The Best and Most Innovative Teachers

Being somewhat opinionated about the subject (who am I kidding – most subjects) and at the same time being more or less incapable of keeping my opinions to myself I have written here about what makes a good teacher a number of times. I’ve talked about subject matter expertise and passion for the subject and for sharing that knowledge several times. But of course its more complicated than that – most things are. In a recent conversation with a person whose job it is to help teachers become better teachers I was told “the good teachers all want help to become better. The poor teachers are not interested.” There is a modesty of sorts in the best teachers. It’s not that they don’t know that they are doing a good job so much as they are driven by the notion that they could do a better job. These are the teachers who have N years of experience rather than one year of experience N times. These are the teachers who try new things retaining and polishing what works to make it better still.

These same teachers are always willing to share what they are doing with others. It doesn’t seem to be as much about thinking they are so wonderful as it is about a combination about being excited about the results and wanting to have other people suggest how it could be even better. I see this at conferences and forums all the time. Many of the best presentations are by teachers who were more or less pushed into submitting proposals. Others are by people who almost seem surprised at the success they have had and can’t wait to share it. It’s not an immodest sharing as much as an “oh my goodness this exceeded my expectations and maybe it will work for you” sort of shading.

I was reminded of this all this morning as I read a couple of posts by tow outstanding computer science and information technology teachers -  Doug Bergman and Lou Zulli over on the Teacher Tech blog. Both of these gentlemen were recounting some of their experience applying for and being accepted at the Microsoft Partners in Learning US Forum. Doug talks about how the application process supported his own self-analysis of what he was doing in his school. (Guest post: One Teacher’s Point of View and Reflection) The process helped his own thinking about what he was doing, how well it was working and how he could explain/demonstrate that it was working. This helped him to share what he was doing in a positive way. And led to his attending the US Forum last year.

Lou Zulli in his guest post  (Guest post: Educator Examines His Teaching, Shares His Learning) shares some of the lessons he learned about the application process and what he learned about innovative programs from his experience. It’s another good read for those thinking about applying this year  but also for people thinking about what good educational projects are. In the post he shares some of what the applications he read had in common.

  • Technology was not the focus of the lesson but the tool used for the outcome.
  • The teacher was the guide not the sage. Students were allowed to work autonomously.
  • Projects were cross-curricular and collaborative.
  • When possible they moved outside the classroom.
  • Projects should be replicable.
  • Do not create a project just for the Forum. It should be a project that promotes learning and advances your curriculum.

Participating in the US Forum and the Global Forum that brings the best teachers from around the world together has been an invaluable almost life changing experience for the teachers involved. As a judge at last year’s US Forum I was awed and really honored to meet so many great and yet humble teachers. It changed me as well. I encourage any of my teacher readers to at least take a look at the program and look at the application, as Doug did, as a chance for self study. And since you will have filled it out anyway – apply.  If you get to go it may be the experience of a lifetime.

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