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The McKinsey & Company released a report titled “Closing the talent gap: Attracting and retaining top-third graduates to careers in teaching.”  I’ll summarize the findings of the report:

  • The most effective factor in an effective school is the teacher – Duh.
  • The U.S. doesn’t have a systematic or strategic policy in place to attract and retain top-tier teachers.
  • Reform efforts, i.e. Race to the Top, focus (almost exclusively) on current teachers and their effectiveness, giving very little attention to recruiting future top teachers with strong academic backgrounds.
  • Singapore, Finland, and South Korea recruit 100% of their teachers from the top 1/3 of graduating classes compared to U.S. that recruits 23% from the top 1/3 (and 14% for high poverty schools).
  • Makes the assumption that top-tier teachers have a strong influence on student / school achievement

What best practices to recruit and retain top-tier teachers can we learn from other countries with high performing school systems?  The report detailed a few findings:

  • Admissions to their rigorous teacher education programs is highly selective
  • Some governments pay tuition, fees, and stipend for those selected – NICE!
  • Admissions monitors the market place, taking in less applicants as the job market tightens.  The benefit is increased job security.
  • More $$$ for teacher salaries
  • Increased opportunities for advancement and professional growth

What are your thoughts?


“Do we juggle too many things in education?”  “Are we trying to take on too many things in the name of school reform?”  I believe so.

Lately, I feel like education leaders are taking a shotgun approach to improving student achievement.  Shoot in any direction and hopefully something works.  However, research shows this approach doesn’t work.  In Jim Collin’s book, Good to Great, he describes that best performing organizations always focus on a doing a few things well.  These high performing organizations do this by hiring disciplined people who are focused on the organization’s mission, monitoring results, and striving for improvement.

Let’s take a step back and evaluate what we are doing.  Ask if this new initiative, reform, protocol, committee, study group, PLC, reading, training, or activity is REALLY going to impact student learning.  I propose we implement a few initiatives, practice it, evaluate the progress, reflect, refine, and get it right, then do too much, resulting in only scratching the surface of its potential on improving student learning.

“Can’t this be simpler?” 

I continually go back to where student learning mainly happens – the classroom.  I continually go back to the number one factor impacting student achievement – the teacher.  This is where the focus should be. 

Questions begin to flow…

With as much money being spent, why not hire (additional) professional development coaches that can systematically assess and provide feedback to classroom teachers?  Have the coaches visit all classrooms at least 2 twice a month and more for beginning teachers.  The coaches provide timely and targeted feedback, just like how we provide feedback to students (Marzano).  Individual action plans, aligning to building or district goals, can be drawn up, monitored, and reflected on throughout the school year.

Why not provide feedback as a means to professional development rather than taking on the negative tone of evaluation?   When did we – as educators – get to hate the word evaluation?  Why can’t we get an evaluation that’s less than perfect and be okay, knowing we aren’t perfect?  There is always room for improvement; why not focus on that area of improvement, so our students can learn more?

Why not have teachers observe instruction and “evaluate” curriculum in true professional learning communities, providing opportunities for teachers to discuss each others’ work in a respectful, constructive manner?

Why not video-tape our instruction, and receive feedback from administration, a colleague, or even a university education professor – thus helping bridge the gap between academia and our schools?

5.0 out of 5 stars So Simple Sooo Helpful WOW, September 29, 2008

By Eileen (Albuquerque)

This book is a must have!! I always read reviews and consider what the reader says, well please believe me, When I say get the book. It is so simple to ready I couldn’t believe the insight it gives and tips for Students, Pre-service teachers and Student teaching. I highlighted and tagged pages. I am very pleased!! Eric did an awesome job on creating a book for the “unknowns” A lot of websites and examples, book references. Again a very great book for Teachers to be, get it early.

4.0 out of 5 stars Good book to get you started, July 10, 2009

By Laura (Tacoma, WA)

I bought this book right before my student teaching, and while I didn’t use it so much before my student teaching (despite there being a whole section dedicated to the pre-service teacher), it came in handy for what to expect during student teaching and what to do after. There is a website for the book that gives you extremely helpful information, such as the most asked interview questions, to help you prepare and land a job.

If you need some help with the unspoken “rules” of student teaching, or some tips to get a job, this book will help you. Establishing networks in bigger districts is a little harder to do, but those sections may work for smaller districts where there is only one high school, etc.

5.0 out of 5 stars Great resource, July 5, 2008

By Rob (Seattle, WA USA)

This book came in handy as a student teacher and when applying for teaching jobs. I appreciated the strategies on how to jump-start my student teaching on a positive note by creating relationships with my students and CT. Even though I have now completed my student teaching, I will continue to use many of the book’s classroom management and discipline tips in my own classroom, such as the question & answer box and bellnote activity. I recommend this to any student teacher.”

