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In recent weeks the number of visitors and their emails have been flowing in.  Mostly these are aspiring teachers and job seekers, preparing for an interview or looking for strategies to land a teacher job.  Of course, the teacher interview page, receiving over 200 daily visits alone, and the numerous blog posts are a big hit.

Good news! To further help, I have lowered the price of the e-version of Road to Teaching: A Guide to Teacher Training, Student Teaching, and Finding a Job to $5.49 .  This is a fantastic resource for any job seeker looking for a teacher job, especially in light of the tough job market.  This price reduction is 27% off the original e-version and 61% off the Amazon.com print version.

This offer will only last until end of April.  I hope you will use this book and Road to Teaching’s online resources to help in landing your perfect teacher job.

Good luck on the job search!!!!

Eric

What is the impact of a teacher?

How far does it extend?

How many students do we positively affect?

We can’t accurately answer this.  Teachers are told we make a difference, and in our hearts we know we change lives. Yet, it’s hard to point to hard data that really captures the full extent of our impact.  Rather, we see glimpses of our impact: students coming in to thank us, or an email noting how we changed his or her life.  When evidence of our impact bubbles to the surface, it is powerful and refreshing, refueling our passion to teach and make a difference.

I read my high school students’ teacher belief statements this weekend and I had to share what I found.  I assigned this to my students enrolled in our school’s teacher academy – a program that encourages students to enter into teaching.  I was struck by how many of my students were going into teaching because of one teacher’s impact: emotionally, intellectually, or inspirational.

Here are 3 excerpts:

“There are a lot of reasons I chose to teach, but the most signficant one was this teacher I had during 7th grade – Mr. B.  He challenged us to learn at our full potential even though sometimes we learned difficult concepts.”

—-

“It all started when I was in third grade, my teacher, Mrs. K showed us that education could be fun!  She showed me a lot of individual attention that I hadn’t received before.  I could say I loved my teacher.  As I look back on what she did and how she went about it, I think about myself, how I act, and how I care about people like she did.

—-

One day in Language Arts class, Ms. B cried over a student that died due to a disease, and seeing that changed me perspective about teachers; teachers actually cared about students.  I thought since they cared so much and so do I about other people, that maybe teaching could become my career choice.

—-

I will scan the students’ belief statements and email them to the students’ former teachers with a simple note that reads, “You make a difference.”

“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?

One of the classes I teach is Business and Personal Law for juniors and seniors.  We are learning the sources of law.  After polling the students regarding their comfort level with understanding these sources of law, I realized most of the students were vague about 1-2 of these sources.  Then, I had a crazy idea.  The next day, for our entry task (a.k.a. do-now activity), I asked students to write a love letter to their favorite source of law.  Students immediately thought I had gone nuts and began laughing.  I explained that I was serious.  I reminded students that they needed to be romantic and explain in their love letter why that source of law was their favorite.  100% of the students were engaged and working hard to create their love letter.  I allowed more time than I usually would for them to complete this entry task.  Afterwords, I asked students to read their love letters in small groups.  Giggling and laughter could again be heard.  Finally, I asked each small group to pick one person to read their love letter out loud.  We heard as a class love letters to ALL the sources of law, and explanations why this was so. 

Here’s an exert  from one letter addressed to the student’s love – the U.S. Constitution:

“Oh Constitution.  You are so manly.  Even though you are in D.C. and supreme law of the land, you are still my protector.  You protect me when I speak, when I worship, and vote…”

I polled the students again, and students indicated they were more comfortable understanding the sources of law.  I can’t wait to see if this translates to their test scores.

All in all, go with those crazy, off-the-cuff ideas.  It’s these ideas that revives the curriculum, engages the students, and leads to deeper understanding.