Why are good teachers so important? Because learning is hard work. In this new endeavor of growing a school, I myself am often the student, facing complicated challenges, developing new skills sets, and learning each day and from each experience. In the midst of this, I have been reminded once again, first hand, of the importance and power of learning from a master teacher. One particular teacher I have had the fortune to speak with and learn from is Chris Mercogliano (visit him at: http://www.chrismercogliano.com). After reading his book How to Grow a School, I decided to reach out to him, set up a time to talk, and ask his opinions on some things I was sorting through. Reaching out to a respected author from whom I was learning was something that I would not done in my younger years. But age and a sense of urgency made me bolder, more willing to take a risk. Much to my surprise, he was not only willing, but also enthusiastic about talking with me, and we quickly scheduled a time to convene. On the day of our phone conference, several hours and many notes later, I hung up the phone with new air in my sails. It occurred to me once again that a good teacher is an invaluable resource. I had just experienced, first hand, the gifts a truly talented teacher brings to students.
First, and most importantly, a good teacher supports the student. A good teacher asks questions and really listens to the answers. The teacher wants to know who the student is as an individual. Within the context of listening and affirming, a strong teacher sets the stage for the second part of learning, allowing the student to feel sufficiently secure to take the risks necessary to move to the next developmental level. In the second step, through conversation, a good teacher gently guides the student towards action, asking “what if . . . “ in a way that supports and encourages the student to consider a different approach or examine the problem at hand from multiple and new perspectives. A good teacher nudges the student to expand his or her current options and understanding ~ naturally and comfortably. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, a good teacher leaves the student inspired, motivated, and eager to move forward. The student walks away from the interaction (or hangs up the phone!) energized, optimistic, and prepared to take the next steps.
What I love, more than anything else in my professional work, are the chances to learn the important lessons numerous times – in different situations, when I myself have changed or am in a new role, or when I have in truth forgotten something I have learned before. I am reminded at every juncture about why mentor teachers have been and are invaluable in my life – Linda, Donna, Michael, Suzanne, Juane. As adults we know and value our mentors – our master teachers. They guide us regularly. As an educator, my goal is to become a master teacher and to provide guidance to young learners each and every day. Often when people learn that I am an educator, they spontaneously tell me about their favorite teacher, with a huge smile across their face and a twinkle in their eyes. They recall that teacher and how he or she listened, affirmed, challenged, and inspired reflection, new perspectives, action and ultimately the learning and the growth that followed. A good teacher leaves the student forever changed and transformed.