Photo: Stock.Xchng/harrykeelyThere has been a lot of talk lately about what makes a bad teacher, but not as much on good teachers, or more aptly put, effective teachers.
There are some teachers that my daughters have had over the years that really stood out. The one thing that they all have in common is that my daughters felt like they believed in them. They're engaging, positive, and they make my daughter want to do her best. Their confidence in her helps her to believe in herself. She's not scared to ask them questions, and she's motivated to do more for extra credit. Even if she already has an A, she'll do more for that A+.
The subject itself doesn't matter. I've seen my oldest daughter get As in every subject, and I've seen her barely pass some of these same subjects under different teachers.
The effectiveness of each teacher came to a greater light when she was in 5th grade and started having multiple teachers. At the Knowledge Is Power Program charter school she attended for one year, she received straight As and made the Dean's List. This is the same girl who, the year before, I almost pulled out of standardized testing because she had stomach aches and insomnia worrying about them.
At KIPP, all of the teachers just oozed enthusiasm and my daughter was eager to earn their praise. When she made mistakes, she learned from them. She had more homework than at any other time, but none of it was busy work and she delved into it with no complaints.
Because of a lot of changes, both in our lives and at the school, the next year she transferred to a regular public middle school. There, her grades went back to fluctuating.
When she was in elementary school, I thought I knew her strengths and weaknesses, based on her progress in each subject area. Now that she's had three years of answering to at least 5 different teachers, I see how much difference a teacher can make.
Even just a few weeks into this school year, I know what subjects she will do great in. There are two teachers, her Social Sciences and Algebra teachers, that she talks about almost every day (without prompting from me). She is not afraid to ask them questions, and she always does the "extra credit" homework assigned. When I checked her progress online, it was no surprise to me to see that, so far, she has an A+ in Social Sciences.
Last year, it was her Science teacher that she raved about all year long. Again, she received an A+ in that class. The year before, it was her Social Sciences teacher, and again, an A+.
In classes where I don't hear about the teacher (except maybe in negative terms), she'll do just enough to get by. Unless it is a class she loves or is easy for her, like Music or Physical Education, she'll get a B or a C.
Teachers matter. The methods of teaching can vary greatly, but what I've seen in my children is that when their teachers are passionate, enthusiastic, and show great expectations for my children, they are eager to meet those expectations, excited to go to class, and remember the lessons long after the test.
An effective teacher is one that believes in our students.
April McCaffery is a single mom to two daughters, in 5th and 8th grade.