Reimagining Education

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Teacher shopping

Lisa Clancy, Program Manager

I was fortunate to have a lot of great teachers when I was growing up. My classmates and I eagerly anticipated receiving our report cards on the last day of school each year in elementary school. It wasn’t so much our grades that we cared about, but it was that last name that was neatly scribed on the bottom left hand corner of the document—this name was to be our teacher the next school year.  As a kid, I had no idea why I was assigned to Mrs. McGinley’s classroom in fourth grade and why my best friend Anna was assigned to Mrs. Rhodes’ classroom.  But I knew that there were two classes of teachers at my school: those that I wanted to have and those that I didn’t want to have.

An article earlier this week in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch drew attention to some of the behind-the-scenes work that happens when matching students with teachers. Just as kids set their sights on having certain teachers, so do parents, and they are getting involved. Was my streak of great teachers because my mom was doing some lobbying behind the scenes, or was it because I grew up in a district that repeatedly turns out some of the highest student achievement numbers in the state?

While we continue to have a system that allows for ineffective teachers to remain in the classroom, there will always be two classes of teachers: ones that kids and parents want, and ones that kids and parents don’t want. There is an opportunity for parents and schools to work together on creating a system where there are only the teachers that kids and parents want. Just like kids shouldn’t be stuck in failed districts, they also shouldn’t be stuck with an ineffective teacher.

While this article contains some tips for parents about getting to know their child’s new teacher, parents and other advocates should also know the tried and true signs of a great teacher. Research shows us that great teachers all have some key things in common. They set big goals for their students and they continuously look for ways to increase their effectiveness. Great teachers also take every opportunity they can to enlist parents and families in the learning process, they have a laser-like focus on student growth, and they plan relentlessly and purposely with that goal at the forefront of their mind.

I look forward to the day when there is a great teacher in every classroom. When that happens, I think parents and kids alike will always get the teacher that they want.

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