Annals of Education: Most Likely to Succeed

After a long anecdote about how hard it is to predict the pro playing ability of college quarterbacks, this New Yorker article focuses on details that characterize effective teachers. While I was initially bored by the sports introduction, I ended up being fascinated by the play-by-play commentary of scenes from the classroom.

Another teacher walked over to a computer to
do a PowerPoint presentation, only to realize that she hadn’t turned it
on. As she waited for it to boot up, the classroom slid into chaos.

there was the superstar–a young high-school math teacher, in jeans and
a green polo shirt. “So let’s see,” he began, standing up at the
blackboard. “Special right triangles. We’re going to do practice with
this, just throwing out ideas.” He drew two triangles. “Label the
length of the side, if you can. If you can’t, we’ll all do it.” He was
talking and moving quickly, which Pianta said might be interpreted as a
bad thing, because this was trigonometry. It wasn’t easy material. But
his energy seemed to infect the class. And all the time he offered the
promise of help. If you can’t, we’ll all do it. In a corner of
the room was a student named Ben, who’d evidently missed a few classes.
“See what you can remember, Ben,” the teacher said. Ben was lost. The
teacher quickly went to his side: “I’m going to give you a way to get
to it.” He made a quick suggestion: “How about that?” Ben went back to
work. The teacher slipped over to the student next to Ben, and glanced
at her work. “That’s all right!” He went to a third student, then a
fourth. Two and a half minutes into the lesson–the length of time it
took that subpar teacher to turn on the computer–he had already laid
out the problem, checked in with nearly every student in the class, and
was back at the blackboard, to take the lesson a step further. — Malcolm Gladwell