Sunday, January 25, 2009

Never work harder than your students, Preface and Intro

The preface has some inspiring words and what certainly seem like keen insights into the development of teachers. Jackson defines what she calls the "master teacher mindset," a way of thinking about and looking the craft of teaching which exemplifies really effective teachers. The defining point seems to be that instead of looking for hard-and-fast answers to questions that arise while teaching, a master teacher understands that asking the right question is the more important act (2). She suggests that all teachers can be master teachers with practice, a sentiment with which I certainly agree.

The introduction reminds me of nothing so much as a quiz in Cosmo. (Erm...or so I'm told.) You answer the questions, you give yourself a score based on your answers, and then the test tells you who your true love is, or what your ideal profession is, or whatever those tests are supposed to tell you. Or, in this case, what level your teaching practice rests at. I rank in as a practitioner, the third stage of four in this hierarchy of professional development, by exactly 1 point. As you can probably tell by my tone, I'm always a little skeptical of such things; it's like a horoscope. They're vaguely enough worded that they could apply to anybody. Some parts of the "practitioner" description are very accurate, but others are not. (I flatter myself that I have a pretty high awareness of both my skills and areas of needed improvement).

Having said all that, Jackon's primary objective in giving the quiz seems to be to initiate self-reflection and increase self-awareness. This reflection seems like it's going to be a key to Jackson's book, and I don't think it's something that can be over-practiced. So despite the teen-magazine feel of the beginning of the book, Jackson's purpose in the book seem to fit pretty tightly to my motivation for reading it.


Ray said...

I believe all who want to become master teachers can become master teachers. I am not sure we can make all teachers master teachers because the goal must be first realized by the person that becoming a master teacher is what they really want to accomplish. I think most teachers never set that goal but became master teachers because they believe all kids can learn and they will find different strategies for that to happen. So their goal is not to become a master teacher but to help all students learn. It would be a fun dialogue to have, which came first, the master teacher or the teacher who feels all students can learn. You know the whole chicken and egg thing.

It would be interesting to allow all the teachers in the district to take the test and then have dialogue of why we fell where we did. Might be a great activity for a staff meeting. The dialogue about what makes a master teacher would be interesting. Can you be a master teacher right out of college? Can a teacher of 30 years not be a master teacher?

Keeps us informed about your reading. Thanks.

JohnCosby said...

Since my junior year in high school, I've wanted to be a Spanish teacher--but the emphasis was on "Spanish." It's really only been in the last few years--since I've started teaching full-time--that my awareness of the "teacher" part of it spiked. So I think I missed all sorts of really important "teacher" stuff along the way. Becoming a "master teacher" has really surpassed being a Spanish teacher as my professional goal only in the last 18 months or so. Sometimes I wonder how many other teachers have that same perspective. I wonder if that's okay.