Pick up your copy today!



Stop and think before you answer this question.  The interviewers really don’t want to hear your life story or the names of all your 20 cats.  Rather what they are listening for is how well you will fit into the school, work with your colleagues, and relate to your students.

Talk about yourself and 1-2 life experience, but ALWAYS tie it back to how it will help you in teaching. 

For example:

“I would describe myself as adventurous and outgoing.  Last year I traveled throughout Southeast Asia, traveling to four countries.  I love learning about new cultures and meeting new people.  This is one of the reasons I want to teach at {insert school name}.  It has amazing diversity.  I would take this same enthusiam and apply it to learning more about my students and their backgrounds.”

I am not a big fan of flaming the fire with more bad news, but I have to call it as I see it.  This is a horrible time to looking for a job as a teacher, regardless of your speciality/certification. I have been receiving emails from across the country about aspiring teachers having trouble landing jobs. It’s almost everywhere.

The problem is in the uncertainty.  Districts and states are in a holding pattern, waiting to see how budgets will shake out and how the federal stimulus package will impact funding.  By mid-May we should start to see school districts begin moving on hiring.

What do I do then?

I outline three themes in my book to getting your teaching  job:  organize, network, and diversify yourself from other job seekers.  Here are just a few suggestions:


  • Track your network (of persons that may assist in you getting a job) and the frequency of communication you have with them.
  • Schedule your future job seeking opportunities, visiting prospective schools and job fairs.
  • Track your applications statuses to schools/districts.


  • Email friends and make use of network sites, such as LinkedIn to let them know you are looking for a teaching job
  • Attend job fairs and make friendly (not annoying) contact with hiring principals after the event.


  • Volunteer in community organizations and political organizations.  It is no secret that teachers and principals are highly active and visible in community service.  Join and volunteer in various organizations, allow you to develop new skills, freshen up your resume, help others, and expand your network.

Good luck!


I was inspired by President Obama’s speech.  As a classroom teacher, I would consider myself a public servant, working long hours and going beyond the call of duty for not much money.  I do it because I love it; it’s what I am passionate about.

However, I am left with a feeling of needing to do more, engaging in an area where few teachers venture: public policy.  Teacher leadership takes many forms from being a role model for your students in the classroom to mentoring beginning teachers to blogging about student learning and teacher issues.  In some part teacher leadership should extend to our public policy and decision making.  Complacency and unproductive complaining yields no results.  We must advocate for our unions to take an active and supporting role in school reform, tearing down the conception that unions are outdated and an obstacle to change.  We must advocate for education issues ourselves: meeting with legislators, voting, campaigning for favored candidates, and running for office.  Make our voices heard, speaking out for our students and their needs.  I often wonder how many legislators were once educators?  How many are lawyers?  There’s an obvious imbalance.

For years I have tired of sitting on the sidelines.  I am weary of lawmakers making ill-informed decisions that impact my day-to-day job, while affecting my students’ learning.  I am tired of an inadequately funded education system.  I am tired of a education system that, as President Obama spoke, “fails to many.”

This will take doing; making a conscious and delibate change towards shaping education policy.  Hestiation creeps in though when I think of the sacrifice this will involve: time away from the classroom, and even less personal time with family and friends.  I am ready though to start taking small steps.  What do I have to lose?

Jessica Merritt at Smart compiled and nicely organized a list of 100 free web tools.  Check it out here.  It will benefit any teacher.


Just launched!  Road to Teaching has a reading group with Shelfari.  Join in.  Share, recommend, and critique the latest books you are reading.  Click on the picture to link to the reading group or click here.  Be the first to share a book we should read!

I received an email (at from a student teacher that didn’t want to teach anymore.  In their own words, they said “I am not classroom teacher material.”  Yet, they explained that they still want to be part of the field of education in some manner.  They wanted to know what their options were.

There are many different careers paths a education major can take.  Here are a sample (taken from UTSA):

Admissions Counselor

Camp Director

Chapter 1 Reading Teacher

College Registrar

Cooperative Extension Agent

Arts Enrichment Program Coordinator


And so on…  All in all, you have career options, but it depends on you taking the transferable skills you gained under your training and apply them into other areas.

Please check out the UTSA PDF for more information.  It’s a great starting point.

A total of nine new books were added to the Teacher Recommended Books page.  These books were recommended via email by student teachers and experienced teachers.

One resource that I thought was beneficial was the ASCD SmartBrief.  It’s a free service that ” brings you the K-12 education news that really matters. (ASCD) editors handpick key articles from hundreds of publications, do a brief summary of each and provide links back to the original sources.”

Do you have a book you want to share?  Email us your book recommendations at