottom 20%. This growth over three years holds true for assessments in both reading (Jordan, Mendro, & Weerasinghe) and math (Sanders & Rivers).
The positive impact of high-quality teachers applies for all grades, but is more pronounced in the lower grades, and the effects are cumulative. The study cited by Michael Morrison in Effective Teachers Matter indicates that having great teachers in kindergarten through second grade leads to a gain of about one-third of a year’s growth in third grade.
We know that high-quality teachers matter. So, how to we help more teachers become more effective?
Most teachers in this country are not completely prepared by the universities that are sending them out. From a few conversations with recent graduates and current staff members from different universities, two main areas that are not being taught are classroom management and how poverty affects the childhood brain.
During the At-Risk Conference, I was confused why so many break out sessions had presenters explaining classroom management techniques. But then I learned that these principles are learned on-the-job, or at conferences and training sessions like the one I attended.
And for a country in which 25% of children live in poverty, I’m amazed that we aren’t requiring teachers-to-be to be trained on how the stresses of poverty affect the brain. And in areas like Allendale, classroom management and the effects of poverty are topics that go hand-in-hand.
And perhaps another solution is to merely require more education for teachers. Compared to most countries, the USA requires far less training in order to be able to teach high school science. Instead of requiring a master’s degree (like Finland, Poland, Spain, Belgium, etc) or a bachelor’s degree with plus training (South Korea, Germany, and most of the rest), American science teachers only need the B.S. degree. (There are ways around state certification.)
If we want to help all students, especially those who come from the disadvantage of poverty, we need better trained teachers, and we need to help them become better trained.
Beyond the Training
But all the training in the world does not make a difference if the teacher lacks passion. Some teachers lose that passion over the years, but many keep it. Those who lose it are counting their days to retirement, while those who retain it are counting the children they inspired to success.
Also, the teacher needs to love his or her students. And the best way that love is communicated to a child is by time.
Great teachers spend seek to spend time with their students. Great teachers have higher attendance rates. Great teachers to at least some of the athletic events in which their students participate. Great students bump into their students (and their parents) at the grocery store or restaurant and don’t talk about school with them (unless they have great things to say).
Great teachers believe that they can make a difference. And great teachers feel responsible for their students success (or lack thereof).
And all this passion and love (=time) will pay dividends in the class, as the student will naturally seek to please those who show him or her love.
- Effective teachers do matter
- Better trained teachers are more effective
- Teachers who love and are passionate are more effective
- Improving Our School Report Card
- Want Quality Education? Recruit, Train, and Retain Quality Teachers
- 7 Mistakes That High-Performing Schools Never Make
- Changing Public Education in South Carolina?
- Poverty, Stress, and the Brain
*image courtesy of COBRA Soft via rgbstock.com