Wednesday, October 18, 2006


"The Essence of Expert Teaching"

I just read the most amazing thing. I am reading Integrating Differentiated Instructions and Understanding by Design by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Jay McTighe for a book study at my school. A passage jumped out at me tonight, and I had to get my thoughts out of my head and onto "paper" before I could continue reading. Here is what I read (emphasis mine)...

There is no such thing as the perfect lesson, the perfect day in school, or the perfect teacher. For teachers and students alike, the goal is not perfection but persistence in the pursuit of understanding important things.
I am such a perfectionist. When I look at all the mistakes I made just today, I feel like such a failure. I have said several times lately, "I am doing the best I can, and it is just not good enough." But I have the wrong goal, the wrong standard for success. I truly believe that I am doing the best I can, and it will have to be good enough, because I can't do any better today.

But wait, there's more...

Differentiated or responsive teaching really stems from and affirmative answer to three questions - and dogged determination to live out the answer in our classrooms a little better today than we did yesterday.
I think I might do better tomorrow. I am going to go to bed earlier tonight, and I know that will help. Here are the three questions:

1. Do we have the will and skill to accept responsibility for the diverse individuals we teach?
  • To develop positive ties with students to encourage their growth
  • To see their dreams and uncertainties
  • To study and respond to their cultures
  • To work with students to build positive learning communities
2. Do we have a vision of the power of high-quality learning to help young people build lives?
  • To know what really matters in a discipline
  • To ensure student understanding of what matters most
  • To discover what's relevant and compelling to individuals
  • To build student engagement in learning
3. Are we willing to do the work of building bridges of possibility between what we teach and the diverse learners we teach?
  • To seek out students' strengths and deficiencies
  • To create learning options for varied needs
  • To coach for success
  • To monitor individual growth against goals
That is the essence of expert teaching. It dignifies our work and our profession - even as it dignifies the students we teach.
Wait a minute...this wasn't what I was worrying about! I was feeling guilty because I was behind on writing students up for tardies, and I missed responding to a few emails, and I keep forgetting where I put things, and I forgot to put a date on my calendar, and I was a minute late to my duty station, and you can't hear a pin drop in my classroom most of the time, and I always lose my keys, and my students make noise coming back from lunch, and I have a lot of papers to grade, and my classroom is a mess. The little details are the hard things for me. The three questions...well, they are the reason I am teacher...they are who I am...they are my big rocks...according to the three questions...

...I'm not perfect, but I am doing alright.

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