I read an article in this morning’s newspaper and then listened with interest to the conversation on morning radio, about some of the submissions made to the State Gov’t about ways to improve teacher training. It got me thinking about what makes a good teacher. It also got me thinking about preservice teachers and my experiences with mentoring them on practicum and mentoring new scheme teachers. I have arrived at the following conclusions:
Universities need to work closely with schools, if they are to effectively prepare graduates for the profession. Relationships need to extend beyond the annual call for teachers to take on a prac student. When things don’t go well on prac, university personnel need to be ready to come out to schools. I’m sure it happens, but it’s inconsistent. Prior to my current role, I would take up to two prac students a year. I would take about 4-6 in my dept. We would take them from any university. The lack of preparedness to do some work, lack of initiative, content knowledge and indifference was seen in about 40% of the students we took from 2008-2011. This was a marked increase. This alarmed our dept, of young, dynamic, teachers who love teaching and learning. There was one student who I refused to pass (long story) ended up passing because he did a day at another school.
There needs to be a way to weed these people out. Our students deserve better. There are wonderful graduates, thankfully they are in the majority, but they will tell you they feel that their university degree doesn’t prepare them for teaching.
I know some outstanding, talented and passionate academics who are closely connected to schools. Their students are wonderful classroom practitioners. These academics are the people we need to prepare the teachers of the future.
As someone who loves teaching, I think there is scope for improvement. I also think we need to celebrate the qualities in our good teachers: they inspire us, impart knowledge in a meaningful way, provide detailed and timely feedback; they will the best in each student. They make every student realise they can aim high and set goals.
Good teachers are intuitive. The are good at forming relationships and developing rapport. They know their content and adopt sound pedagogy.
Good teachers need to be supported… by other good teachers. Often those who are innovative, feel isolated by their colleagues. Working collaboratively, building capacity and contributing to a PLN are key qualities of good teachers.