Becoming a Teacher

The Falmer Press Teachers’  Library: 7

Becoming a Teacher:
An Inquiring Dialogue for the
Beginning Teacher

Gary D.Borich

  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.

Introduction                                                                                    ix

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

Index                                                                                             137

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?

Field Activity

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?’
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.’


‘It isn’t?’
‘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?’
‘That’s right.’
‘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?