10 Different Insights into What Makes a Great Teacher


10 Different Insights into What Makes a Great Teacher


“…great teachers do not teach. They stack the deck so that students have a reason to learn and in the process can’t help but learn mainly by teaching themselves. This knowledge then becomes permanent and cherished rather than illusory and irrelevant.“ Ben Johnson

This blog was inspired while I was attending ISTE13 where I met some of the most incredible educators in the world.

They all seem to share similar traits, and yet all be distinguished individuals. The attendees, the majority of who were teachers or administrators or in some other capacity involved in education, were invigorated, energized, and carried themselves with greatness. Teacher education programs have struggled for years to identify what makes a great teacher.

We have tried, yet never identified what makes great teachers in any reliable, objective way. College education classes spend way too much time on the theories of education and not enough time on actually how to teach. Most prospective teachers graduate from college with little or no real practical experience in the real world of managing a classroom environment. The debate continues whether teaching is an art or a science, which teaching style/method is most effective, and whether great teachers are born or made. We are living with dichotomy in our world, as Adam Bellow so eloquently stated in the end keynote at ISTE, Schools block Facebook access for students but have their own school Facebook pages. What an amazing experience being with like-minded educators that understand technology and where the educational landscape needs to go.

1. Great Teachers Don’t Teach by Ben Johnson, Edutopia – “… great teachers do not teach. They stack the deck so that students have a reason to learn and in the process can’t help but learn mainly by teaching themselves. This knowledge then becomes permanent and cherished rather than illusory and irrelevant.

2. What makes great teaching? by Joe Kirby in Pragmatic Education – “Students in the classroom of the most effective teachers make double the amount of progress of average teachers in a year.”

3. What makes a great teacher? by Great Schools “Study after study shows the single most important factor determining the quality of the education a child receives is the quality of his teacher.”

4. Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacherby Maria Orlando for Faculty Focus“Great teaching seems to have less to do with our knowledge and skills than with our attitude toward our students, our subject, and our work.”

5. Weigh In: What Makes a Great Teacher? by Jacqueline Heinze, Scholastic – “In this information age, educators must become guides to learning. Children are now so techno-savvy that they are learning all day every day as long as there is a power cord or a battery or Wi-Fi. A great teacher must have digital agility.” Gregory E. Thornton, superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools

6. How Leadership Can Make or Break Classroom Innovation by Katrina Schwartz, MindShift“Rather than saying no when an idea conflicts with district policy, he works to change the policy. He’s found that working that way removes most of the barriers people cite as obstacles to fully integrating technology into classrooms.” Eric Williams, Superintendent York County School Division in Virginia

7. The NY Times, Sunday Dialogue: A Talent for Teaching – Letter To the Editor:“Seasoned professionals know what works: being creative, independent, spontaneous, practical and rule-bending. Often it is the least orthodox teacher who most engages and excites students. Scripts and rules and models strictly followed cannot replace what the best teachers have: practical wisdom.” David Greene Hartsdale, NY

8.Who Makes Great Teachers? by EdSurge News Brief – “Only seven percent of programs match student teachers with top performing senior teachers.”

9. Valerie Strauss refers to Pasi Sahlberg, inWhat if Finland’s great teachers taught in U.S. schools? on The Washington Post, The Answer Sheet“But education policies in Finland concentrate more on school effectiveness than on teacher effectiveness. This indicates that what schools are expected to do is an effort of everyone in a school, working together, rather than teachers working individually.”

10. Can anyone be a great teacher? by Annette Breaux for SmartBlog on Education“In actuality, great teachers work very hard to earn their coveted status. There’s no magic involved, but they do seem to work magic every day in their classrooms!”

In this age of information, educators must become guides to learning. A great teacher must have digital agility, and accept change with welcome arms. Remember the technology does not make or break a great teacher, it is a tool that needs to be facilitated properly to prepare students for what lies ahead in this great new world.

ISTE 2013 Closing Keynote, Adam Bellow: You’re Invited to Change the World


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