I have begun reading What Great Principals Do Differently: Fifteen Things That Matter Most by Todd Whitaker and I was fascinated by one simple concept of how to improve schools.  1.  Get better teachers. 2.  Improve the teachers you have.  A very simple concept indeed but not so easy to accomplish.  Many school systems keep changing programs thinking that if they can find the right one they can improve their results.  When in reality great teachers would be successful with almost any program or even none at all!  We have all witnessed how some program, whether it be academic or behavioral, can be extremely effective in one classroom and a dismal failure in another.  So a program’s success relies on the quality of teachers.

Whitaker asks How many principals -or teachers for that matter- can predict who in your building will send the most students to the office NEXT year?  Usually an easy prediction to make even without knowing which students are going to be in which class.  His point here is that the teacher is the variable not the student.   For example, if a student in the best teacher’s classroom fails a test, the teacher will blame himself.  If a student in the worst teacher’s classroom fails a test, that teacher blames any number of variables except himself including parents, last year’s teacher, the weather, full moon, TV and video games.  The difference is good teachers are always looking to improve and focus on what they can control–their teaching.   Poor teachers look to the outside and wait for variables out of their control to change.  RESPONSIBILITY lies with the teacher and good teachers know that.  Both good and poor teachers have high expectations for students but as Whitaker indicates it is what teachers expect of themselves that is important.

So can we help our fellow educators improve by showing them that they are the primary variable that determines student success or are teachers who cannot see that doomed to failure?


One Response to “Responsibility!”

  1. Meghan Horbal Says:

    I struggle with this question, because sometimes I wonder if it would make any difference. The teachers who blame anyone but themselves find it threatening to hear that they are the number one indicator of success or failure in students. Think about the fear that surrounds merit pay or those nifty little graphs you can find on the EVAS system. To a good teacher, these concepts are fascinating… a bad one, terrifying.

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