Building a Better Teacher

But what makes a good teacher? There have been many quests for the
one essential trait, and they have all come up empty-handed. Among the
factors that do not predict whether a teacher will succeed: a
graduate-school degree, a high score on the SAT, an extroverted
personality, politeness, confidence, warmth, enthusiasm and having
passed the teacher-certification exam on the first try. When Bill Gates
announced recently that his foundation was investing millions in a
project to improve teaching quality in the United States, he added a
rueful caveat. “Unfortunately, it seems the field doesn’t have a clear
view of what characterizes good teaching,” Gates said. “I’m personally
very curious.”

When Doug Lemov conducted his own search for
those magical ingredients, he noticed something about most successful
teachers that he hadn’t expected to find: what looked like natural-born
genius was often deliberate technique in disguise. “Stand still when
you’re giving directions,” a teacher at a Boston school told him. In
other words, don’t do two things at once. Lemov tried it, and suddenly,
he had to ask students to take out their homework only once.

It was the tiniest decision, but what was teaching if not a series of bite-size moves just like that? —Elizabeth Greeen, New York Times Magazine

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