Wednesday, September 16, 2020

On Teaching: What Is Good Teaching? - The Atlantic

On Teaching: What Is Good Teaching? - The Atlantic

What Is Good Teaching?
Over the past two years, I talked with veteran educators across the country as I tried to answer this question.

Editor’s Note: In 1988, a teacher most commonly had 15 years of experience. In recent years, that number is closer to just three years leading a classroom. The “On Teaching” series focuses on the wisdom of veteran teachers.

Renee moore still remembers the young man who changed the way she taught. It was 1999, and Moore was teaching at the nearly all-Black Broad Street High School in the rural town of Shelby in the Mississippi Delta. The 17-year-old who walked into her 10th-grade English class excelled in math but had never been taught how to write a proper sentence. He had spent nine years in separate classrooms for students with disabilities; looking back, Moore thinks he had undiagnosed dyslexia. The young man and his mother asked Moore if he could join her class for students without special needs; he was determined to earn a diploma.

Moore agreed, and in his first few weeks the student sat quietly on the far side of the room. As she spent time with him after school, she noticed that when the subject turned to sports or his family, he became animated. When she encouraged him to write about these interests, his engagement increased, and his sentences grew longer and more complex. Moore also knew that students from special education or “remedial” classrooms often internalized a damaging self-view that they somehow lacked intellectual competence. So Moore tried a new tactic: She recorded her conversations with her student, and then asked him to transcribe his own words—without worrying about grammar or punctuation. Once the student saw evidence in the transcripts for his capacity for unique ideas and analysis, his intellectual pride grew, and Moore could leverage it to teach him grammar and composition. Two years after he walked into her classroom, he moved into 11th grade, and eventually he passed the state’s exit exam and became the first of his six siblings to graduate with a high-school diploma

“This young man taught me the power of getting to know your students well enough to teach,” Moore, who has now been teaching for 30 years, told me. “We’re shuffling kids through a system designed on a factory model, and we often give up too soon, because they don’t get to ‘grade level’ by the time the system says they should. When they don’t, we say they’re not ready to learn or are hopeless. But they are just not on our schedule; it has nothing to do with their innate potential or ability.”
In the past two years, as I traversed the country to report for The Atlantic’s “On Teaching” project, nearly every veteran educator I encountered shared success stories similar to this one—and reflected on what effective teaching actually involves. American public schools are going through a consequential transformation: The majority of Baby Boomer teaching veterans—who just over 15 years ago constituted more than half of the teaching force—have retired or will retire in the next few years. “On Teaching” aimed to collect the wisdom of some of the nation’s most accomplished veterans to find out what has helped them bring out the best in their students. The 15 teachers I got to know closely—from rural Oklahoma to Mississippi, subarctic Alaska to suburban Arizona, California, Texas, Kentucky, and Michigan—told me that effective teaching depends on paying attention to students as individuals, addressing their needs with cultural sensitivity, and seeking the active support of peers. But they also told me that their capacity to teach successfully has been weakened by misguided, top-down policies, chronic funding cuts to public education, and growing structural inequities. To do their jobs fully, they said, they need basic resources—and they should be viewed as experts on CONTINUE READING: On Teaching: What Is Good Teaching? - The Atlantic