The Falmer Press Teachers’ Library: 7
Becoming a Teacher:
An Inquiring Dialogue for the
The Falmer Press
(A member of the Taylor & Francis Group) Washington, D.C. • London
USA The Falmer Press, Taylor & Francis Inc., 1900 Frost Road, Suite 101, Bristol, PA 19007
UK The Falmer Press, 4 John Street, London WC1N 2ET
© G.D.Borich, 1995
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without permission in writ- ing from the Publisher.
First published in 1995
This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2003.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data are available on request
ISBN 0-203-48575-0 Master e-book ISBN
ISBN 0-203-79399-4 (Adobe eReader Format) ISBN 0 7507 0264 8 cased
ISBN 0 7507 0265 6 paper
Jacket design by Caroline Archer
The sketches drawn by Gabr iel Davila, student, Travis High School, Austin, Texas.
Part I: What is an Effective School? 1
1 The Search for an Effective School 3
2 The Role of Positive Expectations 10
3 Focus on Learning 16
4 Assessing Learner Progress 22
5 Teacher Participation and Team Decision-making 29
6 The Role of Parent and Community Support 36
Effective Schools: Annotated Readings
Part II: What is an Effective Teacher? 47
7 The Power of Purpose 49
8 The Balance Between Thinking and Performing 58
9 Discovering Flow 67
10 Stages of Growth 77
11 Culturally Diverse and Heterogeneous Classrooms 86
12 Becoming a Leader 99
Effective Teachers: Annotated Readings
Part III: Effectiveness Revisited 115
13 Looking Back 117
Related Readings 131
Sketches of young journalist:
1 approaching a public school 4
2 at principal’s desk taking notes 11
3 looking out window of principal’s office 17
4 waiting at train station on the way home 23
5 approaching principal’s office for another visit 30
6 listening to the principal 37
7 studying roster of teachers 50
8 studying her notes 59
9 talking with Mr.Koker 68
10 remembering her visit with Mr.Koker 78
11 talking with Mr.Randall 87
12 talking with teachers in the teachers’ lounge 100
13 thinking about her final visit to the principal 118
1 The Search for an Effective School
In a city not so very far from yours and mine, there was a journalist who wanted to write a story about teachers. She had heard and read so much that was critical of schools and teachers that she wanted to write a different kind of story. She wanted to write about effective schools and about effective teachers.
Her search for a story took her many months and to many different places. She visited schools, both small and large, in neighborhoods both rich and poor. She spoke with principals and assistant principals, teachers and teacher aids, and even with some students, both young and old. She went into every corner of the schools she visited and into every grade and content area.
She was beginning to see the variety of life in schools. She saw many ‘well organized’ schools that were letter perfect but whose teachers seemed ineffective and demoralized. From plaques on the walls she learned that others had come to these schools and given them awards and certificates to recognize their achievements. Why, she did not know.
As she visited some of these ‘well organized’ schools, she talked with their principals. She asked them, ‘What kind of a principal would you say you are?’ Their answers varied little.
‘I’m a tough-minded principal—I keep on top of things’, one said. Others described themselves as: ‘organized’, ‘goals-based’, or
‘results-or iented’. She could tell from the pride in their voices
that these principals were satisfied with themselves.
She also talked with many ‘nice’ principals—the kind that are instantly liked by their teachers and staff. Many who knew these principals thought they were effective, too. As she sat and listened to these ‘nice’ principals, she heard a similar story.
‘I’m democratic’, one said. While others used the words ‘supportive’,
‘understanding’ and ‘humanistic’ to describe themselves and their schools. She could tell from the pride in their voices that these principals, too, were satisfied with themselves. But, she was troubled.
It was as though most principals were either interested in results or in people. The principals who were interested in results often refer red to themselves as ‘organized’ and those interested in people as ‘democratic’. As she thought about each of these types of pr incipals—the ‘organized’ and the ‘democratic’—she wondered if they were only partially effective, like being half of something. Effective pr incipals, she thought, should be both people-oriented and results-oriented.
The journalist looked everywhere for an effective school—one that would be both people-or iented and results-or iented. She began to worry that there may not be any and that she might have to abandon her story.
But, just as she was about to give up her search, she heard stor ies about a school that had an effective pr incipal. She heard stor ies that teachers liked to work for this pr incipal and that together they produced great results. The journalist wondered if the stories were true and decided to visit the principal to see for herself.
She called the pr incipal to ask if she could talk about the stor ies she had heard about this school. She explained that she was not a teacher, but wanted to know, if it were possible to be an effective teacher and work in an effective school. The principal agreed to see her the very next day.
When she ar r ived she told the pr incipal that she had heard things about her school that led her to believe that it was an effective school and that there were stor ies circulating in the distr ict of how much her teachers enjoyed teaching there. She said this was puzzling because in coming there she noticed that the neighborhood was not very good and that the school was, she paused,…not as she had expected.
The principal nodded in a way that told her she had heard that same sort of puzzlement before.
The journalist then asked how her school got the reputation for effectiveness it has with students from such a low income neighborhood, and with older, outdated facilities.
The principal responded, ‘It’s because I’m here to get results. By being well organized, we can achieve some things other schools can’t.’
‘Oh, so your school is results-oriented’, she asked.
‘No, not just results-or iented’, the principal responded. ‘How do you think I get results if I’m not under standing and considerate of those who work for me.’
This puzzled the girl, since it seemed difficult to be both ‘hard nosed’ enough to get results and considerate and understanding at the same time. So, she asked the principal how she balanced these two very different approaches.
‘I’ll tell you.’
The pr incipal leaned toward her and asked: ‘when do you work at your best?’
