Yesterday’s post about peer coaching had me reliving some thoughts about great teachers and great teaching. The comment that was posted added to the reminiscing and I challenged myself to think about three of the best teachers that I had the honour of being in their class.
In reflection, two of them were from my secondary school and one from university. As I started to analyze each of them further (these are the sorts of things I do while cutting the lawn, btw…), I recognized that each of them was completely different. I tried to find a common property that would indicate to me that this was what I was looking for in a teacher and I failed. Two of them were big into designing activities for learning and one was a true lecturer. I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
The only thing that I could think of when I tried to summarize my thoughts was that they were the best that they could be at doing what they do. That’s an awkward sentence but I can’t think of any other way to express it. They genuinely appeared to enjoy their job but they were so good at it in their own unique way. Dare I use the word passion?
So, if I went the other way and tried to identify three teachers that weren’t the best, it was a great deal easier. And, I think that I understood why – they were trying to be someone else and it just wasn’t working.
The whole exercise reinforced, in me, the power of the peer coach. I think we’ve all had evaluations done of us by principals or superintendents where, at the end of the day, the evaluation compared us to the perfect teacher. And, I certainly get the need for that. There has to be certain things that must fall into place for that sort of administrative success that says, “We’ll keep you”. But, I don’t think that the ultimate goal is to necessarily turn you into the best teacher you can be.
That potential lies within you. You need to find some way of identifying what you are as a teacher and then work on amplifying that. Therein is the secret to successful growth. In my post, I made reference to opening the door and opening the mind. Stephen’s comment about broadcasting a lesson using social media really reinforced this notion in a very concrete and practical way. When you set the formal peer coaching environment, you ask the observer to look for very specific things about you and not some sort of model that has been defined as “teacher”.
I was interviewed over the phone later in the afternoon and a couple of questions made me really think and articulate what I’m currently doing. One was about the goal of blog writing and the other was about delivering professional learning activities. Both questions took me a little off guard but made me stop to explain my answer. It came from within – my own personal goal for doing what I do – and not some artificial target dreamed up by someone else. I rather enjoyed the exercise as it made me reflect at a personal level.
Goodness knows that I have my faults. By identifying them and setting personal goals to work my way through them, I go about the process of personally becoming the best I can at whatever I want to do. The answer lies within. A trusted coach, whether face to face or otherwise, needs to recognize this and devise ways for you to tap into that because it’s only from there that you’ll bring out the best of you as teacher.
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