One Sunflower

What Makes a Great Teacher?

on January 18, 2010


Check out the article in Atlantic Monthly:  What Makes a Great Teacher? – The Atlantic (January/February 2010).

A link to this article appeared in Elbows, Knees, and Dreams , a blog I check out fairly regularly.  I sent it off to all the staff members at our school – suggesting that it was good “meat for reflection and discussion.”

Anna, an amazing 5th grade teacher at our school, read it, and put together a page summarizing the qualities listed in the article:

Great teachers:

  • have “grit” – defined as perseverance and a passion for long-term goals
  • set big goals for their students
  • perpetually look for ways to improve their effectiveness
  • avidly recruit students and their families into the process
  • maintain focus, ensuring that everything they do contributes to student learning
  • plan exhaustively and purposefully – for the next day or the year ahead – by working backward from the desired outcome
  • work relentlessly, refusing to surrender to the combined menaces of poverty, bureaucracy, and budgetary shortfalls.

Reading these bullets reminds me of the content in the book we just finished in our primary book study, Never Work Harder Than Your Students  by Robyn Jackson.  I also hear echoes of Marzano, Costa and Kallick and their “habits of mind:” (from  

  • Persisting
  • Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision
  • Managing Impulsivity
  • Gathering Data Through all Senses
  • Listening with Understanding and Empathy
  • Creating, Imaging and Innovation
  • Thinking Flexibly
  • Responding with Wonderment and Awe
  • Thinking about Thinking (Metacognition)
  • Taking Responsible Risks
  • Striving for Accuracy
  • Finding Humor
  • Questioning and Posing Problems
  • Thinking Interdependently
  • Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations
  • Remaining Open to Continuous Learning

What I expect of my students, I must first discover, develop and refine in myself.


One response to “What Makes a Great Teacher?

  1. kiri8 says:

    I’m glad the article was so useful to you. :o)

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