Thursday, December 2, 2010

Teacher effectiveness: the student perspective

Manny Lopez, an Oakland teacher in his 15th year of teaching, recently shared this story with members of a local parents’ listserv. Curious about what students in his Fourth Grade (bilingual) class would say, he asked them what made an effective teacher.  A ten minute brainstorm produced the following ideas:


- a patient person
- a kind person
- one who is respectful of students
- one who is smart
- multilingual
- no nonsense
- one who looks after us when we're feeling sick
- one who is interesting
- one who comes to school regularly (not frequently absent)
- fun and creative
- helpful
- happy
- a curious person
- someone who is excited about the material
- someone who doesn't rush through the lessons
- a clean and organized person
- someone who is on time/punctual
- someone who can be a little goofy
- someone who occasionally introduces ideas to students that doesn't necessarily have to do but can be connected with what is being taught

Mr. Lopez then told his students that there is an ongoing discussion about teacher effectiveness, and explained to them that one line of thinking believes that teachers should be measured by their students' test scores. He wrote:

If only you could see the expressions on my fourth-graders' faces.  I asked one student whose face was particularly scrunched up what she thought.  She said that that didn't seem fair.  Virtually every one of my students agreed with her.  I got the following three reasons before they were dismissed:

- some students don't pay attention.
- when in a hurry, some students just fill in any bubble
- chance is involved

So there you have it, the elemental T-R-U-T-H.

How can we get Gates, Broad, Duncan, et al. to listen to the thoughtful words that come out of the mouths of babes?

h/t Manny. Thanks for sharing.


elizabeth said...

Brian Williams should have convened a panel of 4th graders for his Education Nation special! Even though they may not have gotten to say much more than the teachers who were invited did.

What these 4th graders had to say about good teaching very effectively demonstrates that "effective" teaching is not uni-dimensional and cannot be reduced to simplistic, sound bite friendly prescriptions, such as the popular favorite: merit pay based on test scores.

It's funny that a classroom of 4th graders is savvy enough to realize that myriad factors affect test scores while reform minded adults are often not. It's sad that the loudest voices shouting for reform brush valid (dissenting) concerns aside. These concerns certainly weren't heard on Williams' program!

My own school district came within a hair's breadth of implementing a test score tied evaluation system this year. As a pre-service teacher, these proposals and the current ed reform talk makes me wonder what teaching will be like when I finish my program next spring. If reforms go in the direction they seem to be headed, I also wonder who will want to go into teaching?

The Perimeter Primate said...

Hear, hear, Elizabeth.

I agree that what is happening is going to drive good potential teachers away from the profession. Knowing what I know is enough to make me realize that I would carefully council my own children if they came to me and told me that they were thinking of pursuing teaching as a career.

The way they ignore all the good sense, and tell the lies they tell, indicates to me that the ed reformers are up to something diabolical. They aren't stupid.

The people behind the reform definitely have some other agenda on their minds than improving the school experience for U.S. kids.

nikto said...

Oh please, be realistic.

WE can never expect political leaders, hedge-fund managers, venture capitalists and non-teaching administrators to be as bright and insightful, AND HONEST, as typical bilingual 4th graders, can we?

That would be like teacheing fish (e.g. the politicians, administrators and capitalists) to ride a bicycle.

When was the last time you saw a fish ride a bicycle?

I rest my case.

nikto said...

Watching the Ed-Deformers do their grisly predator-work on US Public Education, is enough even to convince a non-Christian that Satanism is not only REAL, but is alive and well, deep within the souls of the Ed Deformers.

Let's not forget the age-old cure for demons and Satanists:

Burning at the stake.

Back in the day, it was always a crowd-pleaser.