Sunday, February 27, 2011

Innovations Conference - What is a Great Teacher?

Todd and I are currently in San Diego attending and presenting at the Innovations in the Community College conference.
I look around and get a pretty wonky impression that there are more administrators than teachers here, but it should be fruitful, and I'm pleased to report that some warm fuzzys are germinating, inspired by the keynote speaker, Allan Golston, President of the  U.S. Programs for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

He spoke of the pain in realizing some early efforts came up short, mainly that systemic and structural changes in K-12 education did not have the effects hoped for. What they learned was that real change happens at the classroom level, WITH THE TEACHER. Top teachers can improve even the lowest performing students. Wooo! This was personally affirming, because after going through 5 different schools (so far) with my 3 kids, this was dominant lesson for us as well. School philosophy be damned, it was the teacher that mattered. I can imagine that this was painful for Mr. Golston because a good teacher is something of an outlier, and far more tricky to find and develop that making changes in policy or method. A good teacher transcends all those things.

Mr. Golston told the story of his being a young accounting teacher, confronted by ill-prepared students. Instead of flunking them, as one mentor coldly suggested, he opened a special Saturday session to bring those students up to where they needed to be. It wasn't a special gift of oratory, cleverness or technology, but simple willingness to go beyond for those students. I got totally choked up. The quality that all great teachers have? They care deeply about their students.


  1. Thatcher and Todd,
    I so envy your ability to attend this conferece. I looked at the list of woorkshops and saw many that I would gladly love to be able to participate in. There were two that stood out: First, Online Academic Success and Outstanding Insturctor Characteristics. I'm not even sure if we have agreed on all the outstanding characteristics of instructors in general. Nevertheless, I'd love to know more about the student's perceptions of the instructor impact on student success.

    Second, "Creating Community Among Adjunct Faculty with Bloom's Taxonomy" sounded intruiging. I've heard of many ways to develop community, but using Bloom's taxonomy is a little remote.

    I'm looking forward to your reports on the workshops. And by the way, I don't believe you are correct that people don't read earlier posts. If the writing in the top comment is interesting, I've often gone back through earlier posts, just to catch up on that person's philosophies. Maybe I didn't go back for forever, but I have gone back for quite a ways. That is, though, the drawback of the blog enviroment. You have a collection of short essarys, but unlike a book, you start at the end, so you miss the development of ideas.

    Sounds like a topic for another blog post.

  2. Wow! Thatch, thank you. Great report. And so true. I do not know whether I will ever get there, but I do know that, if I do, it will not be because of techniques or oratory skills, but because I care for the students.