She thought for a moment and then answered, ‘When I’m
excited about what I’m doing.’
Exactly, said the pr incipal, and how do you make a whole school excited about what they’re doing?
‘I’m not sure’, she answered.
Well, let me tell you the things that make a school an exciting place to be.
1 Picture a pr incipal who is ‘organized’, ‘goals-based’ and
‘results-oriented’. Describe how you think his or her school might be run.
2 N ow, picture another pr incipal who is ‘suppor tive’,
‘understanding’ and ‘humanistic’. Describe how you think his or her school might be run. What differences would you expect to find between this school and the one above?
3 Do you believe the two types of schools you have just descr ibed have to be mutually exclusive? Provide some examples within a school of how they could be combined in complementary ways.
4 Place an ‘X’ in the appropr iate quadrant below that best describes the climate of your high school, as you remember it. Then, list some of the things that made your school’s climate what it was?
Think of an example of each of the four climates listed below from among the schools and/or classrooms you remember. Then, indicate in the boxes the characteristics or conditions that gave each school or classroom the climate you observed.
1 Organized, goals-based, results oriented climate:
2 Supportive, understanding, humanistic climate:
3 Laissez faire, self-determining, open climate:
4 Cold, competitive, discipline-oriented climate:
Do you believe the climate of a school influences the classrooms within it?
2 The Role of Positive Expectations
The principal began ‘…the longer you teach the more you realize that kids in school have far more in common than they have differences. In this school every teacher starts out at the beginning of the year with a glass that’s half full, not half empty.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I mean that our teachers have the attitude that every student can learn—that each comes to school with plenty of potential to learn whatever he or she wants to learn. It’s our job to help them reach that potential.’
‘But, surely your teachers can’t expect to do that for everyone, regardless of ability?’
‘I’m afraid so. Now, I know what you’re thinking—that IQ and ability have a lot to do with how much we learn. And, that some learners have more than others.’
‘Yes, that’s exactly what I’m thinking.’
‘And, in a sense, you’re r ight. We do see differences in intelligence in school in lots of ways—in the commitment to learn, the subjects students choose to study, and in their individual interests. But, those things don’t have much to do with what goes on in school.’
‘I’m not sure I follow.’
‘The way I see it, every kid has about the same potential to learn—and a lot of it too. It’s just that the focus of that potential for one learner may be different than for another.’
‘For example, ever y lear ner can become an exper t—really accomplished at something. Now, for some that might mean choosing from among becoming an eng ineer, draftsman or car penter. For other s, it might mean choosing from among becoming a physician, business executive or salesperson. Now, there may be a difference in abilities there, but that difference so happens not to be relevant to what we do in school.’
‘These are choices made by the learner. What we do in this school is nurture the potential to lear n—and that means help each student become a success in whatever they chose.’
‘Do you mean that the students in this school can be successful
in any thing they wish?’
‘No. I’m saying they can be successful learners and that each can succeed as a lear ner. They may not, by their own choice, be equally successful as a schoolteacher, mailman, chemist or truck driver—which will involve their abilities and how they choose to use them. Only they can be responsible for success in what they choose to become. What we are responsible for is teaching them how to learn.’
‘Are you saying that you can teach anyone to learn?’
‘Then why do some students take different subjects than others? Isn’t that taking into account differences in their abilities?’
‘If you’d like to see it that way, but that’s not why some students are taking different subjects than others. In this school any student can take any subject they wish, if they are adequately prepared. Our goal is not to teach ever y student the same subjects, but to teach every student how to learn and to see that every student gets the same opportunity to learn. It so happens that the most productive avenue for teaching some students how to learn may involve subject X while the most productive avenue for another student may involve subject Y.Both are learning to learn in their own chosen ways and that is the single most important goal in this school.’
‘Are you saying that you expect every student in this school to
learn how to learn?’
‘That’s it. It’s not that our students will all lear n the same things or even that they will learn them to the same degree—that may depend on many things including their interests and abilities. What each student will acquire is an understanding of how to learn—its challenges and discipline as well as its joys and benefits. That’s more important than what or how much is learned, since it allows the learner to choose what and how much he or she wants to learn.’
‘You mean it’s something that determines everything else.’
‘You bet. And, it’s what allows intelligent choices to be made. Without it, even the very brightest couldn’t make the choice we so often associate with ability—which is perhaps why some young people today seem unable to become interested in their own future. They simply may never have lear ned how to lear n, enabling them to choose what they want out of life.’
‘So, you have the same standard for everyone when it comes to learning.’
‘Yes, and our teachers communicate that to every student the very first day of school. Everyone in this school is committed to filling the glass full—to teach each and every student how to learn with whatever methods and resources it takes to get the job done. Our very first task is to make our students more proficient lear ners and it is that goal for which we have the same high standards and expectations for everyone.’
‘But, how do you do that in a school like this with students who have so many different learning needs?’
‘Take a moment and look out the window and tell me what you see.’ (She moves toward the window and looks silently for a minute.)
‘I see kids, lots of them, all very different.’
‘Do you want to know what I see?’
‘I see the potential to learn.’
1 Using a personal exper ience, descr ibe a specific instance in your life when you discovered how to learn something. How was this different than ‘how much you learned?’
2 Do you believe that teaching every student how to lear n requires that some students be taught different subjects than others? What might be some evidence in support of and against this belief?
3 Imag ine two schools: one in which ever yo ne has the opportunity to take any subject, and another in which the oppor tunity to lear n some subjects depends on one’s intelligence and prior curriculum? Which school would you prefer to attend and why?
4 Descr ibe the difference between a school and a climate for learning. What characteristics of a school do you believe create a positive climate for learning?